Wisconsin and Northwestern tangle for the fourth time as members of the Big Ten West division this Saturday. It’s a game that has taken on greater importance as of late, with some believing this game feels like a rivalry, even if it doesn’t have a trophy behind it.
Both teams have won 13 games over the last 26 meetings dating back to Northwestern’s snapping of UW’s 13-game win streak back i 1985. Those numbers have likely been hammered home to you, but it is time to countdown to Saturday’s kickoff.
So, let’s look at some of the wild numbers between these two teams leading up to the game at 11am CT on ABC.
1: Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game.
Saquon Barkley set the world on fire with a huge performance last weekend for the Penn State Nittany Lions, but the name actually leading the important Big Ten rushing category to date — rushing yards per game — isn’t the junior phenom. Instead, it is Wisconsin’s freshman sensation, Jonathan Taylor. After three games (and just two starts) he is averaging a whopping 146 yards per game and is just one of three backs in the Big Ten to be averaging in triple digits after four weeks of the College Football season. Barkley is one, but he’s third behind another frosh — J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State.
2: Wisconsin will be looking to get a second-straight win in the series.
That’s no small feat, as the two teams are an even 13-13 over the last 26 matchups. However, the last five games have been very intriguing in this series. Wisconsin won in 2010 and the two didn’t meet again until 2013 where the Badgers took a second-straight game in Madison over the Wildcats. Northwestern returned the favor in 2014 and 2015, winning in Evanston and Madison. Can the Badgers get back to winning multiple games against the Wildcats?
3: That is the number of games Wisconsin has lost to West division foes since the inception of the East-West division alignment.
UW owns a 15-3 mark against the Big Ten West Division since the league moved to its current divisional setup in 2014. Let’s just say domination has been the name of the game for the Badgers inside its own division. That 15-3 mark has allowed the Badgers to claim two of the first three West division crowns. This number is equally important because two of the three losses to division foes in that time have come to Northwestern. Can the Badgers go 6-0 for the second straight season against the division? It all starts on Saturday afternoon.
4: Wisconsin’s defense ranks 4th in scoring and 1st down defense nationally
UW is giving up just 10 points to opponents so far this season, and has only given up two touchdowns to one team — Florida Atlantic — in a single game so far in 2017. Part of the reason for that level of success is Wisconsin’s ability to not allow opponents to gain 1st downs. Specifically, Badgers opponents have only accumulated 36 first downs in three games so far this season. That’s an average of just 12 first downs per game allowed. It’s no coincidence that the Badgers are so high up nationally in both of these stats.
5: Northwestern’s offense is fifth in the Big Ten in total offense
The Wildcats are averaging an impressive 459.0 yards per game on offense, which is middle of the pack in the Big Ten. While that may not impress, it is the highest total put out by a Badgers opponent so far this season and if it keeps up at this pace is likely to move up from the fifth spot in the B1G rankings. No doubt, the Wildcats offense is the best one UW’s defense has seen on paper all year.
6: Wisconsin’s APR score was sixth amongst all Power 5 programs in 2015-16
The last reported season in the APR rankings has the Badgers as one of the most impressive academic teams in the country to go along with their impressive form on the field. UW’s APR score of 990 put them sixth amongst all Power 5 teams. Meanwhile, in the least-shocking news of all-time, Northwestern is the leader in the Power 5 clubhouse with an APR score of 995…just five points ahead of the Badgers. The Wildcats also led FBS teams in total, but trailed FCS academic stalwarts, Dartmouth, for the overall lead.
7: errr…70, that is Alex Hornibrook’s completion percentage this season
We all got a scare during his Week 2 performance against Florida Atlantic, but Hornibrook showed true grit in coming back and setting a single-game completion percentage record against BYU. That 94.7 mark helped, but all in all, he has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the Big Ten through the first part of the season. In fact, Hornibrook’s passer efficiency rating of 188.9 leads the Big Ten. So far this season he’s not only completed 70 percent of his passes, he’s got 701 yards and eight touchdowns to one interception. While the sample size is small, you may not realize just how good the stat sheet is for Hornibrook.
8: Both Wisconsin and Northwestern come in to this game with eight rushing touchdowns on the 2017 season.
There’s no secret that both of these teams want to come out and run the ball down your throat. Justin Jackson is just 108 yards from the career rushing record at Northwestern and we’ve already highlighted how good Jonathan Taylor has been for the Badgers. But, these teams are also really good at putting the ball in to the end zone in the run game too. The eight TD’s for either program puts them tied for fifth, with two of the teams ahead of them having played one extra game. It appears whomever can cross the goal line more on the ground is likely to have the upper hand on Saturday.
9: That is the number of receptions Northwestern superback Garrett Dickerson nabbed last time out against Bowling Green.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Dickerson was a heavy lean to the Badgers in his recruitment, but changes in the coaching staff led him to the Wildcats instead of the Badgers. His nine receptions against Bowling Green in Week 3 were a career high. He also had 150 yards on those nine receptions.
10: That is the number of opponents Wisconsin has held under 100 yards in the last 16 games
We all know how dominant the Badgers defense has been over the past few years, but a look behind the curtain makes one marvel. Just think about this…over the last 16 games, only 6 teams have been able to crack the 100-yard mark. Northwestern couldn’t do it last season, after doing it each of the previous two years…coincidence that the game the Wildcats didn’t do it and they lost? I think not. Will this stat be a key determiner of the outcome on Saturday? Given the makeup of these two teams it seems highly likely.
* all stats courtesy of CFBStats.com or provided by the respective athletic departments unless otherwise noted.
What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week
Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.
But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.
So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?
I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.
On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.
Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.
But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.
One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.
Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?
Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.
Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.
What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?
This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.
Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.
Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.
Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.
It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?
If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.
It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.
The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.
But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.
Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.
Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start
By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.
All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.
So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.
After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.
It’s hard to get much better than that.
On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.
His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.
Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.
That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.
However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.
Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.
Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.
Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.
But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.
We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.
Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.
“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.
“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”
Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.
Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.
Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.
Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.
A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.
It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.
Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.
However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.
What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.
Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.
WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan
If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.
UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?
Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.
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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications
We’re back with more in our video work for the Badgers 2019 season. As per usual, our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, is here to give you the lowdown on the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Central Michigan Chippewas.
That means, key players to watch, key stats to keep an eye on and the weekly prediction.
He is 1-0 after nearly nailing the full score last week, so what does this matchup look like?
Let’s get in to the video.
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