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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers: Preview, predictions and prognostications

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When: 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Madison, WI; Camp Randall (80,321)
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 57-34-5
Last Meeting: Northwestern win 20-14, in 2014
Line: Wisconsin -9.5

Very quietly both of these teams have had outstanding seasons that would have been good enough to contend for the division and Big Ten title in years past. That was before we all started following the Iowa story that just continues to roll on. As it stands, the best that both teams can hope for is second place in the division barring an Iowa collapse over the next two games.

This one will more than likely be about defense. Wisconsin is leading the country in scoring defense, and Northwestern isn’t that far behind inside the top fifteen themselves. Both teams will try to be balanced, but both teams would rather keep it on the ground, play great defense, and take advantage of scoring opportunities as they come. It should be a good one in Mad-Town.

1 Burning Question: Who’s No. 2?

It’s well chronicled that Iowa can clinch with a win over lowly Purdue Saturday, and even if that doesn’t happen, a victory in Lincoln would also suffice. So, that more or less makes this contest the equivalent of a consolation game in a world soccer tournament. A Wisconsin win would clinch at least second place hands down, while a Northwestern victory would give them the tie-breaker over the Badgers if it should go on and take care of business next week against Illinois.

2 Key Stats:

— 146.6. That’s the amount of yards passing Northwestern averages, and it ranks 119 out of 128 teams. To beat a good Wisconsin team, that needs to be much higher to go against a defense that eats one-dimensional teams for lunch.

— 12.3. It’s the best among FBS schools in points allowed per game. Northwestern’s not bad either, but that total is even better at home (5.0). The Wildcats have to find someway to crack the code and move the ball into the red zone and finish drives with TDs.

3 Key Players:

Joel Stave, Wisconsin QB: It appears as though starting running back Corey Clement will be shelved again, so it’s back to what got the Badgers through the season this far, and that’s much more of a reliance on Stave’s right arm to make plays. Wisconsin will never abandon the running game as long as cheese and brats are a staple of the state, but there will need to be a much more concerted effort to move the chains via air miles.

Clayton Thorson, Northwestern QB: Stave’s counterpart wearing purple is also going to be huge in this game. He hasn’t exactly lit the yard markers on fire with his prowess through the air, but it’s going to be needed against a team that’s rationing points like Wisconsin’s defense is. He doesn’t have to go for 300 yards or anything, but he does have to take advantage of what’s there and make some key third-down throws.

Justin Jackson, Northwestern RB: The best chance the Wildcats have moving the ball is the way that Fred Flintstone drives his cars — running. He’s been the most productive spot on offense, and when purple power is thriving it’s good defense, and a solid running attack. He’s got to be able to get those tough yards to make second and third downs more manageable.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— This game will be higher scoring than you think. Each team has had time to scout the other’s defense by this point, and both have saved some plays and are ready to break the seal when it really matters. You’ll see more first downs, more big plays, and more points than what the papers say heading into it.

— Joel Stave wil go for over 250 yards. Without Corey Clement, the coaching staff is going to give the Wisconsin QB more leash, and with it, he won’t exactly pee on the neighbors bushes. He’s not going to light city of Madison ablaze, but he’ll have a very productive day.

— Justin Jackson will have two TDs running. As noted above, the Wildcats will make more noise moving the ball than you would think. He won’t have a big, big day, but he’ll get close to 100 yards and will finish off two drives inside the red-zone.

— The game will end before any of the others in the 3:30 block. It’s two teams that like to control the clock by running the ball, playing solid defense and take advantage of field position. Because of it, the clock will be running more than most other games. Dinner time will happen sooner in Madison.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Wisconsin 35-10 (78-20 overall; 46-51 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 24-10 (81-17 overall; 51-45 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 24-20 (74-26 overall; 54-42 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 34-24 (79-19 overall; 56-40 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 27-20 (33-12 overall; 15-27 ATS) *joined in Week 5

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What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week

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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?

Get Healthy

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.

Stay Hungry

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.

New Wrinkles?

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?

Pass Protection

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.

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Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start

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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.

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WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan

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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.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube page, so you don’t miss any of our video work as the season goes on!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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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.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single prediction or post-game reaction for your pleasure.

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