Wisconsin Football: Get to Know the Northwestern Wildcats


The Wisconsin football team will take the field at Camp Randall Stadium for the last time this season against the Northwestern Wildcats.

READ ALSO: Time Announced for Wisconsin-Northwestern

The Badgers head into the game riding a five-game winning streak since their Big Ten opening loss to Iowa. Since then the Badgers have worked their way back into the AP Poll, and after debuting out of the College Football Playoff Rankings, have stuck at #25 the past two weeks.

The Northwestern Wildcats, Wisconsin’s final home opponent this season, comes into the matchup ranked #20 in the latest CFP rankings, and is also the AP Poll’s No. 20 team.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

Here’s what you need to know about Wisconsin’s next opponent.

Record: 8-2 (4-2 B1G). The Wildcats sit in third place in the Big Ten West, one game behind the Badgers.

Season so far: Northwestern opened the season with a huge 16-6 home victory over Stanford that immediately propelled them into the spotlight. The Wildcats followed it up with four straight wins, including a 19-10 victory over Duke and 27-0 shutout of Minnesota in the Big Ten opener.

Then the wheels fell off a bit as the hit a tough stretch, getting dismantled in back-to-back games by Michigan (38-0) and Iowa (40-10).

Nebraska rebounded and has won three in a row against Nebraska (30-28), Penn State (23-21) and Purdue (21-14).

Key players: The Wildcats are led on offense by freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, who presents a dual-threat attack. The young slinger has completed 52.6 percent of his passes on the way to 1,259 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions, adding 75 carries for 360 yards and five rushing touchdowns.

Six Wildcat receiver have double-digit receptions, led by senior fullback — yes fullback — who has not carried the ball yet this season, but has 28 grabs for 321 yards and a team-high three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Christian Jones has 22 catches for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and junior wide receiver Austin Carr has 10 grabs for 201 yards and two scores.

Running back Justin Jackson is also a feature of the passing game, as he’s third on the team with 18 receptions, taking them for 146 total yards. His real impact is obviously in the running game, where he leads the team 1,033 yards and a pair of touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Junior running back Warren Long has 284 yards and four scores on the season.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Anthony Walker far and away leads the team with 91 total tackles and 50 solo stops. He has 14 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumbles recovered. Senior defensive lineman Deonte Gibson leads the team with six sacks, and junior cornerback Matthew Harris has a team-high three interceptions.

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Outlook: This will be the Badgers toughest game in several weeks, although Northwestern’s offensive strategy plays right into Wisconsin’s strength on defense. The Wildcats want to run the ball, and the Badgers excel at stopping the run.

Northwestern has the 119th-ranked passing offense (146.6 yards per game) but the 39th-ranked rushing offense (196.6 yards per game). Wisconsin has the 5th-ranked rushing defense in the country, allowing just 97.3 yards per game. Wisconsin’s passing defense isn’t much worse, and is ranked 9th overall at 174.7 yards per game.

Northwestern will need to break through the Badgers defense and put points on the board, as their defense gives up about 140 rushing yards a game and nearly 200 through the air. The Badgers, coming off of a bye week, should be much more healthy on the offensive line, which will account for better running lanes and more time for Joel Stave.

Wisconsin certainly holds the upper hand in their final home game of the season, and will need to win to keep their shot at a good bowl game alive.

Next: 5 Questions Following the Bye Week

Stay tuned to Badger of Honor for more throughout the week leading up to the Wisconsin-Northwestern matchup.