Wisconsin OL vs Michigan DL
I have been looking forward to this matchup since the beginning of the season. These are arguably two of the best units in the country going head to head against each other. Both units boast All-Americans and NFL talent throughout. This is as physical as a matchup as you can find in college football.
After a somewhat underwhelming start to the season, the Wisconsin offensive line appears to be finding its groove within the trenches. This unit looks completely different from the group that was stifled by BYU’s front seven. They showed glimpses of what they could be at Iowa, but it all seemed to come together against Nebraska. The offensive line opened up massive holes from start to finish by dominating Nebraska’s defensive line and showing the ability to get to the second level. It was a classic Badger offensive line performance in how they controlled the game early on and then simply leaned on the exhausted Cornhusker defense in the second half.
The running game is the identity of the offense, but I believe there are opportunities for this offense in the passing game, and that starts up front. The offensive line was great in pass protection last week, giving Hornibrook loads of time to go through his progressions and find open receivers. On many occasions, Hornibrook found his second and third options because the offensive line gave him a nice and clean pocket to survey the field. The ability of Wisconsin to protect Hornibrook will be tested on Saturday. Michigan has some of the best pass rushers in the country with players like Devin Bush and Chase Winovich. If Wisconsin can give Hornibrook time, the Badgers’ offense becomes much more dangerous.
Have I mentioned that Michigan’s defense is good? Well, let me break down what makes them so great. The success of their defense starts up front, led by the presence of Rashan Gary. Gary is everything you would want in a modern-day defensive tackle. He has the strength to hold up offensive lineman but also possess the quickness to rush the quarterback and make plays in the backfield. His status for Saturday’s game is still uncertain, but I would not be surprised to see Gary on the field. Whether Gary plays or not, Michigan’s defensive line does a great job of taking away what the opposing offense does best. Their players up front all have a high level of versatility that allows them to combat spread offenses and power running teams.
There is no secret in what Wisconsin likes to do on offense. They are going to pound the ball early and look to establish a solid running game. On the other hand, Michigan is very successful in shutting down the running game and forcing teams to beat them through the air. This matchup, and more importantly, the game will be decided up front.
If Michigan’s defensive line can stifle the Wisconsin offensive line early on, it may force Hornibrook to win the game for the Badgers. Hornibrook has shown the ability to make crucial throws in the past, but putting pressure on Hornibrook is certainly something Paul Chryst will be looking to avoid. And do not forget about Michigan’s ability to rush the passer, their outside linebackers are some of the most dynamic pass rushers in the country.
If the Wisconsin offensive line wants to prove to everyone that they are the best offensive line in the country, it starts this Saturday. There are so many elements to this matchup, it is going to be an incredibly physical game of chess to watch.