Jonathan Taylor vs. Northwestern’s linebackers
Jonathan Taylor usually doesn’t have a problem running all over opponents. Northwestern seems to be the exception. In two career games against the Wildcats, the Wisconsin football running back has only run for 126 yards and two touchdowns. That looks like his stat line at halftime of the Michigan game last week. For two games, to have just over 100 yards and two touchdowns is not very Jonathan Taylor-like.
I think many Wisconsin football fans would love to see Taylor finally break through and put up big numbers on Northwestern. They will be looking flashy in their alternate “throwback” uniforms this Saturday. The way Taylor has been running it this season, I think that’s a definite possibility.
With Wisconsin’s ability to pass the ball this year, I think that will force Northwestern to spread their defense out more. Without the ability to stick eight or nine players in the box to stop the run, JT should have some holes to run through.
When he isn’t running the ball, the Wildcats will still have to account for him in the passing game. He only caught one pass for five yards against Michigan, but he didn’t really need to be involved with the passing game because the running game was so effective. When JT is on the field, Northwestern will likely have to stick with bigger personnel to stop the run. When this happens, a linebacker will probably have the responsibility of covering him if he runs a route. I like Taylor’s chances if that happens.
The Wildcat linebackers have been the backbone of this defense. Three of their top four tacklers are linebackers. The other is safety Travis Whillock, who might as well be a linebacker the way he steps up in run support.
Linebackers Chris Bergin (27), Paddy Fisher (22) and Blake Gallagher (21) have a combined 70 tackles in just three games. These linebackers are active and fly around. Bergin can drop into coverage as well as rush the quarterback. Fisher is the big one to watch out for. He is a tackling machine and can cover as well. He has three passes defended and an interception and a forced fumble. With Taylor’s fumbling history, this could be a big matchup to watch.
With the number of carries Wisconsin gives Taylor and the way these linebackers play, I would expect to see plenty of meetings between Taylor and these linebackers. Whoever wins this matchup could influence which way this game goes.