Wisconsin Football looks to stay undefeated as they travel to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats this Saturday.
One week after a dominating performance against the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin football hopes to carry their momentum into Ryan Field on Saturday afternoon. The Badgers drubbed Michigan 49-11 in front of a national audience. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are coming off a 27-20 win against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Over the last five meetings, the average margin of victory between both teams is only 10 points, so Wisconsin football fans have come to expect a tightly contested matchup with Northwestern. Under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats normally come prepared and ready to fight. Last year, Wisconsin beat Northwestern 24-15 in the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium. While the Badgers are 6-4 in their last 10 games against the Wildcats, they have struggled to leave Ryan Field with a victory. In the last six trips to Evanston, Wisconsin is just 1-5 — their lone victory coming in 2016. Overall, Wisconsin football leads the all-time series 59-37-9. Hopefully, Saturday will be win number 60 for the Badgers.
The Wildcats come into tomorrow’s game leading the Big Ten West with a 4-0 record. Northwestern began the year with a surprising 43-3 blowout against Maryland. They followed up with tight wins at Iowa and at home against Nebraska.
On offense, the Wildcats average 28 points per game under a balanced attack led by senior QB Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey is completing 65% of his passes and accounts for all 723 passing yards this year. He also is a threat on the ground — accounting for 122 yards rushing along with a touchdown. The Wildcat’s running game is a two-headed monster. Sophomore RB Drake Anderson leads the team with 198 yards on 43 carries and two touchdowns, while Junior RB Isaiah Bower has 182 yards on 61 carries and one touchdown. Ramsey’s main target is senior WR Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who has 18 receptions, 195 yards, and three touchdowns in four games. Overall, the Wildcats are averaging 180 yards per game (yds/g) through the air and 174 yds/game on the ground. Wisconsin football will have to respect both aspects of the offense to be successful on Saturday.
Defensively, Northwestern is 10th in the country in total defense according to NCAA Football Stats. They are lead by Senior LB Paddy Fisher, who anchors the middle of the field with 33 tackles and a fumble recovery. In the secondary, standout freshman DB Brandon Joseph will be a problem for Badger receivers. He has been a ballhawk with three interceptions in four games. The Wildcats only allow 4.33 yards per play and 301 yds/game. It should be noted, that the Wildcats have only played four games compared to the seven, or eight most of the other conferences have played, but nonetheless, Northwestern’s defense will be a tough test for Wisconsin football.
As mentioned earlier, Wisconsin football enters tomorrow’s game 2-0 after beating Illinois and Michigan. The Badgers are second in the Big Ten West, so the battle with Northwestern may very well determine who goes on to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
Wisconsin football’s offense has a lot to be excited about. QB Graham Mertz has exceeded expectations in his first two collegiate starts. Mertz leads a Badgers offense that averages 47 points per game, 187 yards passing per game, and 261 yards rushing per game.
The most exciting part of the Wisconsin offense is that they have been able to win both games in very different ways. Against Illinois, Mertz torched the Illini secondary for five touchdowns in a game where the Badgers struggled to pound the rock. Against Michigan, the Badgers looked like a well-oiled machine on the ground — rushing for 341 yards and five total touchdowns.
Outside of Mertz, Wisconsin football has plenty of weapons to utilize. At running back, the Badgers have a stable of rushers in Nakia Watson, Jalen Berger, and Garrett Groshek. Watson leads the team with 127 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Last week, Berger saw his first action as a Badger — gaining 87 yards on 15 carries, along with his first touchdown. At receiver, Mertz has favored TE Jake Ferguson, who has 4 touchdowns on just 11 catches. As always, WR Danny Davis will make an impact both through the air and on the ground. Davis only has three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, but he also has 69 yards on the ground and one touchdown. With all of this at his disposal, expect Mertz to have another solid game tomorrow afternoon.
Defensively, the Badgers are once again one of the top defenses in the country. Defensive coordinator, Jim Leonhard, has put his players in a position to succeed and schemed up some incredible looks. In their first two games, Wisconsin football has only allowed 218 yds/g, 4.75 yards per play, and 18 total points. The Badgers are anchored by LB Leo Chenal who already has an interception and seven total tackles this year. DE Isaiahh Loudermilk will look to continue disrupting the passing game and add to his sack total.
Against my better judgement and the recent history between these two teams, I fully expect Wisconsin football to return home with a victory. At the end of the day, the Badgers have too many weapons on offense, in addition, to one of the nation’s top defense. Wisconsin wins this one 34-12.