A Wolverine Letdown?
Michigan hopes to keep intensity high after Notre Dame win
By Douglas Kroll
The Michigan Wolverines, ranked 4th in the CCR Top 119 this week, can always expect a crowd of 107,501 plus fans when they are home. They may even be more raucous than usual this Saturday when they welcome home Big Blue after a huge upset win at Notre Dame last weekend. Now, they just have to hope they dont have a letdown against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin heads to Ann Arbor with a perfect 3-0 record under new head coach Bret Bielema, and looks to become the first coach since 1919 to start their Badger career with four straight wins.
In the Big Ten opener for each team, Michigan hopes to avenge last seasons 23-20 loss in Madison when Badgers QB John Stocco scored on a four-yard draw play with 24 seconds left in the game. It was only the 11th time that the Wolverines had lost to Wisconsin and the first time Wisconsin had won in the series since 1994. Michigan leads the all-time series 47-11-1 after winning 15 of the last 18 games.
One thing is for certain when it comes to the series - it will be a close game. The last five meetings have each been decided by a touchdown or less.
One weapon that Wisconsin will be without, is RB Brian Calhoun who rushed for 155 yards in last years contest. But New York native, P.J. Hill has been a reliable replacement for Calhoun who is currently with the Detroit Lions. All Hill has done is lead all freshmen in the nation in rushing with 138.8 yards per game. Hill ranks 7th overall in the country in rushing, after a 184-yard performance last week against San Diego State.
Hill hasnt been the only highlight when it comes to the Badgers, who are also receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches polls. Wisconsins defense has been superb in the first three weeks of the season. The unit hasnt allowed a touchdown since the first week of the year against Bowling Green, covering a span of 141:58. The Badgers have only allowed eight points per game, which leads the Big Ten, and also lead the conference in pass defense, giving up only 116 yards per game through the air.
The Wisconsin defense will have its hands full with a Michigan offense that put up 47 points against a pretty good Notre Dame defense last Saturday. The Wolverines have scored in each of the 12 quarters they have played. Just like Wisconsin, Michigans biggest threat this season has been on the ground with running back Mike Hart. He has rushed for 386 yards this year and four touchdowns. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne has spread the ball around quite well, and his been very consistent. Henne has completed passes to nine different receivers and thrown for 468 yards and five touchdowns, with only one interception.
Something has to give on Saturday. Either Wisconsins defense is going to finally give up some points, or Michigans offense, which came into its own last week for the first time this year, will continue to put big numbers on the board.
Saturday will bring a classic matchup between two good teams in the Big Ten, in a series that has been dominated by Michigan. Big Blue fans just hope their Wolverines arent happy with simply beating the Irish a week ago.
Douglas Kroll is an independent contributor to College Football Poll.com.
Wisconsin at Michigan
Compiled by Staff
The Big 10 opens conference play this weekend and this is one of the biggest games on the slate.
Bret Bielema's first Big 10 game as head coach of Wisconsin is in a venue where Wisconsin hasn't won since 1994. The Badgers stopped a six-game losing streak to the Wolverines last year with a 23-20 win in Madison. Both schools are undefeated.
This will be the 60th meeting between Michigan and Wisconsin. The Wolverines hold a 47-11-1 lead in the all-time series and have a 20-5 record in games played at Michigan Stadium (25-6 all-time in Ann Arbor). Michigan has claimed victories in 15 of the last 18 games and 29 of the last 33 matchups, including three straight home games. Head coach Lloyd Carr has compiled a 6-1 mark against Wisconsin and is 3-0 at Michigan Stadium.
The Wolverines own a 74-24-2 record in conference openers. They have claimed victories in 36 of their last 38 Big Ten openers entering the Wisconsin game. Michigan had a 23-game winning streak in conference openers
snapped in last year's loss at Wisconsin. Prior to that, their last loss in a conference opener also occurred in Madison when the Badgers prevailed 24-14 in 1981.
QB Chad Henne leads the Big Blue offense. Henne has at least one touchdown pass in 25 of his 27 career games and 18 multi-touchdown passing games. He threw three touchdown passes at Notre Dame last weekend and is now second on Michigans career passing TD list, just 19 TDs shy of John Navarre's record mark.
Wisconsin's offensive attack is led by running back P.J. Hill, Jr. who tops the Big 10 rushing stats with 415 yards after producing three straight games over the century mark. But there's some concern about an offense that only produced 14 points at home against San Diego State last weekend and was shutout in the first half of a 14-0 victory. The Badgers scored 35 points in a season-opening win over Bowling Green and 34 points the next week against 1-AA Western Illinois.
The contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPN beginning at Noon eastern.