#162 University of Michigan Wolverinesvs.#161 University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers
Written by Ricky Dimon
NCAAF: Saturday, October 1, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. ET
The Line: Michigan Wolverines -10.5. Total: 45
Both the Michigan Wolverines and the Wisconsin Badgers will be hoping to improve to 5-0 when they square off at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon. The Wolverines are beginning their season with five consecutive outings at the Big House, where they have so far taken care of Hawaii, Central Florida, Colorado, and Penn State. Wisconsin is contesting its second straight road game, having ventured away from home to hammer Michigan State 30-6 last weekend.
It was a disastrous day at the office when L.J. Scott and the rest of the Michigan State offense had to go up against the Badgers. The Spartans amassed a respectable total of 325 yards, but they turned the ball over four times–on a fumble by Scott and three interceptions thrown by Tyler O’Connor. Scott finished with a mere 61 yards on 14 carries, and 19 of his yards came on his very first attempt.
“Our big focus was to get them out of rhythm (on offense),” noted outside linebacker Vince Biegel. “And that was to stop them on the early downs. We were saying, ‘Stop the first down run and have them become something they don’t want to be.’ And that’s taking shots (down the field) on second and third and long.”
“Once we took the run away, we basically had a few ideas on what they were going to do,” fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt explained. “And most of the time it was passing, so we got to cut it loose a little bit.”
Watt delivered a huge performance with six tackles (3.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks. Defensive back D’Cota Dixon recorded seven tackles (four solo, one for loss), one sack, and one forced fumble. For the season, Watt leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight is putting up some surprisingly ridiculous numbers through four games. Why surprising? Well, head coach Jim Harbaugh did not even know who his starter was going to be until just a few days before the season opener. Moreover, Speight threw an interception on the Wolverines’ first offensive snap of the 2016 campaign against Hawaii.
To say it has been all uphill for Speight ever since would be an understatement. The junior from Richmond, Va. has since tossed nine touchdown passes and has not been picked off again. He is 72 of 114 for 875 yards. Speight did not have to do too much last week because his team led the Nittany Lions by a commanding margin from start to finish in a 49-10 rout, but he turned in a solid showing by completing 21 of 34 passes for 189 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
“We were looking for a way to be more careful out there so I wasn’t getting hit as much as I did last week,” Speight commented. “Luckily, our offensive line and our running backs were great. I think there was one time where we called the same play eight straight times, just flipping the sides–and we were picking up nine or 10 yards a pop. I was just laughing every time I got the same signal.”
The Wisconsin Badgers are:
The Michigan Wolverines are:
Michigan’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now, to the extent that it seems to be toying with opponents. Thus an extremely intriguing matchup should be in the cards when the Wolverines host Wisconsin. The Badgers’ defense has not allowed more than 17 points to any opponent this season and it limited Michigan State to just six. Wisconsin is 5-1 ATS in its last six overall, 4-1 ATS in its last five against winning opponents, and 5-2 ATS in its last seven after allowing fewer than 20 points in its previous outing. The Wolverines are 1-7-1 ATS in the last nine meetings between the two teams and 1-3-1 ATS in their last five at home against the Badgers. Look for those trends to continue.
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A 2006 graduate of Davidson College, Ricky is a freelance sports writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has previously worked with various websites in the sports handicapping industry and is generally a fan of going with the hot hand while in most cases showing a willingness to take favorites and give the points. Beyond the four major sports, Ricky is an avid tennis fan—and writer—and covers the ATP Tour on a daily basis.