On Saturday night, viewers on ABC will be looking live at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan as they get ready for what looks to be the best of the primetime games in Week 7. The #15 Wisconsin Badgers take on the #12 Michigan Wolverines, and it’s not a reach to say that this one could resonate in big league fashion.
Whether we’re talking about the Big 10 standings, the national polls, or even looking ahead to the College Football Playoff conversation, this is one of those games which can have a big impact on how the rest of the 2018 regular season plays out.
Let’s take a look at this fascinating matchup in detail.
Wisconsin @ MIchigan, 7:30 PM EST, ABC
- Wisconsin +9.5 (-113)
- Michigan -9.5 (-107)
- Wisconsin +295
- Michigan -355
- Over 49 (-110)
- Under 49 (-110)
Wisconsin vs. Michigan Pick
The Wisconsin Badgers were considered one of the favorites for the Big Ten title heading into the start of the season, as well as a contender for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Both of those goals are still possibilities, but the path got a bit harder after the school was upset by the BYU Cougars back in Week 3. The Badgers were a whopping 23.5-point favorite for that home tilt, but they wound up losing by a score of 24-21.
The Michigan Wolverines also have a blemish on their record, with their lone defeat coming against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the season opener. The team has been perfect since that point, but it came close to hitting a landmine when the Northwestern Wildcats pushed them to the limit in Week 5. Michigan enters this contest with a mark of 5-1, while Wisconsin brings a 4-1 record to the table.
The Badgers offense runs through sophomore RB Jonathan Taylor, who has been absolutely dynamite this year. Taylor has carried the ball 126 times for 849 yards and eight scores, and he’s also hauled in five passes for 20 yards for good measure. Junior QB Alex Hornibrook has been solid with 963 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and two picks, while junior A.J. Taylor has led the wideouts with a line of 18/354/2.
On the season, the Wisconsin offense is averaging 193.2 passing yards, 287 rushing yards, and 33.8 points per game. Defensively, the club is allowing 219.6 yards through the air, 130.2 yards on the ground, and 16.4 points per game on average. The unit is responsible for five sacks and nine turnovers on the year. Looking ahead, the Badgers have games upcoming against Northwestern and Illinois over the next two weeks.
Michigan is outscoring opponents by a margin of 229-95 thus far. The team faced a lot of criticism in the wake of its season opening loss to Notre Dame. That wasn’t because of the loss itself, but rather because a number of observers felt the Wolverines looked awfully flat for a season opener. That hasn’t been an issue since that point, as the team has delivered a number of solid efforts.
Outside of its three-point win over Northwestern, Michigan’s other margins of victories have all been of 21 points or more. Junior signal caller Shea Patterson has settled in nicely as the starter. He has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,187 yards, 10 TDs, and three picks. Patterson has a trio of talented pass catchers at his disposal in senior Zach Gentry and sophomores Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Senior RB Karan Higdon has been the man in the backfield, carrying the ball 101 times for 582 yards and five trips to the end zone. On the year, Michigan is averaging 220.8 passing yards, 199.8 rushing yards, and 38.2 points per game on offense.
Defensively, the Wolverines are holding opponents to 134 yards through the air, 96.5 rushing yards, and just 15.8 points per game. The unit has generated 18 sacks and six turnovers. Next week, the Wolverines face off with the rival Michigan State Spartans, and they close out the month of October with a bye.
This series has been tight over the last ten meetings of these two schools. Michigan is 5-5 straight up over that span, but just 1-8-1 against the spread. The Over has been the correct choice four times during that time frame, while Wisconsin has walked away with a victory in three of the last four meetings.
The schools have met in each of the last two years with the home squad winning both times. Back in 2016, Michigan held on for a 14-7 victory in a game in which it was favored by 12 points. Last season, Wisconsin was the victor by a margin of 24-10, good enough to cover the 6.5-point spread.
There’s a ton at stake here. One of these nationally ranked squads is walking out with its second loss. Wisconsin is currently in command of the Big Ten West division, but tons of questions will open up if it suffers a conference loss. The same applies for Michigan, as the team has a number of other hurdles in its way before the regular season comes to a close with its annual tilt against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Michigan has the edge in the passing game, while Wisconsin has the better ground attack. Both squads are solid defensively, and what they are allowing on a points per game average helps to drive that home. Wisconsin is giving up an average of 16.4 points per game, while Michigan allows an average of 15.8 points per contest.
Motivation levels are essentially a wash, as both teams need the win to have any hopes of remaining in the College Football Playoff conversation. Michigan seems to have a little more pep in its step on an overall basis, and that plus the home field advantage should be enough to push the squad to victory. However, covering the hefty 9.5-point spread is a different matter entirely.
We’ll look for Michigan to win outright, but our call is for Wisconsin plus the points.