Friday, November 13, 2009

Wisconsin Preview

The good news: Michigan won three games in 2008 and one of them was against Wisconsin, the only returning victory from last year's schedule. The bad news: Michigan 2009. Numbers:
46th nationally
209.33 YPG
83rd nationally
198.00 YPG
19th nationally
102.78 YPG
17th nationally
205.67 YPG
43rd nationally
22.44 PPG
42nd nationally
29.56 PPG
83rd nationally
235.00 YPG
89th nationally
195.70 YPG
80th nationally
158.30 YPG
16th nationally
208.30 YPG
76th nationally
26.40 PPG
24th nationally
32.00 PP
So that doesn't look great. The one thing that Michigan has going for it against Wisconsin is that Wisconsin doesn't throw the ball too much, and well, we all know how that goes. But against Michigan, teams have been breaking the mold and going to passing sets more often. I expect that Wisconsin will do similarly. Well, that and you can expect a lot of MOEAKI!!! running seams through the middle of the field and putting Kovacs and Ezeh into coverage. So how do we get there:

Wisconsin is predominantly a run team behind the strength of dino-back John Clay, the conference's leading rusher, whose averaging 5.1 YPC because of both his size and the size of his offensive line, which frankly will probably push Michigan 10 yards into the secondary on running downs. I wouldn't be surprised if we only see Craig Roh sparingly because of his lack of size, instead opting for a heavy set with Will Campbell, Brandon Graham, Ryan Van Bergen, and Mike Martin on the line. There's not much depth there, and Roh might be able to sub in on obvious passing downs. If not, Roh will be a liability against the enormous offensive line of Wisconsin. Another possibility is running a three man front and putting Mouton, Ezeh, Fitzgerald, and Leach on the field at the same time. No matter what, it looks grim.

Scott Tolzien hasn't been asked to throw the ball too much this season, and when he has, he's been exceedingly pedestrian: a 61.8% completion percentage, for 7.53 YPA, 10 TDs, and 8 INTs. But, ya know, Michigan's secondary likes to turn every quarterback into Peyton Manning. Again, the bigger concern here is going to be max protect sets with tight ends that slip into the secondary after play action. Michigan will be particularly susceptible to this and it largely falls on the linebackers and safeties to play smart, disciplined football.

On Michigan's side of the ball, it's business as usual. The offense is going to have a tough test with a defense full of meaty, prototypical Big Ten players that will likely manhandle the scrapbooked offensive line. But with size often comes a marked lack of speed, and Michigan's zippy zipsters should be able to zip around the field if Wisconsin doesn't immediately blow into the Michigan backfield. As I mentioned earlier this week, the resurgence of Michigan's big-play running game was probably a one-game appearance. If Michigan starts breaking a lot of big plays on the ground, this game could swing Michigan's way. This is unlikely.

Prediction: It's difficult to put any games Michigan's way, especially when they're playing on the road against a top 25 team in one of the more difficult venues in the country. Michigan is going to need a couple of breaks to go their way, play disciplined defense, not letting up any long touchdowns, and take care of the ball. With how strong of a defense Wisconsin appears to have, Tate and company are going to need all of the chances they can get to try and put up points against a stout defense. Wisconsin will probably have their way with Michigan's defense on the strength of 5-yard runs and short passes. If they limit fumbles and interceptions, they probably keep Michigan off the field long enough to limit their chances to score. I think Michigan will have a moderate amount of success on offense because, frankly, I don't think Wisconsin can keep up with the speed of the team. In the end though, unless some big-time breaks go Michigan's way and they don't have any major gaffes, this one is going to Wisconsin. Wisconsin 28-24.


Post a Comment