No one in the Badger fan base needs to be reminded that Ryan Field has been a not-so-welcome place for the football team. That also holds true for the players on the field itself, and that means Saturday afternoon in Evanston is going to be very interesting.
Some see this game as the final hurdle for the Badgers in their hopes to keep the pressure on Nebraska at the top of the Big Ten West division standings. However, the Wildcats also sit on just two losses in conference play too and have plenty to play for as these two get together.
Oh, and let’s also not forget that Northwestern is also playing its best offensive football in a few years now. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s offense has hit a brick wall themselves.
Perfect time for the two teams to meet, right?
Northwestern Team Stats:
(stat – Big Ten rank – national rank)
Scoring: 25.1 ppg — 10th — 89th
Passing: 243.3 ypg — 3rd — 53rd
Rushing: 138.7 ypg — 10th — 104th
Total: 382.0 ypg — 9th — t-89th
Scoring: 22.1 ppg — t-6th — t-30th
Passing: 274.8 ypg — 14th — 112th
Rushing: 141.5 ypg — 6th — 38th
Total: 416.3 ypg — 12th — 73rd
Wisconsin Team Stats:
Scoring: 24.1 ppg — 11th — t-95th
Passing: 197.1 ypg — 9th — 99th
Rushing: 179.3 ypg — 6th — 56th
Total: 376.4 ypg — 11th — 95th
Scoring: 14.6 ppg — 2nd — 3rd
Passing: 192.1 ypg — 5th — 23rd
Rushing: 109.0 ypg — 1st — 12th
Total: 301.1 ypg — 3rd — 10th
2 Stats to Remember:
—4. That is the Wisconsin Badgers losing streak at Ryan Field. For all the talk about the length of this streak, can we all please remember that this losing streak is only at four games and not some ridiculous number like 15 or 16 games in a row? Yes Evanston hasn’t been fun to visit as of late, but we aren’t talking a Cubs-like streak or anything so chill out on the narrative just a bit.
— 208.7. That is the rushing average for the Badgers since being held to a season-low 71 yards against Michigan. It certainly appears that the return of Corey Clement has meant a lot to the Badgers chances on the ground. Clement is averaging 99.9 yards per game, which is fourth in the Big Ten this season. He also has put up 380 of his 699 yards in the lat three games (including a 164-yard day against Ohio State). It isn’t just Clement either, as Dare Ogunbowale and Bradrick Shaw have also figured it out.
3 Keys To Badgers Victory:
Get Passing Game Going Early:
If there is a weakness for the Northwestern Wildcats, it is their pass defense. Unfortunately, the Badgers passing game has been its Achilles heel so far this season. It doesn’t help that head coach Paul Chryst is insistent on going with a two-quarterback system nor the fact that both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston have thrown some really bad interceptions as of late. The easiest way to decide all of this? Get Hornibrook going early and often. Can that happen with the pass protection and wide receiver group? That’s the bigger issue.
Blanket Austin Carr:
Wisconsin has intriguing wide receivers, but it doesn’t have one of the best in the nation. Northwestern, well they do have one of the best receivers in the nation in Carr. He comes in to this game leading the conference in receptions (58), yards (878), touchdowns (9) and yards per game (109.8). Wisconsin’s stat line suggests this could be a problematic matchup, but the reality is much of the passing stats come as teams are forced to throw the ball thanks to a stifling run defense. Bottling up Carr and making quarterback Clayton Thorson look elsewhere is going to be vital.
David Edwards Continued Improvement:
One thing really stood out last weekend in UW’s win over Nebraska, and that was this team’s ability to run the ball well off left AND right sides of the offensive line. A lot of credit has to go to redshirt freshman David Edwards, who took the place of injured Jacob Maxwell. If he can continue that performance level and more importantly build off of it, the Badgers offense becomes more difficult to stop. Being able to count on holes being open on both sides of the line certainly helps the play calling and so does having two tackles that can be counted on in pass protection. Let’s see if Edwards can continue to earn his spot, and if he does expect the Badgers be dangerous in this game.
Andy: Wisconsin 17-13
Streaks are made to be broken…especially around Chicago these days. That means the Badgers will break their four-game losing streak at Ryan Field. How? Look for them to slow down an offense that has been on fire and to get enough going in the run game against a Northwestern defense that hasn’t been as good as it has in the past few years. Corey Clement breaks loose early and late to secure a Badgers victory in another tough contest.
Rayan: Northwestern 17-13
It makes sense that this game is the weekend after Halloween, because there is nothing scarier than a trip to Evanston. This is the very definition of a trap game. Northwestern is much better than their record, Wisconsin is coming off a huge emotional win, and the atmosphere will be dead. Something stupid will happen like it always does and Wisconsin’s playoff hopes will end.