BaggyPantsDevil returns from points unknown to give his take on the Michigan-Wisconsin game this week.
When you need some cheese to make your sandwich, what better place to go than Wisconsin? OK, Michigan isn't actually going to Wisconsin, Wisconsin is coming to Michigan—don't forget to bring some cheese, guys!—and I'm sure there are better—by which I mean worse—teams to play than Wisconsin.
Before any of the Badger faithful get upset, I actually kind of dig Wisconsin. Beer, bratwursts, cheese, old school, smash-mouth football, and Barry Alvarez who generally managed to lose to Michigan but won his Rose Bowls. So, when the Badgers aren't playing Michigan, I'm generally pulling for them.
And, let's face it, after demolishing Notre Dame, playing a visiting Wisconsin team sure beats the hell out of heading out west to play Oregon. If poor special teams play or a crowned field don't get you out there, the worst referees this side of the Sun Belt Conference will.
This is clearly a game Michigan should win. Even most of Wisconsin's fans think so. Of course, there are a few of the Badger faithful who still believe. More power to you, guys. That's what being a fan is all about.
It can be helpful to see how Michigan and Wisconsin compare statistically. Last week, the statistics indicated Michigan's defense pretty much had it all over Notre Dame (Michigan's then 4th in rushing defense against Notre Dame's 71st in rushing offense and Michigan's 3rd in sacks against Notre Dame's 85th in sacks allowed). Although Michigan didn't get as many sacks as I would have expected, I think the pass rush forced Quinn to make bad throws and interceptions. Anyway, I'll give it a shot with Wisconsin.
Wisconsin does match up against Michigan a little differently than Notre Dame did. Statistically, Wisconsin's defense—particularly its pass defense—is a lot better than Notre Dame's. Wisconsin is 46th in rushing defense against Michigan's 18th rushing offense and is 4th in pass defense to Michigan's 87th passing offense. Of course, those numbers may be skewed by Wisconsin's schedule of Bowling Green, Western Illinois, and San Diego State.
Wait a minute. Western Illinois is a Division I-AA school. Shame on you Wisconsin, shame on you. You guys are better than that. Leave the Division I-AA opponents for the likes of Nebraska and—ha ha—Colorado. A quick aside here, this coming Saturday, Western Illinois plays Northern Colorado, school o' stabbing second string punters.
Anyway, the rather lowly competition Wisconsin has faced tends to make me skeptical of their fourth best pass defense in the country ranking, but one could have said the same thing about Michigan's rankings on offense and defense last week and we know how that worked out.
On offense, Wisconsin being Wisconsin, they run the ball better than Notre Dame does but are worse at passing it (Wisconsin is 22nd, Notre Dame was 71st). So, Wisconsin's offensive strength will go up against Michigan's defensive strength (1st in the nation against the run, baby). Additionally, Wisconsin is worse than Notre Dame in turnover margin—Wisconsin, tied for 54th while Notre Dame's was 11th—in which Michigan is second in the country.
So, statistically, this game should have a lower score than the Notre Dame game with offenses that mostly run the ball and the Michigan defense forcing a fair amount of turnovers. Of course, last year, Mario Manningham had 106 yards receiving including a 49 yard touchdown pass.
Also working in Michigan's favor is last year's game. Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco's four yard touchdown run with 24 seconds remaining in the game should give Michigan plenty of motivation to beat the crap out of him a la Brady Quinn.
I think the revenge factor with Wisconsin and Minnesota will do a lot to prevent a letdown the next couple of weeks.
(HT to Brian at AOL's Michigan Fanhouse for the Wisconsin in the "acceptence" phase of grieving stuff.)