Wisconsin has won back-to-back games to start Big Ten play, although it sure doesn’t seem like the Badgers are carrying a lot of momentum into their matchup with Michigan on Saturday.
That’s probably because 10th-ranked UW (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will try to slow the No. 13 Wolverines with a defense mostly held together by medical tape.
Cornerbacks Caesar Williams (left leg) and Deron Harrell (head) likely will be game-time decisions, but sophomore defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk already has been declared out with an ankle injury.
Loudermilk’s absence will weaken an already anemic pass rush for UW. The Badgers have managed only five sacks this season and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel has been limited in the last two games with a leg injury.
GAME DAY: Wisconsin vs. Michigan preview, prediction
Redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Henningsen probably will get the call to start for Loudermilk. UW starts another redshirt freshman, Kayden Lyles, at the other defensive end spot.
Henningsen and Lyles started together in the season opener when Loudermilk was recovering from a knee injury.
“Matt Henningsen and Kayden hadn’t played (then),” UW coach Paul Chryst said Thursday. “This is Game 6. They know what it’s like to play in a game.
“Now we haven’t played Michigan yet, but each week there’s a different challenge to it. But guys have played.”
UW guard Beau Benzschawel knows that the offense might have to carry the team a bit more this week. And in order for the Badgers to sustain drives, Benzschawel and his cohorts on the offensive line must have success against the ultra-talented front seven of the Michigan defense.
“I think we know that this game is going to fall on our shoulders,” Benzschawel said. “Running backs aren’t going to be able to bust big runs if the holes aren’t there for them.
“Ultimately it falls on us, so I don’t think it really matters who’s across from us.”
It would help the Badgers if they could get off to a better start than they did against Nebraska last weekend.
UW ended up with 41 points, but that could have been much higher if the Badgers hadn’t settled for field goals on their first scoring drives.
On their first drive, the Badgers piled up 63 yards in 15 plays while taking 7 minutes and 52 seconds off the clock. But the drive came to a halt when quarterback Alex Hornibrook could not complete a pass to wide receiver Kendric Pryor on third and 7. UW settled for a 30-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone.
In the second quarter, UW moved the ball 41 yards but stalled when Hornibrook had a pass to A.J. Taylor broken up on another third-and-7 play. Gaglianone hit a 28-yard field goal.
“I think it was just small things, execution,” Hornibrook said. “There were some third downs that we didn’t get. That was the reason we had to settle for a field goal.
“We moved the ball pretty well, we just didn’t end up with six points. We ended up with three and I think that’s just converting those third downs and keeping those drive going.”
Dominating time of possession is often a key part of winning on the road. UW has been very successful winning away from home under Chryst, going 15-1 in true road games. The Badgers have won 10 straight on the road, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Oklahoma (17).
A win at Michigan Stadium with an undermanned defense would be a big statement for UW.
“Shoot, man, any time you win games is big,” UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “You can see it all over this conference. There’s great matchups, there’s great players, there’s great coaching.
“Guys come in with game plans that do their best and can give you trouble no matter who they are. I think you celebrate every win and hope you grow from every game.”
Source : https://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/college/uw/2018/10/12/uw-not-full-strength-heading-into-big-game-michigan/1609820002/