Why ultracompetitive Michigan-Wisconson matchup won’t disappoint

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Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh borrows from basketball to explain what makes Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson dangerous, saying he has the instincts of a point guard.

“I think there’s a feel there,” Harbaugh said. “Understanding the spacing of players, how close they are to you, where you can go to avoid defenders.”

Harbaugh added, “He has a knack of making the right escape move from the pocket. In terms of scrambling, he’s really smart when he’s out of the pocket.”

No. 10 Wisconsin’s ability to contain Patterson’s freelancing will be critical in Saturday’s home game against No. 13 Michigan (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

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Five reasons why the Michigan-Wisconsin game could be one of the most competitive matchups of ranked teams this season:

1. Important to standings

Michigan (5-1) will visit rival Michigan State a week from Saturday and travels to Penn State the following weekend. A date with powerhouse Ohio State in Columbus also looms.

This Wolverines will be defined by how they play down the stretch, and their hope for a memorable season would be undermined significantly by a loss to Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin (4-1) needs a win to stay unbeaten in the Big Ten and on the path toward an expected showdown with Penn State to be the West Division’s top team. Wisconsin doesn’t play Ohio State this season.

 2. Patterson vs.  Alex Hornibrook

Patterson, a transfer from Mississippi, has been the offensive leader that Michigan lacked in 2017. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins Jr. is the only Big Ten quarterback with a better quarterback rating (190.8) than Patterson’s (160.7). Ball protection has been one of Patterson’s chief strengths.

But Wisconsin quarterback Hornibrook has been quietly effective, throwing only two interceptions in 114 attempts. However, he has completed fewer than 50% of his passes in two previous starts against Michigan.

3. Jonathan Taylor vs. No. 1 Michigan defense

Sophomore Taylor ranks third in the country with 849 rushing yards. but he’s going up against a Michigan team that ranks No. 1 overall on defense, giving up an average of 231 yards per game. Last week, Taylor rushed for 221 yards against Nebraska.

Taylor ran for 132 yards against Michigan last season. Michigan has a handful of top performers looking to slow him down, led by quick defensive lineman Chase Winovich, who leads the Big Ten with 10 tackles for loss this season.

“We have a lot of respect for him. He’s talented. He plays the game with great energy and he’s tough to block,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “When you go against him, you have to be great in your technique and you have to be great in your effort.”

4. Underappreciated rivalry

This is the third season in a row that Michigan and Wisconsin have both been ranked when they met in their conference game.

This year’s game is like the 2016 one in which the Badgers were ranked No. 9 and Michigan was No. 10. Michigan won that game 14-10. Last season, Wisconsin won. This year, the teams seem evenly matched, and both have had impressive periods of play and some spans in which they seemed out of sync.

This rivalry seems to be marked more by respect than dislike.

“Very impressed just how sound they are in all phases,” Harbaugh said about Wisconsin. “(They are) a team that doesn’t beat themselves. Does not give up big plays. People are not out of position. They don’t turn the ball over. They make themselves very tough to beat, that’s a sign of a well-coached team and a great program.”

5. Both teams hurting

Wisconsin’s secondary has been hurt by multiple injuries. Cornerbacks Travian Blaylock, Deron Harrell and Caesar Williams are questionable.  Starting safety Scott Nelson will sit out the first half against Michigan because he was flagged for targeting against Nebraska.

Michigan hasn’t revealed whether injured Rashan Gary will play. The monstrous defensive tackle was injured last week. Running back Chris Evans should play after missing three games with injury.

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2018/10/11/michigan-wisconsin-college-football-shea-patterson/1594924002/