As entire Michigan fan base waits on pins and needles, Harbaugh and Co. seek to re-enter national spotlight with big-game victory over Badgers
Since Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater in 2015, he’s fielded competitive teams that fall flat in big games. A 1-6 record against Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame has left the Michigan faithful disheartened with Harbaugh’s performance. However, a win at the Big House against the No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers would vault the Maize and Blue into the Top 10 and provide hope of finishing the 2018 campaign with better results against Michigan State and Ohio State.
After a lackluster performance against Notre Dame, Michigan has reeled off five consecutive wins and found its answer at quarterback in transfer Shea Patterson. In five games following the loss to the Irish, Patterson has completed 69 percent of his attempts with 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Running back Karan Higdon has gained 100 yards in five straight contests to pace the Wolverine running attack. The Wolverine defense has stonewalled opponents to the tune of 15.8 points per contest and just needs the offense to show up a few times each Saturday to have a chance at winning. Led by defensive lineman Chase Winovich and lineback Devin Bush, Michigan has smothered the opposition relentlessly.
For Wisconsin, tailback Jonathan Taylor’s Heisman chances took a big hit when the No. 4 Badgers lost at home to Brigham Young. Despite Taylor averaging 169 yards rushing per contest, Wisconsin will need quarterback Alex Hornibrook to have his best game of the season if it has any chance of winning in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin’s run game appears to be in for a tough matchup as the Wolverines allow under 100 yards per game on the ground, so Hornibrook’s performance will go a long way in determining the winner.
Although trailing the overall series 50-15, Wisconsin has won five of the last eight against the Wolverines, including last season’s convincing 24-10 win at Camp Randall Stadium. The history has been interrupted several times with expansion in the Big 10 conference moving the programs into separate divisions.
Wisconsin fans look back to magical year of 1962 when the Badgers trounced the Wolverines 34-12 in Ann Arbor, which paved the way to an eventual Rose Bowl appearance and No. 2 finish in the Associated Press and United Press International polls. Michigan fans point to the 1999 matchup when the Wolverines held 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne to zero yards in the second half of an 21-16 victory at Camp Randall.
Can Harbaugh erase the doubts about his program and come away with a big victory or will Wisconsin stay on course for a berth in the Big 10 Conference Championship game? Look for Patterson to make just enough plays and the Michigan D to stifle the Badgers and earn Harbaugh that elusive big-game victory. H&A
Kickoff for Wisconsin at Michigan is set for 6:30 p.m. CDT on ABC