Michigan hosts Wisconsin this weekend at the Big House. It’s the third meeting between the Wolverines and Badgers since the two resumed their rivalry in 2016. The home team won each previous meeting, Wisconsin by two touchdowns last year, Michigan by one the year before. Is it #14 Michigan’s turn again or can the ninth-ranked Badgers win one on the road?
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Both encounters in the renewed hostilities ended comfortably under the total. Conversely, the four previous meetings, from 2007-10, all went over after the four meetings between 2001-06 were under. Does that mean both coaches have their respective squads playing traditional Michigan and Wisconsin football again? That’s why Jim Harbaugh was hired in Ann Arbor. Despite nine wins between them, however, weak rosters may have more to do with it.
At 2-0 in conference play, Wisconsin leads the Big Ten West, although a loss would throw the division wide open. Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue and Illinois each have one defeat. Michigan’s won all three conference games to date, keeping them abreast their chief rivals, Ohio State.
More telling, each school is defeated out of conference.
Michigan fell to Notre Dame to kick off the campaign. Only Northwestern troubled them since. The Wolverines fought back from a 10-point deficit at half-time to avoid a second home defeat with a 20-17 Harbaugh’s squad has moxie. Talent is debatable.
Wisconsin’s schedule hasn’t impressed, either. Their chance for a perfect record ended when the Badgers couldn’t defend Camp Randall Stadium, losing by a field goal to Brigham Young. That’s the same Brigham Young squad who’ve lost their last two games by a combined 80-27 score, with the margin of defeat split almost evenly between #6 Washington [28 pts] and unranked Utah State .
You may need to look a little lower down the rankings to find both Michigan and Wisconsin when the bowl season rolls around.
As far as this game is concerned, the line took a precipitous dip when it was confirmed that Wisconsin would be without starting defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk on Thursday. Their other star end, Garrett Rand was already lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Bettor’s shaky confidence in the Badgers crumbled. In less than 24 hours, the line has dipped from Michigan -7.5 to a full -10.
It’s tough to respond to a pair of crushing defeats when a key defensive player goes down with an ankle injury. Wisconsin held an advantage in two aspects of the game before Loudermilk went down. They were disciplined, taking fewer penalties, and were the more effective team in the red zone. With the Badgers ability to pressure Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson taking a hit, you’d expect the junior transfer from Ole Miss to capitalise on drives more often if his teammates can keep their wits about them.
Wisconsin is 1-4 Against The Spread away from home in their last five. Michigan is .500 ATS in their last six. With the Badgers hurtling towards a lost season and injuries taking their toll, everything is pointing towards a resounding Michigan victory, something they can use against a ranked opponent. For all their travails, Wisconsin is ranked, however. this could be a wild one.
Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.