Wisconsin-Northwestern Preview: Can Wisconsin Cure Their Ryan Field Woes?
Wisconsin heads on the road for the second straight week. They’re playing Northwestern. It is their first matchup against a ranked opponent this season. Northwestern is off to a great start. The team bounced back from the last two years to have a special team thus far. Their offense is better than its been in years and the defense is tough. Wisconsin heads to Evanston, Illinois, which has not been kind to the Badgers. Since 2003, Wisconsin lost five of six at Ryan Field. Why does this place give the Badgers so many issues? It’s unknown, but they’re looking to ignore the past and focus on the present in this big matchup.
THREE THINGS I CARE ABOUT IN WISCONSIN-NORTHWESTERN
1. What will Graham Mertz look like with a full week of practice – Wisconsin did not get a great game from their quarterback on Saturday. Mertz struggled a bit, but it was to be expected. He barely practiced for two weeks and showed some obvious signs of rust. I would not expect that this week. Northwestern’s defense is good, but Mertz is a stud. Don’t be surprised if we come away from this one with more Mertz hype then we had before.
2. Wisconsin’s first real test – My one worry about this game is that Wisconsin has not played a soul yet this season. Illinois is trash. Michigan is a dumpster fire so trash with fire. Are we sure Wisconsin is as good as we think they are? My opinion is that the defense is legit and their offense figured out how to run the ball last week. Despite Northwestern being their toughest competition to date, this team is not a fraud. It would be surprising to see them get run over.
3. Stopping the Northwestern running attack will be key – In addition to Wisconsin not facing many good teams this season, they have not faced a running back duo like Isiash Bowser and Drake Anderson. They’re going to try and run the football against this defense. Will they be able to be the question? Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal do not get talked about enough on this Badgers’ defense. They’re very good inside linebackers. One of the reasons to like Wisconsin is that they can shut off the run and force Peyton Ramsey into more third-and-long situations.
Not sure if y’all do this, but when looking at making Saturday wagers, I’ll always look to Bill Connelly of ESPN.com and his SP+ that looks at ATS and Over/Under. He bases his numbers on efficiency metrics. Connelly’s computers haven’t caught up to Northwestern, but he has Wisconsin winning by 14+. The reason why Northwestern sneaks up on Wisconsin is due to their record, letdown, or lookahead. None of that is happening here. Wisconsin wins this one and builds their resume in the process. Wisconsin 28 Northwestern 17