Once upon a time, there were twin boys. One boy was named Michael while the other was Winston. These boys looked and acted almost identical, however, there were a few differences in temperament and talents.
Michael was a kid who would try to force his way into hanging with the “cool” crowd whereas Winston was a bit of a loner who seemed to get along with people just fine, but was not very popular.
Michael loved to be the center of attention and would sometimes irritate people and get into scuffles. He would usually win these fights against the little fellas, but he would get roughed up by the stronger, more popular guys. Winston, on the other hand, kept his nose clean and never really seemed to tussle with anyone. Even though Michael was the troublemaker who got into fights, Winston seemed to have a bit of an edge in the strength department.
Michael became increasingly resentful of Winston who seemed to always stay out of trouble. This feeling burned inside of him as he continued to take his lumps when fighting against bigger guys and Winston always came home unscathed. Finally, Michael was fed up with battling the popular crowd and turned his anger towards his brother.
If you haven’t guessed by now, our delightful duo symbolizes the battle that will occur on Saturday in Madison. Michigan is headed to Camp Randall to take on the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers. These two teams are essentially twins based on their style of play. Each squad plays the ground and pound, slobber knocker style of offense with stingy defense.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan seem to be eerily similar with Wisconsin having the upper hand. They both have run games that have gone for right around 5 yards per carry, 20 touchdowns, and 2,000 yards which places them as the number 1 and 2 rushing offenses in the B1G Ten. The kicker here is that the rushing attack for Wisconsin is about 500 yards greater than that of Michigan and the leading rusher for Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor, has outgained Michigan’s Karan Higdon by almost double with 1,525 yards on the 2017 campaign.
Another similarity between Michigan and Wisconsin is their ability, or inability, to throw the football effectively. Michigan has had some quarterbacking woes with Wilton Speight getting injured early this year against Purdue, John O’Korn forgetting how to do football, and newly named starter Brandon Peters still feeling his way into his new role as he has yet to throw for over 150 yards in any of his 3 games as QB1. Crossing the border into the Dairyland, we see somewhat of the same story. Alex Hornibrook is incredibly similar to Peters as he is a sophomore pocket passer. Hornibrook, however, has thrown for less than 135 yards only once this season and over 200 yards 4 times on the year. This sounds like a highly unimportant stat, but it shows the significant difference between the two struggling air attacks. Hornibrook has been plagued by turnovers, though, as he has thrown the ball to the wrong colored jersey 12 times. All in all, neither of the twins are going to rely on the arms of their gunslingers, but the quarterback play will have a definite impact on the direction that the contest takes.
What will more than likely determine this clash at Camp Randall will be the #1 ranked Wisconsin defense versus the #3 ranked Michigan defense. The two teams only give up around 250 yards per game (247 and 252 respectively) and have each given up 20 or fewer touchdowns on the year with Wisconsin only giving up 14. The separation between the twins comes in the turnover department. Wisconsin is ranked 9th in forced turnovers with 22 whereas Michigan drops down to 79th with only 13 turnovers on the year. The bottom line is, Wisconsin takes the ball away and Michigan does not.
This may not mean as much this week; however, as Wisconsin turns the ball over at a rate of 2 times a game which is the 25th worst in Division 1. This means that the Wolverines may not even have to worry about forcing a turnover as the Badgers may just hand it to them. Obviously this is in jest, but the Wisconsin offense has really struggled to hang onto the ball this year. Despite the turnover woes, the ability of the defense to respond to these sudden changes and make a stand when its back is against the wall has been incredible. The determination from Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard’s guys after the offense coughing the ball up or after facing consistent 3 and outs has been impeccable. Basically, there is a reason this Badger defense is #1 in the nation.
The biggest difference between the Wolverines and the Badgers is the opponents. It is true that you can only beat who you play, but Wisconsin has only played a single top 25 team whereas Michigan has faced off against Florida (who has since fallen off), Michigan State, Penn State, and will face Ohio State next week. Michigan has played under the bright lights of primetime and has not done exceedingly well this season, but they have been there whereas Wisconsin has only one opportunity where they took care of business against an Iowa who laid a beatdown on Ohio State the week before.
The battle between these two brothers is inevitable. Michael is scrappy, filled with rage, and has been bouting it out with mighty foes while Winston is stoic, strong, but not battle tested. Will the lack of toughness from prior fights be a hindrance for Winston, or will his sheer brute strength take him to victory over Michael? We shall find out on Saturday at 11 AM, live from Madison.
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