Prediction Friday – Wisconsin

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern

The ‘Cats take on Wisconsin in a huge game at Ryan Field for the B1G West. Starting Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook looks to be out with a concussion – note this happened after most of made our predictions, so take our thoughts with a grain of salt. Speaking of salt, the tequila shots will be flowing in the West Lot tomorrow in what’s shaping up to be a party atmosphere. Let’s see who the Warriors are picking in the game.

Only Andy Day abstained for this week, so his spot his dedicated to an old Evanston favorite, R.I.P TKOE.

Andy Trent Roger Roche Paul Hack ZVon
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TRENT

Game Summary: The ‘Cats made it very interesting against a bad Rutgers team, trailing for most of the game before pulling it out in the fourth quarter with a late TD. The offense struggled all game, but in a reverse Mario narrative, our freshman running back Bowser came to the rescue and plowed through the Rutgers D to save the day. I’ve been touting Isaiah Bowser all year and he finally got a good deal of run on Saturday, racking up 110 rushing yards and two TDs. He’s a big, bruising back who can break tackles and drag defenders – granted he was doing this against a bad Rutgers run defense.

After surviving Rutgers, the ‘Cats face a much tougher test this week in Wisconsin. The winner of this game will be in first place in the B1G West – though Iowa and Purdue actually look like the two best teams in the West at the moment. After getting a ton of flak all offseason, the B1G West actually doesn’t seem to be as bad as people expected. Purdue whooped Ohio State last week in a game that was never really that close – the Boilermakers have athletes all over the field and WR Rondale Moore (who killed the ‘Cats) is a stud.
All that aside, this is a huge game. If the ‘Cats win, we’ll be at 5-1 in the B1G and have immediate tiebreakers over Purdue and Wisco. If the ‘Cats lose, we’ll be 4-2 and essentially need to win out and get help to have any chance at Indy. Wisconsin is a six point favorite in Evanston, but they are really banged up on defense. Their secondary has been decimated by injuries.
Believe it or not, I’m pretty optimistic about this game. Wisconsin is still carrying a lot of good will after starting the season ranked in the top 10, but they are not world-beaters. They had an impressive win in Iowa, but were losing in the last minute of that game before pulling it out late. They also lost to BYU at home and got shellacked by Michigan.
This feels like a good matchup for us. Wisconsin, as always, runs the ball well, but we defend the run pretty well. We can stack the box to make Hornibrook throw. If our D line can get to Hornibrook and force some mistakes, we’ll be in good shape. On offense, we can’t run the ball at all, but can exploit their banged up secondary through the air. Hopefully Mick McCall brings back his game plan from the Michigan State game, where we abandoned the run and let Thorson throw it. Need Thorson to have a bounceback game here, and hit open receivers. I think this will be tight throughout, with the ‘Cats taking the lead in the second half and holding on.
Game Score: ‘Cats 24 – Wisconsin 21
Play of the Game: Gaziano pressures Hornibrook and forces a tipped INT.
Player to Watch: Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. We’re going to need them to come up with some big solo tackles to stop the run.
Warrior to Watch: ZVon
Other Game to Watch: Has to be Iowa @ Penn State.
RANKIN

Game Summary: Apathy almost took a hit last week. But, thankfully, NU found a way to pull the game out against an absolutely dreadful Rutgers team. So, apathy remains VERY low.

For the record, there was nothing redeeming about last week’s performance other than not losing. I’m not even going to say we won. We didn’t lose. Whatever…. good enough to make this week’s game monumental.
For as impressive as Fitz has been at NU (and he has…. like it or not), his teams haven’t played in very many meaningful games. To be clear, my definition of a meaningful game is one that has a rather substantial impact (% impact) on NU’s chances to win the division and/or conference. By that definition, an NU team 2 weeks into conference play or one flying under the radar and effectively eliminated from their own division cannot play a meaningful game. Stanford @ NU to start the 2015 season was not meaningful. NU @ MSU several weeks ago was not meaningful (too early). NU @ Wisconsin in 2015 was not meaningful (already effectively eliminated).
The last meaningful game we played was in late October 2012 when Nebraska came to town. The B1G Legends Division was still a toss up and NU was in the thick of things. That went….. not well. If you want to call 2015 NU @ Michigan meaningful because of our meteoric rise in the polls leading up to that game, then go ahead. The point still stands. Because that one went even worse.
If this game were more apparently meaningful to the outside world then I wouldn’t have high expectations. But, for whatever reason, nobody seems to recognize that NU is 4-1 in conference, leading the B1G West and has a VERY real chance of winning the division if they beat the odds on favorite on Saturday. By my definition, this game is incredibly meaningful. A loss would give us essentially a 0% chance of winning the division (2 game hole to Wisconsin), while I have to imagine a win would  give us greater than a 33% chance. That’s a pretty dramatic swing. I just hope nobody notices…. that’s when we play best.
On to the game….
This is the most stereotypical Wisconsin team we’ve seen in recent memory…. and we’ve seen a lot of stereotypical Wisconsin teams recently. Hornibrook is suspect at best, so Wisconsin will look to run the ball all game long. I doubt they’ll have any issues doing that. But, they didn’t have any issues doing that in 2014 when Melvin Gordon scampered for 259 yards and Wisconsin only scored 14 points. Let’s play bend but don’t break and hope like hell for some turnovers when we force Hornibrook into passing situations. That’s our best bet defensively. Wisconsin will get their fair share of yards on the ground. That’s inevitable.
Offensively, I have higher expectations from Mick in this one. I think we were ashamed that we couldn’t run last week or the week before. So, we forced it anyways. This week should be much like the MSU game. We can’t run, we won’t be ashamed of it, so we won’t try. If it’s anything other than that then….. Mick’s being Mick.
Ultimately, the game is going to come down to Clayton. He was absolutely horrid last week. I don’t expect the same this week. Wisconsin’s secondary is banged up so Leonhard will be a little more hesitant to dial up his exotic blitzes. You know what you’re going to see in this one, Clayton. You too, Mick.
Roll the pocket.
Game Score: ‘Cats 27 – Wisconsin 24
Play of the Game: Paddy Fisher shows up with a forced fumble and fumble recovery to seal the game.
Player to Watch: Clayton. The game rests squarely with him.
Warrior to Watch: Bag… he’s got a big group coming to this one.
Other Game(s) to Watch: Iowa at Penn State and Purdue at Sparty. If NU wins and both Iowa and Purdue lose, then….. my word.
HACK

Game Summary: Over the years, I’ve been to many Northwestern-Wisconsin games and they tend to be entertaining. These teams both have somewhat glaring flaws. One struggles to run the ball while the other struggles to do anything besides run the ball. I think this game will come down to whether Northwestern can rush for over 75 yards, if they do Wisconsin’s d will have to play honest and will get torched in the secondary. On the other side of the ball, the Northwestern D has been playing worse than the sum of its parts so far this season and I’m not sure why. Everybody not named Joe “The Italian Stallian” Gaziano could be playing better and they need to this game if they’re going to slow down Jonathan Taylor. This game will probably come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes and when Brad Hornibrook’s the QB that has to worry you. Prediction time, well call me Billy Currington, because I’ve got a feelin.

Game Score: ‘Cats 35 – Wisconsin 31
Play of the Game: Brad Hornibrook hits an open Blake Gallagher on a screen pass for a 47-yard score.
Player to Watch: Kyric McGowan -This kid is electric with the ball in his hands. Time to unleash him.
Warrior to Watch: Bag – Will he be wearing a costume?
Other Game(s) to Watch: Notre Dame Navy – Notre Dame scheduling a bye before the Navy game, talk about respecting the troops.
DOC ROCHE
Game Summary: I don’t understand how we’re so confident that Northwestern will (a) muster any sort of offense or (b) stop Bucky’s run game. You guys watched last week’s game, right? I mean, Bowser had a nice day against Rutgers, but it was Rutgers. Sconnie’s one dimensional, but so is a Northwestern offense who struggled to put up 18 points against the Scarlet Knights.
Game Score: Wisconsin 30 – B1GCats 17
Play of the Game: Bowser drags a few guys into the endzone to give the ‘Cats an early lead.
Player to Watch: Bowser. How will he follow up last week’s breakout?
Warrior to Watch: Bag and his Badger buddies
Other Game(s) to Watch: Iowa – Penn State. Iowa’s first real test after falling to Wisconsin.
PAUL

Game Summary: Cats going to have a tough time against a hungry Wisconsin team who always seems to eat the Cats’ lunch in Evanston. I think the NU offense will struggle and the defense just won’t have enough gas in them to try and keep us in the game. Barring a huge pick 6 or lucky offensive play I don’t see the Cats pulling this one out.

Game Score: ‘Cats 13 – Wisconsin 24
Play of the Game: Bowser 30 yard touchdown
Player to Watch: Bigsby
Warrior to Watch: Hack. Will the pancakes work out? What will happen with the B1G tailgate??
Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Penn State as well.
ZVON

Game Summary: ‘Cats most always play Wisco well in Evanston (sorry Paul. If you were on The Apprentice, you’d be fired for that commentary). I think that the Cats will regress to Kitties after a nice first half and Wisco wins even though we were right there most of the game. Reminiscent of the Michigan game, we look like we should and could win…but we don’t. Just remember folks – T Pain once rhymed Wisconsin and Mansion. That’s lyrical brilliance and their ground game overwhelms us in a similarly brilliant way, taking three running plays to the house….err – i mean, the Mansion.

Game Score: University of Wisconsin 31, Cats 27
Play of the Game: Thorson runs one for over 40+ after he rolls out and nobody is open. Big highlight. Straightaway speed – no jukes needed here.
Player to Watch: Bowser – can he bruise his way down the field on these big hosses from various Midwestern outposts.
Warrior to Watch: All of us there – will the BTN tailgate make us host in a different spot for the first time in years?
Other Game to Watch: Iowa @ Penn State (ditto).

 

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