No. 11 Michigan and No. 13 Wisconsin find themselves in similar situations these days. Both have something to prove to themselves and the rest of the country. Michigan is one of the most historic programs in college football history, but as of late, not enough of that history has involved winning the Big Ten. Under Jim Harbaugh, we’ve seen the Wolverines get back to winning at least 10 games a season and being one of the Big Ten’s better programs, but they’ve yet to get over the hump and become an elite team.
Then there’s Wisconsin, which has been one of the most accomplished programs in the Big Ten this century. Michigan’s last Big Ten title came in 2004, and Wisconsin has won three conference titles in that time. The Badgers fell to 8-5 last season, however, and now there are questions of whether the Badgers’ run as the dominant force out West is coming to an end.
A win over Michigan on Saturday could quiet some of the doubters, and Wisconsin certainly has home-field advantage on its side. Will that plus a reinvigorated offense get it done for the Badgers in this 2019 meeting? Let’s take a look at the top storylines for the game and make a prediction.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin was embarrassed by Michigan last season, losing 38-13. This season, it’s been the Badgers doing the embarrassing, as they’ve outscored their first two opponents (South Florida and Central Michigan) 110-0. We’ve seen a defense that took a big step backward last season start to re-establish itself, but its yet to face an offense of Michigan’s caliber. That defense, combined with the stylings of running back Jonathan Taylor (237 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns), makes the Badgers an imposing force. The Badgers may be a remarkable 30-5 against current division foes since 2013, but they’ve struggled against the best of the East. Against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, the Badgers are only 1-9 in that timeframe. Of course, that one win came over Michigan the last time it came to Camp Randall.
Michigan: Like Wisconsin, Michigan had last week off, and it likely spent that extra time addressing an offense that’s been quite sloppy. The Wolverines turned the ball over 12 times all last season, but have five turnovers through two games in 2019. Shea Patterson has been playing at less than 100 percent health, but swears he’s feeling better heading into this weekend’s game. Last year, Michigan beat Wisconsin 38-13 to start its “Revenge Tour.” That win helped change feelings about the Wolverines in 2018, but any optimism was wiped away by Ohio State to finish the regular season. On Saturday, the Wolverines will look to start earning some of it back.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Camp Randall Stadium — Madison, Wisconsin
TV: FOX | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
This is the fourth straight season that Michigan and Wisconsin have met, and the home team has won each of the last three. That bodes well for Wisconsin here, but I don’t expect there to be a lot of points scored in this game. These are two very good defenses going against one another, and points will be at a premium. So while Wisconsin might make it four straight for the home teams, I’m not convinced it covers the spread. Plus, Michigan could easily win this game straight up, so that makes it even more difficult to pass up the points. Pick: Michigan (+3.5)