GAME 5 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS
Final Score: 38-17, Michigan by 21 over Wisconsin
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 1 (+20)
CD Projection: Wisconsin by 3 (+24)
GAME 5 RECAP @ Wisconsin
Michigan now stands a perfect 5-0 after beating Wisconsin convincingly 38-17 in Madison. While nobody would call this a perfect performance for the Wolverines, this team showed mental toughness on the road that previous teams of the Jim Harbaugh era lacked. Michigan got off to a great start in the 1st quarter and never gave the Badgers any reprieve. When key plays needed to be made, various players managed to step up to the challenge. By the 4th quarter Wisconsin had suffered too many key injuries on offense and became totally one dimensional. The vaunted Badger defense also wore down early in the 4th quarter and finally conceded a handful of explosive plays to the Wolverines.
Offensively, Josh Gattis and his staff surprised me. I expected another conservative game plan. I thought Michigan would want to manage the offense to avoid risk in an effort to challenge the Badger offense’s execution problems this season. Instead, the Wolverines displayed their most balanced attack of the season running 54% of the time and passing 46% of the time (garbage time removed at the end). Cade McNamara finished 17-28 for 197 yards and 2 TDs. More importantly, I think, Gattis showed he was willing to stretch the defense vertically down the field once again. Keeping the pressure on the Wisconsin safeties deep helped create just enough room underneath, and unclogged the box just a bit for the run game.
The FOX broadcast team showered Michigan’s defense with a lot of love, and rightfully so. Wisconsin was only able to run 9 plays in the 1st quarter, and started the game with 4 straight 3-and-out drives. Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz showed a lot of guts and accuracy just before halftime to cut Michigan’s lead to 13-10 with two perfect throws over Daxton Hill. However, Dax got the last laugh. Hill flashed into the backfield for a sack on a 3rd & 9 blitz on the first drive of the 3rd quarter. The backup QB was forced to take over from there, and Wisconsin was never within one score again.
Michigan leveraged a huge special teams advantage in this game also. The Wolverines turned a muffed punt into 3 points in the 1st half. Jake Moody was 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 47-yarder. And Wisconsin shanked one kickoff out of bounds trying to avoid giving the ball to Blake Corum. One big special teams swing occurred in the 2nd quarter when the Badgers nearly gave Michigan the ball back on a squib kick with less than a minute on the clock before halftime. Wisconsin managed to recover, and started their last drive at their own 37 yard line. That field position allowed them to unleash Mertz for their first touchdown of the game. Onward to Nebraska!