Michigan football team seeks another upset of elite Wisconsin team at Michigan Stadium
The seniors on the Michigan football team can be credited for leading the Wolverines through a tumultuous stretch of program history and returning the team to the postseason for the first time in three years.
Now, they’d like a signature win.
They’ll have two chances in the final weeks of the regular season, starting Saturday against No. 5 Wisconsin (noon, ESPN) and then concluding the schedule at No. 8 Ohio State.
“It will be emotional,” said senior Stephen Schilling, who will play his final game at Michigan Stadium. “Four years coming to a close, and going to the Campus Inn one last time on Friday and doing everything, this is the last time you get to do it.”
The Wolverines (7-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) ride a two-game conference winning streak into the game.
In an odd twist of bowl fortune, there’s a good chance that a Michigan win wouldn’t improve its destination. With a loss, Wisconsin would fall from the BCS and every other bowl-bound Big Ten team would drop one spot in the pecking order.
But, for Michigan, that’d be a good problem to encounter.
Searching for an eighth win will be an arduous task. The Badgers (9-1, 5-1) look like a different team than the one that lost to Michigan State in East Lansing on Oct. 2.
Wisconsin has fine-tuned itself since its only loss and won five in a row, including last weekend’s 83-20 drubbing of hapless Indiana. The Badgers racked up 83 points despite playing without John Clay, a potential Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Michigan’s defense played its best game of the Big Ten season last weekend against Purdue. They didn’t give up a touchdown in a conference game for the first time since November 2008 against Minnesota.
All week, the Wolverines talked about bringing swagger and attitude back to the defensive side of the ball. They’re preparing for Wisconsin’s rushing attack seemingly unafraid.
“He ain’t no Ron Dayne,” cornerback James Rogers said, comparing Clay to Wisconsin’s 1999 Heisman trophy winner.
Still, on that sort of roll, it’d be natural to think Wisconsin could overlook the Wolverines. But don’t bet on it. The Badgers remember what happened the last time they visited the Big House. On Sept. 27, 2008, the Wolverines scored four times in a 12-minute stretch and raced back from a 19-point deficit to upset No. 9 Wisconsin, 27-25. It was the biggest comeback in stadium history.
Since then, Michigan has defeated one ranked opponent -- No. 18 Notre Dame in a 38-34 come-from-behind thriller on Sept. 12, 2009. Another win over a ranked opponent would be a big one for the program.
“Every game we play is a stepping stone,” senior defensive tackle Adam Patterson said. “We’re not where we really want to be yet. (Purdue) showed what we can do if we play together and trust in each other.”
Michigan’s defense is expected to get a boost with the return of Mike Martin (ankle) and Jonas Mouton (chest). Both missed last week’s win against the Boilermakers. Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan (head) is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report just as right tackle Perry Dorrestein (knee) returns to the lineup after a three-game absence. Should Lewan not play, Mark Huyge, who filled in for Dorrestein, would play left tackle.
After allowing four sacks against Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan last week, the Wolverines will get no reprieve. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez believes Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt is an all-American caliber player, a label he did not use for Kerrigan.
“They’re different players,” Rodriguez said. “J.J. will go inside and play on a guard a little bit. I’ve been extremely impressed.”