Football preview: In final home game of season, No. 21/25 Wisconsin to take on No. 20 Northwestern Saturday

first_imgMelvin Gordon cemented himself into the annals of Wisconsin football history a year ago this week when he rushed for a then-NCAA record 408 yards against Nebraska as snow in the sky created a snow globe-like feel at Camp Randall.The win put Wisconsin in the driver’s seat for the eventual Big Ten West crown.With what local weather forecasts are predicting (3-to-6 inches of snow), Saturday’s Northwestern-Wisconsin game will conjure memories of that evening.Though the game will likely decide second place within the division, the implications aren’t as severe as last season’s “snow game.”No. 20 Northwestern (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) cannot win the Big Ten West. Wisconsin will need to win its final two games while Iowa will have to lose its final two in order for Wisconsin to advance to Indianapolis. Still, the game will strongly influence the two programs’ bowl selections.Northwestern’s strength lies in its defense, which ranks in the top half of the Big Ten in every major defensive category.“I think the strength is that they’ve got a very good scheme, and I think their players know it,” Chryst said.Last season, the Wildcats upset the Badgers 20-14 in Evanston on a day the Wisconsin offense wasn’t very good and senior quarterback Joel Stave made his return from the yips.Gordon rushed for 259 yards and Wisconsin could only manage two scores. It’s almost a guarantee that Stave will have to throw more this time, which could prove to be difficult if Saturday’s conditions aren’t pass-friendly.But Stave’s familiarity with facing Northwestern could prove to be an advantage, he said.“Schematically, they do a lot of the same stuff they’ve done the past two years that we’ve played them,” Stave said. “They’re a good group. They’re always in the right spot.”The advantage for Wisconsin is that, statistically, their defense is better than Northwestern’s.The Badgers have the top scoring defense in the country and the second-best total defense in the league behind Michigan.For Northwestern, the offense revolves around sophomore running back Justin Jackson. He’s already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season (1,077). But Wisconsin boasts the best rushing defense in the conference, allowing only 97.3 yards per game on the ground.The last time Northwestern came to Camp Randall, it was the 19th-ranked team in the nation. Then-unranked Wisconsin blew them out 35-6 on homecoming, and the Wildcats’ season ended with losing seven of their final eight games.Over the past five seasons, Wisconsin is 3-0 against ranked teams that have come into Camp Randall during games played in November.Chryst and the rest of his team would like to be 4-0 in those kind of games by Saturday night.“They’ve been a good team for a long stretch,” Chryst said of Northwestern. “You throw on the tape, and you see it, and we’ve got to have a great week of preparation and it’s going to be a heck of a game, I think, for us.”Game InformationWhere: Camp Randall Stadium, MadisonWhen: 2:30 p.m.TV: Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler, Matt Millen, Lisa Boyinton)Radio: Badger Sports Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, Mark Tauscher, Scott Nelson) Sirius 135/XM 195last_img read more