Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor ‘as good as any’ RB Michigan has faced

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jonathan Taylor

For good reason, Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has impressed Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

No. 19 Michigan plays at No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Michigan is 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten and Wisconsin is 10-0, 7-0.

Taylor has 1,525 yards rushing, ranking third among FBS players, and has scored 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 6.95 yards a carry.

“We’ve faced a lot of good backs this year and Wisconsin’s running back, he’s as good as any,” Harbaugh said Tuesday on the Big Ten conference call. “Very physical back. Can push the pile, move the pile. Gets more yards than what are blocked for.

“If the play’s blocked for three, he gets five. If it’s blocked for four, he gets seven. Very impressive for a young back to be as physical and mature as he is. He has tremendous balance and vision. Been a very impressive back.”

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Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said this game is not just about Taylor. Wisconsin ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense, allowing 247.6 yards a game, while Michigan is No. 3 (254.8). The Badgers also are No. 1 against the run (81.5) and Michigan is No. 9 (110.3). The Wolverines statistically have a better pass defense by a small margin and both are among the nation’s top five in sacks.

“Certainly, it’s a very, very impressive, very talented, well-coordinated defense,” Chryst said Tuesday, referring to Michigan’s defense. “And it’s going to take everyone and that’s why it’s not Jonathan versus that; it’s team offense versus team defense. That’s both sides of the ball. For any play to be successful against good opponents, you’ve got to execute, and everybody has to do their part.”

The Wolverines rank ninth nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average 16.4 points, and gave up a season-high on the road at then-No. 2 Penn State in a 42-13 loss.

“A big task for our defense,” Harbaugh said of Wisconsin. “They have a very good, high-precision running game and a very good passing attack. Very good quarterback (Alex Hornibrook). Tremendous offensive line and core of receivers and tight ends that are very good. Very good personnel. They have really good schemes. They execute them very well. What kind of challenge will that be for our defense? It will be a stiff, challenging game.”