The Michigan players have only heard about what it’s like to play at Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium considering the program has not been to Madison since the 2009 season.
Michigan is now ranked No. 19 in the AP poll after a 35-10 victory at Maryland and will play its second consecutive road game Saturday at No. 5 and unbeaten Wisconsin, which clinched a share of the Big Ten West with a 38-14 win over Iowa last weekend. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Madison, as the Badgers are attempting to earn a national championship playoff spot.
The Wolverines get another opportunity this season to break out of its lengthy slump against ranked teams on the road. They lost earlier this season at then-No. 2 Penn State, 42-13, extending their streak to 15 losses on the road against a ranked opponent.
“All our focus is on Wisconsin and getting ready for that game,” senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said after the Maryland win. “It’s a huge game on the road. (We) sort of struggled in the past on the road. Just kind of keeping this streak going and keeping things rolling Just making sure we’re practicing really hard and do what we’re supposed to.
“It’s huge. Just thinking about the confidence we have and bringing it to next week.”
Michigan is 2-0 since redshirt freshman Brandon Peters took over as starting quarterback and 3-0 if you count the Rutgers game when he entered the game early and as held the starting job since.
Peters has done, for the most part, what coach Jim Harbaugh wants, managing the game while avoiding turnovers. He made his first road start at Maryland, a much smaller stadium than Camp Randall and with a friendlier crowd featuring a good number of Michigan fans. But he needed to get a feel for a road environment before heading to Wisconsin to lead the offense.
“It was very important even though Maryland is a smaller stadium (and) felt there were a lot of Michigan fans in the stands,” Peters said. “Playing on the road is always different. Away from the home crowd, I thought it was really important.”
Peters has never been to Wisconsin.
“I heard it’s pretty rowdy there,” he said. “I’m expecting it to be a big game so I’m expecting it to be pretty loud there.”
Michigan is 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten, while Wisconsin is 10-0, 7-0. Both teams boast strong defenses. Wisconsin is ranked No. 1 nationally, yielding an average 247.6 yards a game, while Michigan is No. 3 at 254.8. The Badgers also are No. 1 against the run (81.5), while the Wolverines are No. 9 (110.3). The Badgers allowed Iowa only 66 yards on 50 plays and stuffed the Hawkeyes on third-down attempts, 0-for-13.
The Badgers have better offensive numbers but both do not have stellar pass-game statistics. Wisconsin is ranked 95th, averaging 188.1. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has 11 interceptions to nine touchdowns in Big Ten play and against Iowa had three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns by Iowa’s Josh Jackson.
Meanwhile, Harbaugh has been carefully bringing along Peters. Harbaugh praised the team after the victory at Maryland, calling it the most complete game the Wolverines have played this season, but that seemed only half true. The Wolverines were clicking in the first half and took a 28-0 lead, but in the second half, the Terps outgained Michigan, 228-93.
Michigan’s run game has been the focus in recent weeks, but the unknown is the status of leading rusher Karan Higdon, who left the Maryland game at the half. He walked on his own to the locker room and Harbaugh offered his blanket “working through some things” comment.
Sophomore Chris Evans led the team in rushing with 80 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns.
He is excited to visit Wisconsin and be part of the experience when the crowd, between the third and fourth quarters, goes crazy to “Jump Around.”
“They say that Jump Around thing, I can’t wait,” Evans said. “I want to see that because everyone talks about it.
“I think we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re building up a lot of good confidence. We’re really clicking on offense. We had a little slow down in the second half, but I think right now we have good confidence building with these last few games and keep it rolling.”
Michigan at Wisconsin
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
Records: Michigan 8-2, 5-2 Big Ten; Wisconsin 10-0, 7-0
Line: Wisconsin by 10