It's one of the oldest adages in football: 'the team that wins the turnover battle wins the football game.' It's not always the case, but turnovers are one of the five most important statistics in football, and the saying seems to ring true for Northwestern this season.
In NU's first two games of the year, both disappointing losses to California (who has proven to be muuuch better than anyone anticipated) and Northern Illinois (who lost 52-14 to Arkansas the next week...), the Cats lost the turnover battle. But in their past two games, the Wildcats have forced six turnovers, and the wins have followed.
Wisconsin is off to a solid start (4-1) and, like always, has proven that they can run the football with the best of them. Cheese and NFL offensive lineman are the state's premiere exports, and Melvin Gordon has run behind another excellent unit to the tune of 612 yards through five games. Wisconsin averages 343.3 rushing yards per game- that's third best in the nation. I could go on an on about Wisconsin's running game, but long story short- it's good, it's very good, and though NU's run defense is one of the team's strength, to expect Northwestern to bottle Melvin Gordon up is simply not realistic.
In the Badgers' one loss to then-no. 13 LSU, they lost the turnover battle. Again, Wisconsin is going to be able to run the football against Northwestern. It won't be like last year, when the Badgers destroyed Northwestern 35-6 and ran for 286 yards- and it could have been much, much more. Wisconsin's giant offensive line was able to open truck-sized holes, and I'm only exaggerating a little bit when I say I believe I could have rushed for 100 yards in that game.
NU's run D has improved dramatically since then, but if the Wildcats want a chance to pull an upset, they'll need to win the turnover battle. Simple as that. NU's offense doesn't produce enough big plays to beat a team like Wisconsin straight up; they'll need to take advantage of every opportunity and create short fields for the offense by forcing turnovers. That's been a focus in practice in recent weeks, and the streak of forcing turnovers now needs to continue in games.