After falling to Michigan State this past Saturday, the Wildcats (1-2, 0-1) look to bounce back, traveling to Camp Randall to play the eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (3-0, 1-0). After a Wildcat victory in Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan’s first career start last season, the Badgers are looking for revenge. As they reach the top ten for the first time this year coming off of a massive win over Michigan, here’s what you need to be aware of when it comes to this year’s Wisconsin team:
Jonathan Taylor is back and better than ever
Wildcat fans may remember the junior tailback somewhat fondly for his two-fumble performance against Northwestern last season. But when he isn’t playing the Wildcats, Taylor has terrorized opposing defenses for his entire career. After leading the nation in rushing yards last year with 2,194, the junior and reigning Doak Walker Award winner has already gained 440 yards and scoring 7 touchdowns so far in 2019.
The Heisman contender, who rushed for 203 yards against Michigan despite sitting out an entire quarter with cramps, is clearly a massive part of the Wisconsin offense, and will be the sole focus of the Wildcat front.
Quarterback Jack Coan leads a potent passing attack
Last fall, Northwestern dominated Coan in his first start as a Badger. The junior became the Wisconsin quarterback after Alex Hornibrook suffered a concussion in the leadup to the 2018 matchup against Northwestern, and growing pains ensued. A lost fumble from Coan and other crucial errors allowed the Wildcat defense to take over the game.
In 2019, though, he is 58 of 75 on passing attempts, throwing for 692 yards and 5 touchdowns on the early season. Coan has picked apart defenses when he has needed to (which admittedly hasn’t been often) and the duo of he and Taylor has proven deadly, combining for a whopping 145 points in their first three games. For reference, that is more than three times what Northwestern has scored as a team in the same amount of minutes.
The Badger defense has significantly improved
Wisconsin gave up their first touchdown of the year (!) last week to Michigan after beginning the season with over 160 straight scoreless minutes. Unsurprisingly, this means the Wildcats will be facing another talented run defense, with the Badger unit giving up an average of just 27 yards per game on the ground and holding the Wolverines to 40 yards on 19 carries last week.
The Badgers entered their conference-opening tilt with Michigan missing two starters, including starting safety Scott Nelson (out for the season), and still held Shea Patterson and the maize and blue to just 14 points, all accrued during garbage time. For the struggling Northwestern offense, this clash has the makings of a mismatch of epic proportions.