After a competitive but disheartening loss to Iowa, Northwestern gets no respite, as they now travel to the toughest environment in the West to play what is likely the best team in the West. Yes, it’s Wisconsin week.
The ‘Cats have been a noted thorn in the Badgers’ side since Pat Fitzgerald’s arrival as a head coach in Evanston. However, it’s unlikely that this week’s game results in anything other than a dull loss in which NU’s offense looks very lacking and the defense starts to get tired as the minutes keep piling on, but in the crapshoot that is the Big Ten West, anything is possible.
Here to help us preview the Northwestern-Wisconsin battle this Saturday is Drew Hamm, manager of Bucky’s 5th Quarter, the SB Nation affiliate covering the Wisconsin Badgers. Good website, in my opinion.
Inside NU: First of all, how dare you give us all hope that you would not win the West again with that 1-3 start? We held up our end of the bargain to make sure NU doesn’t win it, but what about y’all? These other programs deserve a division title.
Bucky’s 5th Quarter: Look Inside NU, we didn’t want the Badgers to start 1-3 either! It would’ve been way better to just put this division race to bed early but nooooooo. Wisconsin had to start off the season losing a bunch of games like idiots. And I don’t think any of these other teams deserve a division title. Can you imagine Minnesota or Nebras- lol, I couldn’t even get that one out, it’s so far-fetched. But anyways, the rest of this division can suck an egg.
INU: On a scale from Russell Wilson (pretty good) to Peyton Ramsey (also pretty good but not NFL good) to Spencer Petras to a rock you find on the side of the road, how good is Graham Mertz?
B5Q: Mertz has the potential to be closer to Wilson than Ramsey, but he is currently closer to Petras than Ramsey. We are hearing from our sources that a rock you find on the side of the road is going to receive an offer from Nebraska though.
INU: Everyone knows the 2021 Wisconsin defense is good, ranked second in SP+ behind only the scary monster that is the Georgia defense. But do you think they’re a better defense than that of the 2020 Northwestern Wildcats?
B5Q: All Northwestern defenses, to me, are the same. I hate them, they have non-descript guys on the d-line who are way better than they should be, a couple of all-conference linebackers, and then some random All-American dude in the secondary who is super athletic AND got into Northwestern. Screw that guy. Save some talent for the rest of us, jerk! So, I guess what I’m saying is I can’t speak specifically to the 2020 NU defense but...no, they aren’t better than this year’s Wisconsin defense.
INU: Real-ish question time, what has been the biggest thing that’s clicked for the Badgers during this five game win streak? Is it solely playing worse teams than you faced in your opening four games, or has Wisconsin really found its identity and grown into the typical quality team that the program often produces under Paul Chryst?
B5Q: I believe that it is a combination of the things you mentioned. Wisconsin’s schedule was ridiculously front-loaded this year and that really hurt the Badgers. UW hadn’t settled on an offensive line unit yet and were rotating players in and out like hockey line changes which definitely caused some continuity issues. Freshman RB Braelon Allen hadn’t emerged as the wrecking ball he has been over the past five games either.
INU: Is there anything at all that this Northwestern team can do to pull the upset in Madison this Saturday, or are the ‘Cats just too limited all the way around?
B5Q: While I would never put anything past Pat Fitzgerald’s voodoo magic, this seems like a year where the Badgers should win this game handily. UW has one of the best defenses in the country, the game is at Camp Randall (which offsets a tiny part of the voodoo) and Wisconsin’s running game is clicking on all cylinders. However, if Brandon Joseph and the NU secondary can force turnover(s) when Graham Mertz has to throw the ball, this game could be closer than the experts think and, well, I’m already upset about that.
INU: Okay, it’s time – give us your prediction for the game a reason why?
B5Q: The spread for this game is 24 points which seems pretty high but I honestly don’t see Northwestern scoring many points (under 10 is my guess) due to the Badgers defense being so dominant and the ‘Cats offense being so, um, not. I think the game will be close in the first half as the UW offense gets their bearings but it will get blown open in the second half for a big Wisconsin win. Maybe Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 7? I don’t know, I’m bad at score predictions.