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10 Things to Know about Wisconsin vs. Northwestern

Get to know the numbers and important information for the Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday morning.

Wisconsin and Northwestern tangle for the fourth time as members of the Big Ten West division this Saturday. It’s a game that has taken on greater importance as of late, with some believing this game feels like a rivalry, even if it doesn’t have a trophy behind it.

Both teams have won 13 games over the last 26 meetings dating back to Northwestern’s snapping of UW’s 13-game win streak back i 1985. Those numbers have likely been hammered home to you, but it is time to countdown to Saturday’s kickoff.

So, let’s look at some of the wild numbers between these two teams leading up to the game at 11am CT on ABC.

1: Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game.

Saquon Barkley set the world on fire with a huge performance last weekend for the Penn State Nittany Lions, but the name actually leading the important Big Ten rushing category to date — rushing yards per game — isn’t the junior phenom. Instead, it is Wisconsin’s freshman sensation, Jonathan Taylor. After three games (and just two starts) he is averaging a whopping 146 yards per game and is just one of three backs in the Big Ten to be averaging in triple digits after four weeks of the College Football season. Barkley is one, but he’s third behind another frosh — J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State.

2: Wisconsin will be looking to get a second-straight win in the series.

That’s no small feat, as the two teams are an even 13-13 over the last 26 matchups. However, the last five games have been very intriguing in this series. Wisconsin won in 2010 and the two didn’t meet again until 2013 where the Badgers took a second-straight game in Madison over the Wildcats. Northwestern returned the favor in 2014 and 2015, winning in Evanston and Madison. Can the Badgers get back to winning multiple games against the Wildcats?

3: That is the number of games Wisconsin has lost to West division foes since the inception of the East-West division alignment. 

UW owns a 15-3 mark against the Big Ten West Division since the league moved to its current divisional setup in 2014. Let’s just say domination has been the name of the game for the Badgers inside its own division. That 15-3 mark has allowed the Badgers to claim two of the first three West division crowns. This number is equally important because two of the three losses to division foes in that time have come to Northwestern. Can the Badgers go 6-0 for the second straight season against the division? It all starts on Saturday afternoon.

4: Wisconsin’s defense ranks 4th in scoring and 1st down defense nationally

UW is giving up just 10 points to opponents so far this season, and has only given up two touchdowns to one team — Florida Atlantic — in a single game so far in 2017. Part of the reason for that level of success is Wisconsin’s ability to not allow opponents to gain 1st downs. Specifically, Badgers opponents have only accumulated 36 first downs in three games so far this season. That’s an average of just 12 first downs per game allowed. It’s no coincidence that the Badgers are so high up nationally in both of these stats.

5: Northwestern’s offense is fifth in the Big Ten in total offense

The Wildcats are averaging an impressive 459.0 yards per game on offense, which is middle of the pack in the Big Ten. While that may not impress, it is the highest total put out by a Badgers opponent so far this season and if it keeps up at this pace is likely to move up from the fifth spot in the B1G rankings. No doubt, the Wildcats offense is the best one UW’s defense has seen on paper all year.

6: Wisconsin’s APR score was sixth amongst all Power 5 programs in 2015-16

The last reported season in the APR rankings has the Badgers as one of the most impressive academic teams in the country to go along with their impressive form on the field. UW’s APR score of 990 put them sixth amongst all Power 5 teams. Meanwhile, in the least-shocking news of all-time, Northwestern is the leader in the Power 5 clubhouse with an APR score of 995…just five points ahead of the Badgers. The Wildcats also led FBS teams in total, but trailed FCS academic stalwarts, Dartmouth, for the overall lead.

7: errr…70, that is Alex Hornibrook’s completion percentage this season

We all got a scare during his Week 2 performance against Florida Atlantic, but Hornibrook showed true grit in coming back and setting a single-game completion percentage record against BYU. That 94.7 mark helped, but all in all, he has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the Big Ten through the first part of the season. In fact, Hornibrook’s passer efficiency rating of 188.9 leads the Big Ten. So far this season he’s not only completed 70 percent of his passes, he’s got 701 yards and eight touchdowns to one interception. While the sample size is small, you may not realize just how good the stat sheet is for Hornibrook.

8: Both Wisconsin and Northwestern come in to this game with eight rushing touchdowns on the 2017 season. 

There’s no secret that both of these teams want to come out and run the ball down your throat. Justin Jackson is just 108 yards from the career rushing record at Northwestern and we’ve already highlighted how good Jonathan Taylor has been for the Badgers. But, these teams are also really good at putting the ball in to the end zone in the run game too. The eight TD’s for either program puts them tied for fifth, with two of the teams ahead of them having played one extra game. It appears whomever can cross the goal line more on the ground is likely to have the upper hand on Saturday.

9: That is the number of receptions Northwestern superback Garrett Dickerson nabbed last time out against Bowling Green.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Dickerson was a heavy lean to the Badgers in his recruitment, but changes in the coaching staff led him to the Wildcats instead of the Badgers. His nine receptions against Bowling Green in Week 3 were a career high. He also had 150 yards on those nine receptions.

10: That is the number of opponents Wisconsin has held under 100 yards in the last 16 games

We all know how dominant the Badgers defense has been over the past few years, but a look behind the curtain makes one marvel. Just think about this…over the last 16 games, only 6 teams have been able to crack the 100-yard mark. Northwestern couldn’t do it last season, after doing it each of the previous two years…coincidence that the game the Wildcats didn’t do it and they lost? I think not. Will this stat be a key determiner of the outcome on Saturday? Given the makeup of these two teams it seems highly likely.


* all stats courtesy of or provided by the respective athletic departments unless otherwise noted. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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