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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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Badgers football

Penn State all but ends Badgers West division hopes in 22-10 loss



The chances of a Wisconsin Badgers West division title in 2018 rested on winning out, but the Penn State Nittany Lions had other ideas and frustrated the Badgers in a 22-10 win on Saturday afternoon. 

With the loss, the Badgers are all but completely out of West division contention. Wisconsin would need the Wildcats to lose all three of their upcoming games and win out the rest of the way to take the title. 

Running back Jonathan Taylor did all he could, rushing for a game-high 185 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. 71 of those 185 yards came on the third play from scrimmage for UW’s offense, as he raced up the middle to a touchdown. 

It would be the Badgers lone TD of the game, as Penn State’s defense got major pressure all day long and never allowed the pass game to get going. 

Conversely, Penn State got 159 yards and a touchdown from running back Miles Sanders en route to the win. 

Wisconsin also killed themselves with four turnovers, two fumbles and a pair of interceptions from quarterback Jack Coan. 

The sophomore, who was making just his second career start, managed just 60 yards on 9 of 20 passing with the pair of interceptions.

He didn’t have much help from his offensive line, as the Badgers gave up five sacks on the day. 

For the second straight week the Badgers scored on the opening drive. This week it came on a 71-yard touchdown run by Taylor, who burst through low arm tackles on a 3rd and 2 for the score. 

Penn State responded back with an 8-play, 75-yard drive that saw a 14-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to DeAndre Thompkins tie the game up at 7-7 midway through the first quarter. 

Coan, making his second start in three weeks, also had his second fumbled snap in as many starts on the Badgers ensuing drive. 

Penn State took over at the Badgers 31-yard line but were forced to settle for a 49-yard field goal attempt. It squeaked over the crossbar and gave the hosts a 10-7 lead. 

The hosts lead would grow thanks to a 1-yard run by Miles Sanders with 8:09 to play in the second quarter, but a missed PAT would make it 16-7 Penn State leading. 

Sanders had a pair of big plays to keep the drive alive prior to his touchdown, ripping off a 17-yard run on the first play of the drive and a 23-yard run on a 3rd and 7 that put his team at the Badgers 17 yard line.

Wisconsin’s offense began to stall out at that point, and it was compounded by an interception in its own territory on UW’s final possession of the half. 

Penn State couldn’t turn it in to points, as Issaiah Loudermilk blocked a field goal attempt with time running out on the half. 

Following the break, Wisconsin scored on its first possession with a short Rafael Gaglianone field goal to make it 16-10. 

It would be the only scoring the Badgers did in the second half as Penn State’s defense shut down them down. 

Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar knocked home two field goals from beyond 40 yards in the second half and his six points were enough to ice the game away. 

Wisconsin looked like they may score late, but a promising drive stalled out with under three minutes to play. However, a bad snap by Penn State on the next drive was recovered by the Badgers deep in PSU territory. 

It was a final shot to get within a score, but one again pressure up front by Penn State dashed those hopes. With the Badgers needing 20 yards for a touchdown on 4th and goal Coan threw his second interception of the game and killed any chance of a miracle comeback. 

UW will play Purdue next weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. Kick time has yet to be set but this could be an important game for both teams depending on what happens between Iowa and Northwestern. 

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Badgers football

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions: 5 Things to know



November is in full swing and the game everyone believed would be the Badgers swing game has become a matchup between two really desperate teams. 

If either the Penn State Nittany Lions or Wisconsin Badgers want to win their division, it starts with winning this game. Simply put, the loser eliminates themselves from contention in their respective divisions thanks to previous losses in the Big Ten (and Penn State is all but 100 percent eliminated heading in to the game). 

However, the winner lives to put all sorts of pressure on the other teams at the top of their division. 

Will that be the Badgers or Nittany Lions? Let’s take a look at 5 facts and figures you should know heading in to the game. 

5: Alec Ingold and Taiwan Deal each have 5 rushing TD’s this season

The senior running backs for Wisconsin have come up big when needed. Yes, Jonathan Taylor’s 11 touchdowns lead the team, but the main backup and fullback are also dangerous weapons with the ball in their hands. 

Deal has 5 TD’s on just 65 carries so far this season, while Ingold has scored 5 times in just 20 carries. 

Stopping Taylor is a good place to start if you’re Penn State, but Wisconsin has proven there are plenty of other options to get in the end zone in the run game. 

4: Wisconsin is 4th in the Big Ten in scoring defense

For all the talk of a down year for the Badgers defense, they are still in the upper group of teams in terms of allowing points. UW comes in to the game against Penn State ranked 4th in the league in scoring defense, giving up just 20.2 points per game. The three teams ahead of them are also the only teams to allow fewer than 20 points per game so far this year. 

It’ll be a really interesting matchup between the Badgers defense and Penn State offense, who come in averaging 37.2 points per game which is 2nd best in the Big Ten. 

On the flip side, the Badgers are facing a Penn State defense that has been way more suspect on the scoreboard this season. They are 7th in the league, giving up an average of 24.4 points per game. The Badgers are averaging 31 points per game, good for 5th in the league. 

The point here is that the combination of points scored and given up are a bigger advantage for the Badgers than Penn State. 

3: Penn State owns a 3-game win streak in the series

Few teams have been able to dominate the Badgers the way Penn State has, owning a 3-game win streak in the series between these two schools. But, the devil is in the details on this matchup. 

The last meeting was back in 2016, a Penn State win in the Big Ten championship game and the beginning of the streak took place in a 2012 win at Happy Valley. It’s safe to say it’s been a long-term issue for the Badgers as of late, but one with these programs in very different spots. 

Penn State also owns a 3-game win streak in games played at home against the Badgers. UW hasn’t won a game in Happy Valley since 2003. 

The all-time series between Penn State and Wisconsin stands at an even 9-9 despite those recent dominant numbers for the Nittany Lions.

2: Penn State is 2nd in the B1G in Red Zone scoring offense

Winning the battle in the red zone while on offense is a really good way to ensure you win games. Penn State is 6-3 on the season in large part because it has been successful in the red zone. 

Penn State scored on 35 of 37 red zone trips this season — including turning 30 of those 35 scoring drives in to touchdowns. The 81 percent touchdown conversion rate is the best in the Big Ten.

Conversely, Wisconsin’s defense is third in the conference in red zone defense allowing opponents to convert on just 24 of 30 opportunities. That includes just 16 touchdowns allowed, with a 53.3 percent rate which is good for 5th in the league. 

It’s safe to say when the Nittany Lions get in to the red zone, conversion of those opportunities will be highly important affairs in this game. That’s especially the case with Trace McSorley’s health in serious question for this matchup. 

1: Wisconsin has lost just one game in November in the last 5 years 

The final month of the season can be a make-or-break one for a program like Wisconsin. For the past five years or so the Badgers have been able to control their destiny thanks to a great November. 

Over the past five years just one loss has happened in the final month and that came at the hands of Northwestern in 2015. Wisconsin is also 5-1 in games against ranked opponents in the month of November since the 2014 season. 

UW started this November off with a trouncing of Rutgers, but this is a massive step up in competition level. Will history of success in the final month of the regular season play or or will history between these two teams repeat itself? 

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Badgers football

Coan made most of 2nd opportunity to lead Badgers offense



With Alex Hornibrook’s return from a concussion, all was back to normal for the Wisconsin Badgers offense against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. 

Unfortunately, “normal” for the 2018 offense has been sluggish starts, off-target throws and bad interceptions. 

After seven straight games of inconsistency from Hornibrook, an eighth half of ineffective offense with Hornibrook at the helm had many asking questions about whether it was time to give Coan a second shot when the Badgers came out of the locker room.  

With the Badgers leading just 10-0 and Hornibrook responsible for a pair of inexcusable interceptions against a defense that had troubles getting turnovers all season long, something had to give. 

Either Hornibrook got things pointed in the right direction or someone else would be better suited to lead this offense. A team with so much promise coming in to the season couldn’t afford that bad a performance against the Big Ten’s worst team. 

However, the decision was taking out of the hands of head coach Paul Chryst as Hornibrook took a big hit late in the first half and never returned. After the game, Chryst noted that it was because he may have showed symptoms of a concussion once again.

Following a first half that saw Hornibrook complete just 7 of 16 passes for 92 yards and a pair of awful interceptions, the Badgers offense was led by sophomore quarterback Jack Coan in the second half. 

Coan didn’t have to do much at first, as the run game carried UW early on in the second half and paved the way to a 31-17 victory over Rutgers.

However, when Coan was given the opportunity to throw in this one, he took full advantage. Coan finished the game 5 of 7 for 64 yards and a touchdown. He also didn’t throw an interception. 

Wisconsin’s run game also went off with him behind center, rushing for over 200 yards in the second half and scoring two touchdowns. 

Whatever Coan did or didn’t do as a pure passer, it was hard not to notice that the energy of this team changed out of the half. Coan was much more energetic and much more of a motivational presence on the field than Hornibrook ever has been.

It seemed like he took naturally to being in and the players around him responded to whatever it was he was putting out there. Perhaps it was the nerves gone from getting his first start or playing Rutgers really bad defense. 

Either way, whatever it was that clicked, the Badgers coaching staff need to find a way to bottle that up the rest of the way. 

Of course, it helps that it was Rutgers defense across the field from the Badgers. But, seeing a young quarterback respond like he did certainly is worth thinking twice about going forward. 

It still remains to be seen if Coan in the long-term answer or a short-term band-aid because of Hornibrook’s injury. 

Chryst also isn’t one to make snap decisions on personnel either. He stuck with Hornibrook through seven games of inconsistency after seeing the very same thing all of the 2017 season, so what would make him not stick with him? 

Health of course, and Chryst mentioned that as the big factor in using Coan or not. 

There’s also the consideration of Coan’s redshirt. Wisconsin’s coaching staff has gone out of its way to play redshirt freshman Danny Vanden Boom in mop up duty for Hornibrook to keep Coan’s redshirt season intact. 

If Coan plays in the next three games or any three more games in total, he’ll lose his ability to redshirt. 

But, does a redshirt trump giving yourself a chance to win big games against Penn State and Purdue in the coming weeks? Does Hornibrook give you the best chance to win those games? 

History suggests the junior isn’t good in big games and that the great Orange Bowl performance to end last season was a fluke more than a sign of a corner being turned. 

It also doesn’t hurt that Coan rose to the occasion the second time he got the opportunity at significant snaps. His day was certainly a better one than his debut against Northwestern, where UW needed the pass game to get the Wildcats defense off the back of the run game.

While it was a limited opportunity, Coan may have made enough of it to give the coaches enough to think twice about the starting position. 

Then again, Penn State in Happy Valley is up next. 

It will be an interesting week in the quarterback room, even if Hornibrook is deemed healthy enough to go. 

If you’re Coan, all you can do is rise to the occasion when given it. On Saturday he did that, now it’s up to the coaches to make the big decision for the future of this program in 2018 and beyond. 

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Taylor powers Badgers past Rutgers



The Wisconsin Badgers used a big second half from running back Jonathan Taylor to ease to a 31-17 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday inside Camp Randall Stadium.

Taylor, who had just 11 carries and fumbled twice in the loss to Northwestern last week, got loose for 208 yards and three touchdowns on the day. 

Wisconsin has started slow for most of the season, but that didn’t happen against Rutgers. Instead, the Badgers scored on their opening drive for just the second time all season. 

Jonathan Taylor capped off a quick 6-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 just 2:35 in to the first quarter.

The game was made 10-0 after Wisconsin pounded their way deep in to Rutgers territory on their third drive of the game. But, the promising 18-play, 78-yard drive stalled out inside the 15-yard line and Rafael Gaglianone knocked home a 32-yard field goal with 14 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. 

It was all the scoring that would happen in the first half. 

After the Badgers defense forced the fourth straight punt of the game on the following drive from UW’s field goal, Hornibrook took just one play to throw his second awful interception of the game. 

Luckily, the Badgers defense and special teams continued to come up big. 

Rutgers had their lone chance to put points on the board blocked by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel on the ensuing drive. Despite a huge 34-yard return by D’Cota Dixon, UW’s offense couldn’t do anything and were forced to punt inside the Rutgers 40-yard line. 

Another defensive stop resulted in a big Rutgers punt to pin the Badgers back at the 1-yard line with just 1:05 left to play in the half. 

UW got out of the shadow of its own end zone as Jonathan Taylor busted a 17-yard run off the left side. Taylor would put up 97 yards and the lone touchdown on 17 carries in the first half. 

A 15-yard sideline interference penalty on Rutgers following a short completion to Danny Davis put the ball on the Wisconsin 41-yard line with 22 seconds left in the half. 

Hornibrook couldn’t get the Badgers in to scoring position though, missing running back Garrett Groshek and then taking a bad sack on the ensuing play to end the half.

With junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook struggling — throwing a pair of interceptions and completing just 7 of 19 passes for just 92 yards — the Badgers managed to lead just 10-0 at the half.  

Change happened coming out of the locker room, with sophomore quarterback Jack Coan inserted to start the second half after Hornibrook was ruled out due to an apparent head injury late in the first half.

Instead of throwing him to the wolves, Coan turned in to a handoff machine early on in the half. UW ran 13 straight rushing plays to open the second half.

The Badgers didn’t disappoint on those run plays either, gaining 163 yards and two touchdowns during that streak to really break the game open at 24-3. 

The second half got off to a quick start for UW too, as the combination of Taiwan Deal and Taylor took over. Deal went off for 38 yards on two carries and on the very next play it was Taylor busting loose for a 38-yard touchdown run to make the game 17-0. 

Rutgers finally got on the board on their next drive, but failed to turn a 1st and goal at the 9-yard line in to a touchdown. Instead, the Scarlet Knights settled for a 22-yard field goal to make it 17-3 with 4:17 to play in the third quarter. 

The Badger run game couldn’t be stopped and the second possession of the half also ended in a big run from Taylor for a touchdown. This time he punched it un untouched up the middle from 18 yards out for a 24-3 lead.

Rutgers offense got explosive plays late from running back Raheem Blackshear. He actually did most of his damage in the pass game, collecting 8 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown. 

That included a late TD to make the game 31-17 with 1:01 to play and after the Badgers had answered a previous Rutgers scoring drive.

UW wouldn’t let this one get any closer as the run game kept working and eventually wore down the rest of the game clock. 

Wisconsin will take on Penn State in Happy Valley next weekend, with game time still unknown. 

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