Michigan football: Wolverines vs. Badgers might end up being one of those classics
Michigan vs. Wisconsin has turned into a Big Ten “game to watch” during the past 20 years.
Since 2000, the Wolverines and Badgers have split 14 matchups, deadlocked in a 7-7 sister-kissing tie. Of those 14 meetings, 6 have been settled by one score.
Wisconsin has won 5 of the past 7 meetings, topped off by a 49-11 drilling of UM in 2020 in Ann Arbor, its most lopsided win over the Wolverines in program history.
In 2019, UW coasted to a 35-14 victory in Madison. Other than Michigan’s streak from 2000-2002, neither team has won more than 2 in a row during the past 20 years.
And actually, if we’re getting technical, UM won every game from 1997-2002. But since then, it has been a true seesaw pairing.
This Saturday, No. 14 Michigan (4-0) again takes on Wisconsin (1-2). It’ll be UM’s biggest test of the year to date and UW’s second uphill climb in as many weeks. Last weekend, the Wolverines barely escaped vs. Rutgers; and we all remember what happened to the Badgers against Notre Dame, although they probably would like to forget.
Traditionally, Wisconsin averages less than 13 points per game against Michigan, per the Badgers’ official records. So the race to 3 touchdowns could be in full effect this weekend in Madison, if we’re referencing a century-plus of history.
However, Wisconsin has averaged 42 points in winning the past 2 meetings. It didn’t play UM from 2011-2015, but won 48-28 in 2010 and 45-24 in 2009.
So let’s add up some points, here — including UW’s 24-10 win in 2017.
Since 2009, the Badgers have hung 40.2 points per game on the Wolverines, going 5-2 against their fellow weasels.
In addition, Michigan hasn’t won at Camp Randall since 2001.
So, if stats and recent history hold true, Michigan better find some offense. Or buck the trend with the old-school style that’s worked amazingly well so far this season.
Despite Wisconsin’s 1-2 record, Saturday’s game could end up being a Big Ten Network Classic — you know, those games that get shown at odd hours on the conference’s station.
And for Michigan, one of those type of games might be necessary. Michigan needs a classic rewind.
Remember UM’s 14-7 win in 2016? That one was highlighted by perhaps one of the greatest interceptions of all time: Jourdan Lewis’ one-handed grab that put the Wolverines square in the middle of Playoff contention in coach Jim Harbaugh’s 2nd season at the helm.
They started 9-0 that year before losing at Iowa.
To this day, that UW game has been one of Harbaugh’s most memorable and meaningful moments in Ann Arbor.
Expect another epic battle …
Throw out the records.
These teams have been evenly matched since the Y2K scare, providing high-value entertainment and some of the best offerings courtesy of the Big Ten.
Anything short of that this Saturday will be a disappointment.
Badgers QB Graham Mertz has hit the skids, throwing 6 picks on the year and 2 pick-6s vs. the Irish. Wolverines QB Cade McNamara remains in search of his stride but has adequately managed his offense.
This one might be a defensive battle or an affair decided by special teams.
Numbers can lend insight into a matchup. They’re not always on-the-money, but they do identify trends. According to the stats, Saturday’s game could be a blowout in favor of Wisconsin, or a one-score victory by Michigan — that’s what recent history suggests, anyway.
Either way, college football fans should be in for a treat Saturday. Big Ten enthusiasts should eat this one up by the spoonful. This probably won’t be a game decided by halftime, commanding the attention of viewers until the very end.
Bookies, however, are scratching their heads when deciding odds for one of the most intriguing early-season matchups in any conference. As of now, the Badgers are 3.5-point favorites, probably because they’re at home. And honestly, it’s easy to predict Saturday’s brawl being decided by less than a touchdown.
We should be in for one hell of a game this weekend.