College Football Game of the Week: Wisconsin vs. Northwestern

Story posted November 18, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Chris Hess

In a game that may determine the Big Ten West division championship race, No. 19 Northwestern (4-0) will host No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 21.

The Wildcats haven’t started a season 4-0 since 2015 and this 2020 season is already a drastic improvement from the 3-9 campaign just a year ago.

Pat Fitzgerald’s squad is one that prides itself on a blue-collar approach on both sides of the ball and that has been on full display through a tumultuous 2020 season.

The offense isn’t anything special, but this team does the little things right and presents a nice balance of run and pass.

Indiana graduate transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey has been serviceable thus far, completing 73 passes on 111 attempts for 723 yards, and throwing six touchdown passes alongside four interceptions. He also has 122 yards on the ground with one score.

The ground game presents two running backs that each have over 100 yards rushing and each back presents a different style of play.

Drake Anderson is your typical running back with blistering speed who has a long-rush of 41 yards this season and a total of 198 yards on 43 carries with two touchdowns.

Isaiah Bowser is the back that isn’t afraid to run through defenders and virtually welcomes contact when the ball is in his hands. Through four games, Bowser has 182 yards on 61 carries with just one score.

Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman is the leader of the Northwestern receiving corps with 43 receptions for 198 yards and two scores. Wide receiver Kyric McGowan and tight end John Raine have also combined for 26 receptions and 245 yards.

As a linebacker at Northwestern in the mid 1990s, Pat Fitzgerald played nasty and with an old-school mentality. The 2020 Wildcats defense embodies those traits.

Northwestern’s three linebackers are its three leading tacklers as Chris Bergin, Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher have tackle totals of 36, 34 and 33 respectively. Bergin and Gallagher each have an interception as well.

Freshman Brandon Joseph leads all defensive players in interceptions with three. Defensive backs JR Pace, Coco Azema and A.J. Hampton have also recorded interceptions.

As for Wisconsin, the Badgers have had to cancel two games against Nebraska and Purdue as a result of a massive COVID-19 outbreak among the program, but they have annihilated Illinois and Michigan.

For a typical Wisconsin team, its bread and butter is running the football down the throats of the opposition. However, the offense gains another dimension when the quarterback can really throw.

Freshman quarterback Graham Mertz has completed 74.4 percent of his passes (32-43) for 375 yards and seven touchdowns through two games including a 19 for 20 performance against Illinois.

Nakia Watson and Jalen Berger have been the bell-cows of the Wisconsin rushing attack and Watson has racked up 127 yards on 31 touches with two scores.

Berger only has 15 carries for 87 yards and just one score on the season, but he showed some serious promise in a 49-11 win over Michigan last weekend.

Tight end Jake Ferguson is the only Wisconsin player with over 10 receptions and he is the team leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 11, 123 and four.

Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor are also reliable options at wideout as both players have elite speed and are dangerous with the ball in their hands.

Jim Leonhard’s defense is consistently one of the top units in the nation and this year is no exception.

Though it is a small sample size playing only two games, the Badgers have only given up a total of 18 points and held their two opponents to a combined 437 yards.

Leo Chenal and Scott Nelson have combined for two interceptions thus far and other players like C.J. Goetz, Isaiahh Loudermilk and Nick Herbig are contributing to the sack and tackle categories.

If you’re a football fan and love two old school programs playing a meaningful game, then this one's for you.

Expect both sides to come out swinging and this game will likely be won in the trenches. The Badgers have one of the best offensive lines every season and they will be able to establish the run right from the jump.

The Wildcats will be able to keep this game close for maybe three quarters, but the Badgers’ daunting ground game and Graham Mertz connecting on key throws down the stretch will give the Badgers a solid win.

Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 13

 

Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.