Wisconsin Football: Key matchups to watch vs. Central Michigan

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Here are three matchups that will decide the outcome when Wisconsin Football hosts the Central Michigan Chippewas.

After an impressive 49-0 drubbing of the South Florida Bulls last Friday, Wisconsin football will host Central Michigan in their first home game of the season. Coming off of a disappointing 2018 season, the Badgers have looked to correct themselves and look as though they are contenders in the Big Ten West again.


Jonathan Taylor continued where he left off last season. He rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries. He also didn’t play for most of the second half after the Badgers built a sizeable lead. Now, he added another dimension to his game: catching passes out of the backfield. He caught two passes, scoring on both. He led the Badgers in both rushing and receiving.

The Wisconsin football defense was also very impressive, shutting out the Bulls and holding them to just 26 rushing yards. They also didn’t allow South Florida to cross midfield until their last drive in the fourth quarter. They will look to continue their success against Central Michigan but have a few injuries to key players.

Central Michigan had an uninspiring 2018 season, finishing 1-11. After firing Michael Alford, the Chippewas are under new leadership this season, hiring former Florida Gator head coach Jim McElwain. In their first game under his leadership, Central Michigan won their first game 38-21 against the Albany Great Danes.

In their victory, the Chippewas threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, they rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, they played Albany, a team who finished 3-8 and 12th in the Colonial Conference last season, but they had a statistically good game. They will have a much larger task ahead of them in their next game in Madison this Saturday.


Jonathan Ward vs. the Wisconsin linebackers
Senior running back Jonathan Ward is a big part of the offense for Central Michigan. Ward is a true dual-threat running back. In his sophomore season, he ran for over 1,000 yards and 470 yards receiving. He looked like he would be a productive running back for the next two seasons. Unfortunately, he had an injury-plagued season last year, which contributed to the team’s disastrous 1-11 season.
Coming back from his injury, he had a nice game to open the season for Central Michigan. He ran the ball 22 times and had 158 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught the ball three times for 53 yards, finishing second on the team in receiving yards.

If the Chippewas want to have a shot at upsetting Wisconsin football on the road, Jonathan Ward will be a huge reason why. The Wisconsin linebackers will have a tough challenge ahead of them to keep him contained, especially if they are missing linebackers to injury. Izayah Green-May is out with a right arm injury, and middle linebacker Chris Orr is questionable with a right leg injury.
Luckily, Wisconsin football has some depth at linebacker. Sanborn looked good starting opposite of Orr last week, with five tackles. Backup linebackers Mike Maskalunas and true freshman Leo Chenal were also very active and productive against USF. Maskalunas led the team with six tackles, five of which were solo, including a nice hit on South Florida’s punter on a 4th down fake punt to force a turnover on downs. Chenal added three solo tackles in a nice college debut.

The outside linebackers looked good as well. Zack Baun had three tackles and a strip-sack that led to a Matt Henningsen return for a touchdown and opened the flood gates for the Badgers. Jaylan Franklin got in on the action as well, tallying a sack in the second half of the game. Noah Burks got some playing time last week too, so with Green-May being out for this game, the Badgers’ linebackers should be in good shape to contain Ward and the Chippewa’s running attack.

Wisconsin receivers vs. the Central Michigan secondary
Wisconsin football showed a balanced offense last week in Tampa. Coan threw for 199 yards (although I think it was changed to 201 yards) and a pair of touchdowns against a USF team that had a veteran cornerback duo in Mike Hampton and K.J. Sails. They relied heavily on the run in the second half after having a sizeable lead, which tells me the passing production in this offense is good.
The receiving corps had a big part in this. The “Fatal Four” of A.J. Taylor, Kendric Pryor, Danny Davis, and Quintez Cephus, combined for 10 of Coan’s 19 completions and 107 yards. Coan spread the ball out to the group pretty well. All of these receivers had multiple receptions except for Taylor, who had one catch for nine yards.

Usually, not all of these receivers will be on the field at once, but it will still be tough for opposing teams to match up with the skill and depth of Wisconsin football’s receiving unit. It can get even harder for a team that just lost it’s top two cornerbacks to the NFL Draft last season. That’s the situation that Central Michigan finds itself in.
Both Sean Bunting (2nd round to Tampa Bay ) and Xavier Crawford (6th round to Houston) were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. This could potentially leave some holes in the secondary and certainly shows some inexperience at the position. Brandon Brown and Darius Bracy are just sophomores who played in reserve last season.
This is a matchup the Badgers will look to take advantage of. If they can get what they want, they won’t be able to load the box against Jonathan Taylor, giving him a bigger chance to have a huge game.

Wisconsin offensive line vs. the Central Michigan defensive line
The Wisconsin football offensive line will always be a huge matchup in any game they play. The line is a huge reason Wisconsin has successful running backs year after year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have someone like Jonathan Taylor lining up in the backfield.
When this Wisconsin offensive line has a good game, this offense usually goes right along with it. Last week, they had a good week. The line paved the way for Wisconsin running backs to run for 234 yards and Jack Coan to throw for 199 yards. They did allow three sacks, but that’s not bad considering how good the offense looked.

As the game went on, some of the starters were pulled and the line didn’t miss a beat. This week they will be without right tackle Logan Bruss, who suffered an injured left leg. Look for senior David Moorman to step in. Luckily for Wisconsin, the Chippewas failed to register a sack against Albany last week. If Wisconsin can keep Jack Coan clean in the pocket, he should have time to pick apart the secondary.

This defensive line needs to help control the line of scrimmage to allow the linebackers to stop Taylor. If the Chippewas are going to stun the Badgers at Camp Randall, they will need to win the matchup in the trenches and get after Jack Coan to give those inexperienced corners some help.
 

TW

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The Badgers should win this one big. The last I heard, the Badgers were favored by around 35. To me, that means that they shouldn't give up double digits scoring, and put at least 6 TDs on the board. I'd also like to see our new kicker get some work, so I'd pass on two of those TDs if he cut stick 3/4 FGs, a couple outside of 40.
 
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