EVANSTON, Ind. – No. 19 Wisconsin looks to clear another hurdle in the race for the Big Ten West Division title when they visit Northwestern on Saturday. The Badgers bounced back from a 38-13 loss to fifth-ranked Michigan with a 49-20 rout of Illinois last week to keep pace with Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa at the top of the division. They hope to remove another roadblock en route to their third straight Big Ten West title by downing the Wildcats for the third straight time.
“The games we’ve had with them in the past you’ve had to fight for everything,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “You can expect almost anything in a game like this and they’re fun to play in because you know you’re going to be tested.” Northwestern got off to a sluggish start against Rutgers before pulling out an 18-15 road victory against the Scarlet Knights to extend their winning streak to three games. The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 Big Ten games dating back to last season and can take a big step towards their first conference title since 2000 by knocking off a ranked team for the second time in three weeks following a 29-19 triumph over then 19th-ranked Michigan State on Oct. 6. “We’re playing an outstanding football team but that’s Big Ten play so get used to it,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters. “We have to play better in all three phases but the guys have brought in a really great attitude.”
Jonathan Taylor racked up 159 rushing yards in the win against Illinois to top 100 for the eighth consecutive game, which is the longest active streak in the nation, while becoming the ninth player in program history to reach 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. T.J. Edwards registered his ninth career interception against the Fighting Illini to equal the program record set by Craig Raddatz (1983-86). Defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk will miss his third consecutive game with a leg problem while starting safeties D’Cota Dixon and Scott Nelson are questionable with lower-body injuries.
Freshman Isaiah Bowser rushed for a career-high 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help the Wildcats win their sixth consecutive road game. Clayton Thorson completed 17-of-34 passes for 150 yards against the Scarlet Knights to move past former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (9,434) for eighth place on the Big Ten’s all-time passing yards list with 9,453. Flynn Nagel hauled in eight passes for 71 yards to extend his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 25 while Joe Gaziano recorded his 18th career sack, moving him into sixth place on Northwestern’s all-time list.
1. Wisconsin has won 16 straight games against West Division rivals.
2. Taylor leads the country in rushing yards per game (158.4).
3. Nagel is ranked third nationally in receptions per game (eight).
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 16