Coming off a 24-20 loss to the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, the Wildcats return home to Ryan Field to take on another top 10 foe in the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers. Northwestern has upset the Badgers each of the past two years and will look make it three straight as they take on Wisconsin on Senior Day at Ryan Field. WNUR’s coverage of the matchup kicks off with the pregame show at 10:00 am CST, followed by the opening kick at 11:00.
Here’s how our broadcasters think the Wildcats’ will fare against the Badgers:
Josh Burton (@josh_burton1): Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 17
The Badgers, and freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, have been a major surprise this season, but the Wildcats match up well with Paul Chryst’s team. Besides stunning Wisconsin last season in Madison, Northwestern played Ohio State tough last Saturday in Columbus and is clicking on all cylinders offensively. Clayton Thorson, Austin Carr and Justin Jackson will all do their usual share to contribute to enough Northwestern points to buoy a strong defensive performance.
Player to Watch: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern. Wisconsin averaged nearly six yards per carry in its 23-17 overtime win over Nebraska last week, with most of the damage coming courtesy of Dare Ogbunwale and Corey Clement. As the leader of the Wildcats’ defense, Walker is going to need to have a big game coordinating how Northwestern will stop the Badgers’ two-headed running back monster and might have to force a turnover or two to ensure a victory.
Amit Mallik (@amitkmallik): Northwestern 24, Wisconsin 19
The ‘Cats grind out a tough mid-season victory behind a dominant run game, and a defense up to the task.
Player to Watch: C.J. Robbins, DE, Northwestern. The key matchup Saturday will be Northwestern’s front seven versus Wisconsin’s massive offensive line in the run game. Robbins has been a leader for the Wildcats on defense but has flown under the radar (as always). It’s his chance to spearhead the unit to a resounding defensive beatdown.
Ben Krieger: Northwestern 17, Wisconsin 13
Letdown week for the Badgers after a huge win against Nebraska. Justin Jackson repeats his performance from last year, grinding out more than 100 yards on the ground and keeping Northwestern’s defense off the field for the majority of the game.
Player to watch: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin. The younger brother of the best player in the NFL, Watt is pacing the Badgers with 7 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss this year. If the Cats can’t neutralize him, it’s gonna be a long day for the offense.
Sam Brief (@sambrief): Northwestern 17, Wisconsin 13
Something about this matchup tells me Northwestern is going to win. Wisconsin has been struggling offensively, while Northwestern has turned a corner. Wildcats by 4.
Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern. Odenigbo is the key in keeping pressure on Alex Hornibrook. That’s essential to a Northwestern win.
Michael Stern (@michaeljstern23): Northwestern 16, Wisconsin 14
Sure, the Wildcats have struggled in the red zone, but it’s looking like a solid week to be a Chicago sports fan, right? A few too many Badger turnovers help Northwestern pull the upset and keep Wisconsin winless in Evanston since 1999.
Player to Watch: Flynn Nagel, WR, Northwestern. Nagel was silenced by a talented Ohio State secondary last week, and the Wildcats are 0-2 when he’s held without a reception. For Northwestern to come out on top, a second receiver must emerge as a threat opposite Austin Carr.
Ari Ross (@aross50): Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 13
Scoring touchdowns instead of field goals will be key for the Wildcats’ offense as they try and put up just enough points against a tough Wisconsin defense. The Badgers have struggled at Ryan Field, winless since 1999, and with a couple forced turnovers and a big day for Austin Carr, the ‘Cats pull off the upset.
Player to Watch: Blake Hance, LT, Northwestern. The ‘Cats are going to have to keep Clayton Thorson upright if they’re going to have any chance of beating Wisconsin. That falls on the shoulders of Hance and RT Eric Olson, who’ll be protecting Thorson from the likes to T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel.
Adam Braunstein (@braunstein_adam): Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 24
The ‘Cats will give the Badgers all they can handle, but expect Wisconsin to win the battle of the lines, and ultimately, the game.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. For the ‘Cats to win this one, they must keep the Wisconsin offense off the field for extended periods of time. That starts with Jackson.
Ryan Fish (@ryanmfish): Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 17
The Badgers haven’t won in Evanston since 1999. Even against a talented and feisty Northwestern team, Wisconsin’s defense is good enough to end that streak this year.
Player to Watch: Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern. After busting out for 359 yards and three rushing touchdowns against Iowa and Michigan State, the junior has slowed a bit in the past two games. His test this week? Only the Big Ten’s best run defense, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry.
Matt Hacker Teper (@matthackerteper): Northwestern 17, Wisconsin 16
Explanation: Wisconsin is the better team, but the better team doesn’t always win. Northwestern has proven that it can score points, and while the Badgers don’t give up a whole lot of them, the Wildcats should be able to claw their way through the cat-and-dog (or should I say cat-and-badger?) affair.
Player to Watch: Godwin Igwebuike, S, Northwestern. Here’s something you probably know: Godwin likes to intercept passes. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Badger quarterbacks have thrown more picks than TDs this season. I’m no chef, but this feels like a recipe for success.