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NORTHWESTERN LOOKS TO FINISH STRONG IN MADISON

Posted By Ben Chiswick On Nov 24 2010 @ 6:45 pm In Northwestern | No Comments

Only one game remains on the docket.

Unfortunately, the Northwestern Wildcats (7-4, 3-4) will be facing their most formidable foe of the season when they take on the Wisconsin Badgers (10-1, 6-1) in Madison on Saturday.

Wisconsin, ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings, will be playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Currently in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan State, the Badgers have the inside track to Pasadena thanks to a win over Ohio State and the highest BCS ranking of the three schools. Michigan State, on the other hand, will be rooting for the Buckeyes to fall against Michigan, which would leave the Badgers and Spartans tied for the top spot if both teams win this weekend. In that scenario, Michigan State would be crowned Big Ten champs by virtue of their win over Wisconsin on October 2.

Did you get all that?

The bottom line is that Wisconsin has a lot at stake, namely a conference title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. Northwestern, on the other hand, can do no better than improving their bowl destination having already locked up a bowl invitation and a winning season. That game and opponent will be announced on December 5 after the remainder of the regular season and the conference championships shake out.

In addition to having a lot riding on Saturday’s match-up, Wisconsin also has the 12th-rated rushing attack in the country.

If I didn’t know any better, you could probably convince me that Madison’s prestigious institution of higher learning has shifted their admission policy to focus on farm-bred gentlemen that stand 6-foot-8 and tip the scales at 350 pounds. Watching the Badgers run the football is like watching a team of Goliath’s storm an Old Country Buffet. You can get in line if you want, but you’re probably going to end up wishing you just stayed out of the way.

Wisconsin averages 239.9 rushing yards per game. The trio of John Clay, James White and Montee Ball has feasted on opposing defenses with the help of a beastly offensive line, combining for 2,510 yards, 6.0 yards-per-carry, and a whopping 39 touchdowns. The leader of the bunch is Clay, but the redshirt junior has missed the team’s last two games with a knee injury and it is unclear whether he will be ready to go this Saturday.

Their prolific rushing attack is the primary reason that Wisconsin is scoring 40.9 points-per-game. In addition to the eye-popping 83 points they hung on Indiana two weeks ago, the Badgers also have a 70-point game to their credit this year (Sept. 25 vs. Austin Peay). They have scored 30 or more points in eight of their 11 games and have not scored less than 20 in any single contest.

Since dropping their Big Ten-opener to Michigan State on the first weekend of October, Wisconsin has reeled off six straight wins and outscored their opponents 268-132. That translates to a 22.7 average margin of victory.

Northwestern will have their hands full on Saturday as they look to shore up the gaping holes in their run defense that were exploited by Illinois last week. If they are unable to do so, the Wildcats might be in for a long afternoon.

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