Northwestern-Wisconsin Preview

Published Nov. 17, 2015 10:52 p.m. EST

The home team has won each of the last eight matchups between Wisconsin and Northwestern. With reinforcements coming, the No. 21 Badgers emerge from their bye looking to keep that streak going Saturday against the 20th-ranked Wildcats.

Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) and Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) have split the last eight meetings, with the Badgers winning the four at Camp Randall Stadium by an average of 30.0 points while forcing 10 turnovers. They coasted to a 35-6 win in the most recent matchup Oct. 12, 2013.

Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald thinks there's a simple solution to winning in Madison for the first time since September 2000.

"Don't turn (the ball) over. That's the bottom line," Fitzgerald said.


Northwestern, though, overcame three turnovers to beat Purdue 21-14 last weekend for its third straight win. The Wildcats had dropped the previous two against Michigan and Iowa by a combined 78-10.

"You go into the locker room after games like that - you're frustrated, you're not very pleased, but you know that you've got a good team," Fitzgerald said. "You just got to find a way as a coach to get it out of the guys."

Coach Paul Chryst seems to have found a way to inspire Wisconsin through a slew of injuries that includes running back Corey Clement (sports hernia), tight ends Eric Steffes (knee) and Austin Traylor (arm), wide receiver Robert Wheelwright (leg) and linebacker Chris Orr (leg).

The Badgers could have at least Clement, Steffes and Traylor back. The trio has played in a combined 10 games with Clement going in just two. However, he made a major impact with 115 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries in a 48-10 win over Rutgers on Oct. 31.

While he was sidelined last week, Clement suffered a cut on his hand after getting involved in an altercation at his off-campus apartment building between a group of people and security.

"Corey's (status) will be nothing with the hand," Chryst said. "I think it's just whether - where his legs are with the whole deal."

Joel Stave may be thrilled to get some options on offense back after he completed 31 of 56 passes for 454 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions while being sacked five times in the last three games.

That hasn't dampened Fitzgerald's enthusiasm for Wisconsin's quarterback, who has thrown four TDs and five interceptions in two games against Northwestern.

"Been really impressed by Joel. I think he's really had a terrific season," Fitzgerald said. "He's had to shoulder a lot with the running back situation with guys being out ... tight ends being out. But Joel has been the one consistent, real impressive aspect of what they're doing offensively."

Stave completed just 8 of 19 passes for 114 yards with three INTs in a 20-14 loss at Northwestern last year.

He'll find another stiff test Saturday since the Wildcats defense yields an average of 184.2 yards per game through the air and a conference-low five touchdowns with nine interceptions.

"I think there is no doubt they're playing well on defense," Chryst said. "I think the strength is that they've got a very good scheme, and I think their players know it. I think they've got good players."

That extends to the offense, where Justin Jackson is third in the conference with 1,033 rushing yards while gaining 4.6 per carry. The sophomore running back has done a lot of damage over the last three games, gaining 302 yards on 52 carries.

He ran the Badgers ragged last year, going for 162 yards on 33 attempts. A similar effort may be needed since Clayton Thorson is 14 for 27 with 140 passing yards and one INT over the last two games.

The freshman QB, however, is also a threat on the ground with 63 yards on 11 carries over that stretch.