The teams: The Wisconsin Badgers (4-4, 2-3) vs the Maryland Terrapins (6-2, 3-2)
The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
The TV coverage: Big Ten Network with Jeff Levering and Anthony Herron on the call, and Meghan McKeown on the sideline.
The last time: Jonathan Taylor ran for 126 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers beat Maryland 38-13 in 2017.
The series: Wisconsin leads 3-0
The line: Wisconsin -5
THE BREAKDOWN: 5 THINGS TO WATCH
1) Stacking success
Wisconsin is fresh off its bye and looking to keep the momentum going from its 35-24 win over Purdue two weeks ago. Sustaining success has been tough for the Badgers this year as they haven’t won back-to-back games yet. There were some very encouraging signs coming out of the Purdue game – great start, winning the turnover battle, not beating themselves – and it would say a lot about interim coach Jim Leonhard and his staff if they are able to draw another similar performance out of this group.
2) Getting healthy
Leonhard smiled this week when he was asked about all the familiar faces he’d seen return to the practice field in recent weeks. Most notably is starting safety Hunter Wohler. Big things were expected for the sophomore after a strong fall camp but he suffered a broken ankle in the season opener. He returned to practice last week and will have a role on Saturday, though how big that role will be remains to be seen.
Others that have missed extended time that could also be back include tight ends Hayden Rucci and Cole Dakovich, while offensive lineman Riley Mahlman could see his role expanded after spot duty against the Boilermakers. Backup quarterback Chase Wolf could also be available for the first time this season.
The bye week was also big for linebacker Nick Herbig, defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, running back Braelon Allen and offensive lineman Tyler Beach. All four limped into the week off but were benefited greatly from not having to play or practice last week.
3) The weather
Wind played a factor in Wisconsin’s loss at Michigan State, where the downfield passing game was nearly non-existent for the Badgers. Things are expected to be much worse on Saturday. There is a wind advisory for Madison with forecasters calling for sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour and gusts up to 50 miles per hour. That could impact the quarterbacks and the kicking game for both teams.
The wind would seem to benefit Maryland more, as its secondary has given up the second-most passing yards in the Big Ten.
4) Run the ball
With the weather likely a factor, which team can impose its will on the ground? Both teams are averaging 171 yards per game with Wisconsin being led by Braelon Allen (870 yards, nine TDs) and Maryland featuring the duo of Roman Hemby (681 yards, seven TDs) and Antwain Littleton II (309 yards, six TDs). On the other side of the ball, both defenses have been good at times against the run, though each rank in the middle of the conference.
5) Dealing with Tagovailoa
While Wisconsin is getting several key players back from injury, the Terrapins will be adding back starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. He missed their last game against Northwestern with an ankle injury but was able to use the bye week to heal and is expected to start. How effective will he be is the question. When healthy, Tagovailoa is one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the Big Ten and the country. He’s completing 72.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 285.9 yards per game and has tossed 13 touchdowns to five interceptions.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
— Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz’s passer rating of 159.6 ranks third in the Big Ten and would also be the third-best mark in school history for an entire season. The junior has thrown 17 touchdowns and is on pace to throw for the second-most in a season in UW history.
— The Badgers are second in the country with 14 interceptions. Safety John Torchio is tied for the lead nationally with five of those interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
— Wisconsin and Maryland have two of the best redzone offenses when it comes to scoring touchdowns. The Badgers rank third (80.8%) in the country and the Terrapins fourth (80.7%) in getting into the end zone once they are inside the 20-yard line.
— This will be the fourth matchup between Wisconsin and Maryland since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten in 2014. In the first three games, the Badgers have won by an average of 25 points. Maryland’s two losses this year have come by a total of nine points and they are 3-2 in games decided by single digits. Wisconsin is 0-2 in games decided by one score.