Stopping Jonathan Taylor Should be Michigan's Focal Point on Saturday

Stopping Jonathan Taylor Should be Michigan's Focal Point on Saturday

Football

Stopping Jonathan Taylor Should be Michigan's Focal Point on Saturday

Time to buckle up if you’re the Michigan Football team. Halfway through the season and at a 5-1 record, there is no more room for error and now the toughest games of the year start hitting you.

It starts with Wisconsin this week in a primetime game in Ann Arbor that will surely have the Big House rocking with 110,00+. A big stage for these players as both teams are fighting for their season as they both come in with a loss. Two losses don’t completely eliminate you from the playoff picture, but it makes you need some help for the rest of the season and with the remaining schedule Michigan has of AT Michigan State, home against No. 8 Penn State and AT No. 3 Ohio State.

The Badgers have are in the same boat as the Wolverines as they also have a loss coming into their matchup, but their one loss was to an unranked at the time, BYU team, while Michigan’s loss was to a ranked Notre Dame team that is now No. 5 in the nation.

The main focus that the Michigan team needs to have is stopping Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is a great running back who is third in the nation in yards as he has 126 carries for 849 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. Tayor is the heartbeat of the Badgers offense and if the Wolverines can stop that heartbeat, they can win this game.

Sure quarterback Alex Hornibrook is doing well this season, throwing for 963 yards and seven touchdowns and two interceptions, and the Wolverines defense shouldn’t sleep on him as well, but Wisconsin is known for having a great offensive line and that leads to running backs like Taylor doing even better. Taylor is a great football player, put him behind a great offensive line and he does even better.

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown had some troubles stopping Taylor last year as he had 19 carries for 132 yards, but was kept out of the end zone. This year, Brown has to do something different to stop Taylor. He will be without defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, but that’s it. Michigan has stronger depth on the defensive line this year than last year, defensive end Chase Winovich has stepped up big this year, and players like Kwity Paye, Carlo Kemp, and Josh Uche are some that have had an impact with the playing time they have been given.

We haven’t even talked about defensive end Rashan Gary and how much of an impact he has on this game. Gary left the Northwestern game last week with a shoulder injury and did return. Head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters after Maryland that Gary could have played but Harbaugh kept him out. Yesterday, Harbaugh said they were still evaluating Gary and had “no status report to update.”

Gary just being on the field is huge because while he can stay quiet and not get any tackles or sacks, he can draw the double/triple teams and leave someone else to do the dirty work and against Wisconsin, that will be needed. If Gary is out, then Winovich will draw the double teams and while others have taken advantage of that, leaving Winovich in a one-on-one situation and Gary still trying to do something while getting teamed up is preferred over Gary missing the game and Winovich trying to shed the double team, and having others have to breakthrough.

This game defines the rest of the season for the Wolverines. Stopping Jonathan Taylor is a test as they have Mike Sanders from Penn State, and J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber from Ohio State still left to play. If they can stop Taylor, they can stop the rest. If they have issues with Taylor, they could have issues with others.

Michigan plays Wisconsin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14 in the Big House under the lights.

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