|No. 5 Wisconsin hosts resurgent No. 24 Michigan|
MADISON, Wis. -- Two of the country's top defenses will square off as No. 5 Wisconsin aims to contain a banged-up Michigan team that will start a young, inexperienced quarterback in a raucous atmosphere.
Michigan, winners of three straight, ascended to No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday, which helped the Badgers' potential bid for a top berth. Wisconsin jumped from No. 8 to No. 5.
The Badgers host the Wolverines at 11 a.m. central time on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin paces FBS teams in total defense at 247.6 yards per game and rushing defense with an 81.5-yard average. They are fresh off a performance in which they allowed 66 total yards against Iowa, the second-fewest yards allowed in a game in program history.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said the Badgers (10-0, 7-0 in the Big 10) will need to need to perform better on offense against a Wolverines team that is ranked second in total defense (254.8 ypg) and ninth in rushing defense (110.2 ypg).
"They're strong," Chryst said of Michigan's defense. "There are really good players and it's a really good scheme. And I think they know it. They're executing and playing fast.
"You've got to know what you're doing and understand the different ways that they defend you. You've got to be on, and the smallest details matter."
Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) has relied on the tandem of junior running back Karan Higdon and sophomore RB Chris Evans to pound the ground.
Higdon has 129 carries for 854 yards and 10 touchdowns, but sprained his ankle in the second quarter and didn't finish the Wolverines' win over Maryland. Evans told the Detroit Free Press that Higdon practiced on Tuesday.
Harbaugh said pleased with Higdon's effort and is hopeful that the standout will play.
"He's contributed greatly as a power runner inside the tackles," Harbaugh said. "He's been able to bounce the ball to the perimeter when appropriate and his pass protection has improved."
Another player who Harbaugh is hoping for good news about are sophomore cornerback Lavert Hill, who suffered a head injury and missed the second half against Maryland. Hill has 19 tackles and two interceptions.
Freshman quarterback Brandon Peters will get his fifth start of the season for Michigan. The third player under center this season, he has completed 28-of-46 passes for 329 yards and four scores.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook has completed 132 of 206 passes for 1,863 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also has 12 interceptions. Two picks led to scores against Iowa.
Fixing Hornibrook's interception problem is a focus for Chryst.
"You try to make sure that someone isn't trying to do too much, and understanding what you're trying to do with it," Chryst said. "There are times when it's good and you pull the trigger and there are times when you've just got to move off of it. I just think it's trying to make (things) more simple for him.
Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor ranks fourth in rushing on the national level with 152.5 ypg average and has scored 12 TDs, which leads the Big Ten.
Taylor, a true freshman, has fumbled four times this season.
Chryst said Taylor likely shouldn't be as loose with the ball and improve his technique. "You've got to work on the things you can control and that certainly is keeping that (ball) tight to your body."
Wisconsin and Michigan will be in the national spotlight on Saturday as ESPN's College Game Day will broadcast its program from Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin campus.