CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to take the snap against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first half of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on December 30, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

BadgerNotes Staff Predictions: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

BadgerNotes Staff Predictions: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Newly minted interim head coach Jim Leonhard and the Wisconsin Badgers (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) hit the road on Saturday to visit Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats (1-4, 1-1 Big Ten) at Ryan Field.

It’s been a roller coaster of a week for Wisconsin, who fired head coach Paul Chryst on Sunday after the Badgers embarrassingly lost their second straight game, most recently to Illinois.

Northwestern is coming off a 17-7 loss at the hands of Penn State last week and has always been a challenging game for Wisconsin, regardless of the record or year. So, the odds are this year won’t be any different.

Here is how our BadgerNotes team sees Saturday’s matchup playing out on the field:

Dillon Graff: Managing Editor

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 14

It’s been an emotional week for the program, but the first game under Jim Leonhard will speak volumes about the heart of this Wisconsin Badgers team.

Despite Wisconsin’s uninspiring 2-3 start to the season, the Big Ten West remains wide open – but the road to Indy needs to start with a road win against Northwestern.

Northwestern is bad, like really, really bad.

I’m not expecting anything crazy, but I’m hoping UW will play fast and take some chances against the Wildcats.

It might not look pretty, but Wisconsin should win this one despite their poor track record in Evanston. Even though it’s week six, this is a must-win for the Badgers.

Brandon Cooper: Staff Writer

Final score prediction: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 17

If this isn’t the perfect get-right spot for the Badgers, I don’t know what is.

Northwestern is awful.

Sure they kept their game close against No. 5 Penn State last week, but that game was played in a torrential downpour. So I don’t take much from it.

I expect the Badgers to come out fired up. Not only because it’s Jim Leonhard’s 1st game as interim head coach, but I think the players feel like they owe it to Paul Chryst after his somewhat surprising firing last Sunday.

Northwestern can’t stop the run one bit. So I’m expecting the best athletes on the field to dominate this game (yes, I’m talking about the offensive lineman). Especially after how bad the o-line and Braelon Allen got manhandled last week against Illinois.

If the Badgers somehow lose this game, the entire state of Wisconsin might burst into flames.

It might not mean much at the end of the season, but this is a must-win game for Wisconsin.

Alex Fletcher: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 20

Okay, Wisconsin, this week has been a wild ride.  Paul Chryst is out, and Jim Leonhard is in (for now, at least).

It’s time to right the ship and salvage what can be salvaged this year. There is a ton of emotion going through the locker room and fanbase, and that could ultimately sway the outcome in this one.

The players all stood by Coach Chryst, but that remains true for Coach Leonhard.  What’s done is done, and it’s time to move on and continue to work toward the common goal of winning football games.  Leonhard is the perfect man for that job, having experience in his playing and coaching career.

Emotions aside, I believe Wisconsin gets back to its strengths in this one. I think the ground game is going to be used early and often, with Braelon Allen leading the charge and getting back to his normal self after the dud he produced last week.

Even with last week’s abysmal rushing performance as a team, the Badgers still total more than 160 rushing yards per game. Add on that Northwestern is not good as a rushing defense, letting up more than 170 rushing yards per game, which only helps.

Wisconsin has let up yards to opposing backs, too, however.  The Badgers remain top 50 in rushing defense, but Northwestern running back Evan Hull is no easy task.  He can run and catch the ball and has some good games this year.

Look for this game to be a classic Big Ten showdown.  Running the ball and possession-style football.  I think the current number of 10 is a little much but look for Bucky to come out with a win.

Jake Maier: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Northwestern 17

A game against Northwestern at Ryan Field, what could go wrong? The Badgers have really struggled in Evanston for quite a while now and have lost three of their last four matchups at Ryan Field.

This will be the first game under interim head coach Jim Leonhard, and it will be very interesting to see how the Badgers respond under new leadership. While I think Wisconsin might struggle at times throughout this game, they have the advantage in talent, and that should give them enough to come away with a win. If Wisconsin’s secondary can shut down the pass against a gunslinger quarterback, they should be in a great spot to win.

I have the Badgers winning this one 28-17, with Leonhard securing his first victory as interim head coach at Ryan Field.

Sam Strash: Staff Writer

Final Score Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 13

A weak Wildcats’ defense and a prolific running back corps for the Badgers spells disaster for Northwestern.

The Badgers will come out strong on offense early, and with interim head coach Jim Leonhard at the helm, the defense will get things done against one of the worst-scoring offenses in college football.

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