This weekend the Wisconsin Badgers (3-2) return home to the friendly confines of Camp Randall for their first game in two weeks to take on No. 19 Northwestern (4-1). Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. local time and can be seen on ABC.
Both the Badgers and the Wildcats are coming off close losses to Big Ten heavyweight Ohio State. Each of these two teams has had a similar recent history with losing tight games or blowing late leads.
Northwestern was leading the Buckeyes by 3 midway through the fourth quarter last week, but ended up losing 40-30—a final score tainted by an OSU defensive touchdown on the last play of the game. In the past two seasons, all four of Northwestern’s losses have come via an opponent comeback in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin has had similar problems. The Badgers have not lost a game by more than seven points since the 2010 season. That streak consists of 12 losses, a staggering feat.
The best gauge to preview this game is to compare each of the team’s losses to Ohio State. Each game had a different feel. Northwestern fed off the energy of its home crowd to take an early lead. But the Wildcats’ inability to capitalize on their opportunities cost them. They settled for three field goals from inside the red zone. These were glaring mistakes that severely blemished a period of control and dominance from the end of the first half into the beginning of the third quarter.
Wisconsin went into a hostile environment in Columbus and played strong football. However, the youth and inexperience of this Badgers team proved costly. Wisconsin made far too many mistakes—a missed field goal, dropped interception, and a special teams penalty that negated a turnover, to name just a few. The Badgers put themselves in too deep of a hole to complete their comeback, one that ended in a four-and-out on an attempted two-minute drill.
But it’s precisely these mistakes that give the Badgers the advantage heading into tomorrow’s game. To go on the road against a national championship contender, make a plethora of mistakes, and still have a chance to tie the game at the end is remarkable. It frankly was a game Wisconsin should have won. Northwestern played solid football and had a home crowd to back it up, but still couldn’t come away with a win.
It will be a tough game tomorrow afternoon. But the Badgers will emerge victorious with a rare clutch win.