Jim Harbaugh's offense is rare in this age of spread. He loves to use extra tight ends, fullbacks, and offensive linemen dressed as tight ends to extend the line of scrimmage, creating more gaps than the defense has competent run defenders to cover. Harbaugh also probably finds the heaviness of Paul Chryst's Wisconsin's offense excessive.
Four years into Chryst's return to Madison and the meatball transformation is complete. Its engine, as per usual, is an offensive line that averages over 320 pounds, benches more than their pickup trucks, and goes eight deep with all-conference candidates before roll call gets to the fifth letter of the alphabet. They're grabby, mean, way more intelligent than all the memes about them, and mostly impenetrable in pass protection.
Behind them is man for this time and place. A man who believes he can shoot a football into a pinhole. A man turned on by the undulations of a rill.
Behind that man, that rarest of North American endangered species: A fullback.
Behind him, a patient discerning connoisseur of bespoke gaps.
The film: Sure we'd all like to have seen how BYU pulled it off, but are we BYU or are we Kinnick at Night? Iowa could have won this too if they hadn't fumbled away two punts.
Personnel: My diagram:
Wisconsin returned everybody but the tight end and fullback from last year. The latter had a proper heir apparent in FB Alex Ingold. The former however has been replacement by committee, which committee includes blocky-blocky-catchy TE Kyle Pennison, and catchy-flexy freshman TE Jake Ferguson (last year's quasi-second starter Zander Nueville is out for the season), and several backup offensive linemen in high numbers.
They're also facing Michigan again without their burly star WR Quintez Cephus, who's embroiled in a sexual assault accusation he's contesting as if he's either extremely innocent or extremely not. Flanker/Jet motion guy A.J. Taylor has maintained his highly efficient 12 yards per target from last year. Sophomore split end Danny Davis III is at 8 YPT and a 73% catch rate but strangely hasn't been used as much as the far less efficient slot Kendric Pryor. The real third down threat is Ferguson, Barry Alvarez's grandson, who's got 10 YPT and the second-most targets to Taylor. They also like to throw to slippery third down back Garrett Groshek, a quasi-slot receiver who seems to be reserved for shotgun snaps. When Taylor needs a breather they have RB Taiwan Deal back from the injury that knocked him out for 2017. Deal is a pure mooseback.
If it's not a passing down however, you're unlikely to see more than AJ Taylor from the last paragraph. The great RB Jonathan Taylor has started to get some use as a receiver this season, Ingold can catch more than fullbackian passes in the flat. They rarely throw at Pennison, and three different backup OL charted in this game in addition to the starting five. Play-action passes are sprinkled in with equal parts cunning and reticence, and are mostly America's Favorite Rollout to make sure your OLBs and safeties don't come down to interrupt Wisconsin's 9-minute turns.
The line is the vintage Wisconsin line. RT (Hornibrooks's blind side) David Edwards is a 1st rounder on most boards. He's a wall in pass protection, and a bulldozer on the run. RG Beau Benzschawel is a peak Wisconsin guard, a little too stiff to get NFL types excited but massive, leaning, smart, and quick enough to be a massive pain and their best run blocker. C Tyler Biadasz is a thick run-blocker with savvy beyond his years but arms that can get him in trouble versus a serious pass rusher. LG Michael Dieter has finally found his home inside after playing C and LT over a long starting career. And LT Jon Dietzen is a punishing run blocker who splits time with promising sophomre LT Cole Van Lanen, who's as grabby as any Badger OT I've seen. Not that it matters against Michigan but they all have their hands outside their defenders' arms pretty much every play. The Packers do this too. Other states should legalize it since it seems to be working.
[after THE JUMP: Randy Rivers and the Tight, Tight Windows]