Michigan football: Wolverines just weren’t ready for Wisconsin

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Michigan football went into Camp Randall with high expectations and in the end, the Wolverines just weren’t ready to go.

Playing Wisconsin in Madison is a helpless feeling.

Entering Camp Randall Stadium can be like walking straight into a buzzsaw. The Badgers’ identity has been the same for years, and if Saturday is any indication, it will remain the same for a long, long, time.

It’s that identity — massive bone-crushers on the offensive line, explosive, powerful running backs behind them — that makes Wisconsin so consistently tough to play, and leaves opponents so helpless. When the Badgers are on, there’s not much you can do to stop them from rolling.

And they’re almost always “on.”

They were Saturday, when they destroyed Michigan football, 35-14, in a game that put a huge dent in any aspirations the Wolverines have of contending for a Big Ten title, not to mention the College Football Playoff.

Jim Harbaugh, in his fifth year as Michigan’s head coach, came into Madison with his team needing a statement win in the worst way. Two unimpressive opening wins, including a near-loss to Army, almost mandated one for this season alone. A failure to win the games, the ones over big-time opponents, boosted the stakes even higher.

Instead, the Wolverines return to Ann Arbor having failed, once again, to get over the hump.

Michigan football’s new-fangled “Speed in Space” offense had little of either. An offensive line billed as the best Harbaugh’s had in Ann Arbor fell flat for a second week in a row. Shea Patterson was shaky once again. The Badgers absolutely mauled the Wolverines up front and marched down the field in typical Badger fashion. They controlled the ball for two-thirds of the game and averaged over seven yards per play.

Two teams took the field at Camp Randall Stadium. One was a juggernaut that had outscored its opponents 110-0. The other was a team still trying to find its own identity, and Madison might be the worst place in the country to try to find your identity.

What Wisconsin did to Michigan wasn’t just a beatdown, it was a total demoralization.

Of course, the Wolverines still can achieve all of their goals this season, should they win out. That doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is how big that “should” has become after Saturday, where the Badgers pummeled them out of Madison and in doing so, showed them just how far they have to go.

Most damning, perhaps, is that Michigan played about as poorly as possible after a bye week which came after what should have been the wake-up call this game may end up being.

Somehow, after nearly losing to Army at home, the Wolverines still weren’t ready for Wisconsin. Everything after that happened exactly as scripted. The Badgers were far too good. Far too much. Far too soon.

Next. 5 things that went wrong against Wisconsin. dark

And as a result, Michigan goes home staring another uphill climb in the face; another frustrating wait to get the chance to assert themselves as one of the nation’s elite; to earn the respect that accompanies that status.