By TAMIRA MADSEN Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new-look Wisconsin team will be set for Big Ten action when the 13th-ranked Badgers host No. 11 Michigan on Saturday.
Specifically, junior quarterback Jack Coan and wide receiver Quintez Cephus add a fresh dimension to Wisconsin’s arsenal compared to last season, when the Wolverines trounced the Badgers, 38-13, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Coan and Cephus didn’t play in the 2018 matchup and aim to make impacts this time around for the Badgers (2-0), who like the Wolverines (2-0), are fresh off a bye week.
“They have a great defense,” Coan said of Michigan. “It’s full of athletes, especially the defensive backs. (Their) linebackers can cut really well and obviously the D-line gets a lot of pressure.”
Coan ranks ninth nationally with a pass efficiency rating of 184.5, which was boosted by a career-best effort in Wisconsin’s 61-0 win over Central Michigan on Sept. 7. He finished 26-for-33 for 363 yards and three touchdowns — all career highs — against the Chippewas for a 201.2 pass efficiency rating.
Cephus was Coan’s main target through the air during the Central Michigan romp, as Cephus earned career highs of six receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
The university expelled Cephus last year on two counts of sexual assault and announced his reinstatement on Aug. 19, after he was found not guilty of the charges. Cephus returned to practice on Aug. 21, and was ruled academically eligible to play by the NCAA two days later.
The pass game was a non-factor last year at Michigan, as former Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook was 7 of 20 for 100 yards and one touchdown.
But a combination of play-making on the ground and in the air likely will be the best strategy against Michigan.
“I think the offense as a whole — for me, the offensive line, the receivers — we’re all planning on playing better,” Coan said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor doesn’t consider the game between ranked opponents as one in which he’ll enhance his resume. Besides posting 35 carries for 243 yards and five touchdowns in two victories, the All-American also has caught five passes for 65 yards and three additional scores.
Taylor acknowledges the Badgers’ offense will be better served in the long run if there’s balance. He leads the nation with eight touchdowns and averages 151 yards from scrimmage.
“This is a game where a running back like me can do whatever I can to help the team win,” Taylor said. “It’s one of those teams that everyone is going to have to do their job and execute.
“It’s always great when you have a balance to an offense, just make a defense play honest and play the entire field.”
Michigan has not won in Madison in its last four tries, with its most recent win coming in 2001.