|College Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007 11:19|
Michigan quarterback Chad Henne has helped his team bounce back from a horrible start and stay in the thick of the hunt for the Big Ten title.
Henne and the No. 13 Wolverines (8-2, 6-0) look to continue their pursuit of the conference crown when they visit Wisconsin (7-3, 3-3) on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Michigan -2.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Michigan -2.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Michigan has won eight straight since opening the season with home losses to Appalachian State and Oregon. If the Wolverines can keep rolling, they'll find themselves in a decisive contest for the Big Ten title against top-ranked and unbeaten Ohio State on Nov. 17 at Ann Arbor.
"It's been a difficult path, but we keep fighting," Henne said. "There have been a lot of great guys that have stepped in this year and done a great job."
Henne is not only referring to Michigan's frustrating start, but his own struggles to stay healthy. He missed two games early in the season due to an injured right knee. He returned only to suffer a right shoulder injury Oct. 20 at Illinois, but put together a gritty effort and passed for 201 yards and two TDs to lead the Wolverines to a 27-17 victory.
Henne missed the Wolverines' next game against Minnesota, but was back on the field against Michigan State last Saturday and had one of the best games of his career in the 28-24 win.
The senior matched his school record with four touchdown passes and finished 18-of-33 for 211 yards to help Michigan rally from a 24-14 deficit midway through the fourth quarter.
"He's never received the credit that he deserves," coach Lloyd Carr said. "What he did a couple of weeks ago at Illinois and what he did today, as a coach I can only admire and respect.
"Every quarterback I've had have been tough guys, but there ain't anyone tougher than Henne."
Henne did not throw in practice prior to the game against the Spartans, but he didn't expect his shoulder problem to affect his preparation for this week's game.
"It's difficult because it slides back and forth and it clicks in and out, so it's definitely a painful injury," Henne said. "It's tough for quarterbacks ... but it's something that you can come back from and play pretty well with."
Henne, named Big Ten offensive player of the week, isn't the only Michigan player fighting through an injury. Top running back Mike Hart has been bothered by a right high ankle sprain. He played against the Spartans after sitting out the previous 2 1/2 games and was outstanding, rushing for 110 yards on 15 carries.
"Obviously, as the game goes along it gets more irritating," Hart said about the injury Monday. "But this week it'll be fine. I'm not really worried about it limiting me this week."
With a Big Ten title on the line, it's not surprising that the two Michigan stars are playing through pain.
"We knew these last three games were going to make or break our season," Hart said. "One down, two to go."
A defeat Saturday wouldn't end the Wolverines' chances at the Big Ten crown. If Michigan loses, it could share the title by beating the Buckeyes.
After overcoming their poor start, though, the Wolverines aren't interested in being co-champs.
"You never want to tie anything, especially with Ohio State," Hart said. "We want to win this game, and then go win the championship outright."
Michigan has won seven of the last eight against Wisconsin, including a 27-13 victory last year in Ann Arbor.
The Badgers fell 38-17 to the Buckeyes last weekend. Wisconsin took a 17-10 lead midway through the third quarter, but Ohio State tied it late in the period before blowing the game open in the fourth.
"I told them it was OK to feel disappointed," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "I don't think you'll see guys feeling sorry for themselves."
Because it played without leading rusher P.J. Hill, who's also uncertain for Saturday because of a leg injury, Wisconsin relied heavily on the passing game last weekend. Tyler Donovan was 17-of-29 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, but a deficient ground game cost the Badgers, as they rushed for a season-low 12 yards on 37 attempts.
Hill is suffering from tightness and soreness in his left leg, which he injured against Indiana in October. X-rays show no broken bones, but an MRI revealed a bruise around the plate in the lower leg.
Bielema said Hill is "extremely sore" and it would be up to the running back whether he plays against Michigan.
The Badgers have won 13 straight at home and 24 of their last 25 at Camp Randall Stadium. The Wolverines lost in their last trip to Madison, 23-20 in 2005, although they lead the series 48-11-1 and 21-4-1 at Camp Randall.
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