ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -Rich Rodriguez's debut at Michigan got off to a rocky start, losing the opener to Utah at home and two weeks later at Notre Dame.
The Wolverines aren't projected to fare much better during the Big Ten season.
College football's winningest program has lost its luster, but the players wearing winged helmets are not ready to concede its standing as a conference power.
``Yeah, we definitely have a chance,'' Michigan center David Moosman said. ``We feel like we have the potential to beat everybody on our schedule. I don't see why we can't.''
Michigan (1-2) is an underdog by almost a touchdown Saturday against the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) after both teams had byes last week.
re unranked in a matchup with Wisconsin.
The Badgers are hoping the game improves their chances of winning the conference championship going into home games against Ohio State and Penn State the next two weeks.
``The biggest thing we have in front of us is an opportunity to go play Michigan at the Big House in an environment, in a stadium, that is storied in college football,'' Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. ``There's been a lot of championships won there. A lot of great players have run across that field.''
The best player on the field might be Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, a 5-foot-11, 236-pound running back.
Hill has averaged 126 yards rushing this year and has four touchdowns, helping Wisconsin escape from Fresno State with a win after routing Akron and Marshall at home. His career averages of 117 yards rushing and 22.7 carries lead all active players with at least 15 games played.
``The guys on the D-line are really looking forward to the game because we know we'll be busy,'' defensive tackle Terrance Taylor said. ``We know it starts with us.
``If we have a good game collectively, linebackers can go make plays and defensive backs don't have to defend as long if we're getting pressure.''
ying to take away the run by making 11 catches for 154 yards and three scores.
The Badgers also will try to force Michigan's Steven Threet to throw a lot because running back Sam McGuffie has run for more than 200 yards over the past two games combined.
Moosman said Threet will be ready if he has to put the ball up in the air.
``With every snap, he gets a little more confidence in his abilities,'' he said. ``If he can just rely on his technique like he's been doing in practice, he'll be just fine. We're going to try to give him as much time and as much protection as he needs.''
Rodriguez has tried to protect his players from criticism, saying this season was going to be a year of transition even if Lloyd Carr was coaching because tough-to-replace players such as Jake Long, Chad Henne and Mike Hart are in the NFL.
But the former West Virginia coach has been proud of how the players have handled the dramatic shift to a spread offense and new philosophies on defense.
``We're making progress, but until you go against the caliber of Wisconsin, do you really know where you're at? That will be another test for us,'' he said. ``I'm anxious to see how some of our veterans will play because (the Badgers have) done well against us in the last couple years. This is a game where even our upperclassmen can truly judge where they're at and how they're playing.''
ree games against Michigan, including a 16-point win last year for its largest margin of victory in the series since 1962.
The Badgers have referred to the Wolverines as a ``wounded animal'' and expect them to be motivated to show everyone they're not down and out.
``This is probably the time where they think they can make a mark,'' Hill said.
He's right.
``It's a good opportunity to really find out where we're at as a team,'' Taylor said. ``This game is going to define our season. A loss wouldn't kill our season, but it would really hurt to be 1-3. A win would get us to .500 and get us off to a good start in the Big Ten.''

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