Michigan football knew it'd be challenged physically Saturday night.
Karan Higdon rushed 19 times for 105 yards and the Wolverines rolled up 320 on the ground in a physically impressive 38-13 win over Wisconsin at Michigan Stadium.
For Michigan, Saturday was the first of a season-defining three-game stretch, and the Wolverines got the job done on the back of its offensive line and a defense that made the most of its opportunities.
The Badgers finished with 283 yards of total offense. Jonathan Taylor, the Big Ten's leading rusher, finished with 101 yards on 17 carries. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was 7 of 20 for 100 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Michigan outgained Wisconsin, 444-283.
Michigan (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) will head to East Lansing next week for a rivalry showdown at Michigan State.
Ground and pound
The Wolverines didn't get much on the ground during the first half, as 81 of the Wolverines' 83 yards in the opening two quarters came on one zone-read keep from quarterback Shea Patterson.
But the third quarter was a dominant one for the Wolverines' front, as Michigan had 15 carries for 106 yards in the quarter. Michigan stuck with zone-reads and inside zone plays throughout this one and eventually started finding sizable cracks, wearing the Badgers down.
This was a big leap for Michigan, a team that struggled with any type of zone play a year ago. Patterson had room to operate for most of the night, too. He was sacked three times, but those were on him.
An impressive day for the Wolverines up front.
Outside of Taylor up the middle and two jet sweeps, Wisconsin couldn't move the ball against Michigan's defense.
The Wolverines intercepted Hornibrook twice, the second a return for a touchdown by Lavert Hill to blow the game open in the fourth quarter.
Michigan swarmed to the football like it always does, and kept Wisconsin under control throughout. Any mistake the Badgers made, Michigan capitalized.
Hornibrook had no chance through the air.
Patterson had some trouble early with running out of the pocket too quickly. He ultimately settled in and made easy throws when they were there and did an even better job with the zone-read game.
Adding in Dylan McCaffrey's 44-yard touchdown run late, and a pair of Joe Milton rushes in the fourth quarter, Michigan quarterbacks ran 12 times for 156 yards (not counting a kneel down) and a pair of touchdowns.
Patterson's 81-yard run in the first half was the longest Michigan's had since Denard Robinson in 2010.
Through the air, Patterson went 14 of 20 for 124 yards.
The more Michigan shows zone-read, the more diverse this offense gets. It's another layer and coach Jim Harbaughhas done a nice job of adding those throughout the season.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.