Ranked No. 13 in the nation to begin the season, Michigan State has started off a disappointing 4-4, including recent losses to Iowa and in-state rival Michigan.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) is ranked No. 25 in the nation after three straight victories over Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota.
Featuring two running backs ranked in the top five in rushing yards, this promises to be an electric Big Ten clash.
Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN2
Betting Line: Wisconsin -6.5, Over/Under 41 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's At Stake?
Wisconsin is attempting to catch up to Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten Leaders division, while Michigan State finds itself far behind No. 22 Michigan in the Legends division.
Michigan State won the Legends division last season and won the Big Ten in 2010.
Wisconsin has won the conference the past two seasons but lost a big playmaker in quarterback Russell Wilson this year to the NFL.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
S Jairus Jones - Undisclosed - Questionable
DT Tyler Hoover - Calf - Questionable
C Travis Jackson - Leg - OUT for season
OT Fou Fonoti - Foot - OUT indefinitely
DL Brandon Clemons - Foot - OUT indefinitely
RB Montee Ball - Leg - Questionable
DB Peniel Jean - Foot - Questionable
OL Rick Wagner - Knee - Questionable
OL Dallas Lewallen - Knee - Questionable
DL Jesse Hayes - Leg - OUT for season
LB Cody Byers - Concussion - OUT for season
What They're Saying
The biggest challenge for Michigan State will be stopping Heisman contender Montee Ball, who has gotten back on track in the past three games after a sluggish start to the season.
BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart previewed the challenge that awaits the Spartans:
Can the defense slow down Wisconsin running back Montee Ball? The Spartans rank No. 1 in the Big Ten vs. the run (100.3 ypg). The Badgers are gaining momentum after a slow start, ranking No. 5 in the league in rushing (200.6 ypg). And Ball is No. 3 in rushing (122.8 ypg). MSU also must worry about James White, who has run for 124 and 175 in each of the last two games.
The good news for the Spartans is that they faced a formidable runner in Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson last week and were able to contain him to an extent (96 yards on 20 carries). Robinson is also a faster player than Ball so the Wisconsin running game should naturally feel slower than Michigan's did last week.
Of course, there's also the fact that Ball and White are strong between the tackles, which means the linebackers must bring their "A" game.
Another reason the Wisconsin running game may be limited is that left tackle Ricky Wagner (projected as a top NFL draft pick) is questionable with a knee injury, per ESPN.
When you have a defensive end like William Gholston on the other side of the line, that has a way of single-handedly changing a game. Ball and White have a challenge on their hands, as well.
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le'Veon Bell, RB
It's no secret who the star of the Spartans' offense is.
Le'Veon Bell is third in the nation with 984 rushing yards, and he's essential for Michigan State this season with former leader-under-center Kirk Cousins in the NFL.
On the other hand, Bell is coming off a rough game against Michigan's run defense, rushing for just 68 yards on 26 carries.
Wisconsin Player to Watch: Montee Ball, RB
Montee Ball is the game-changer on Wisconsin's offense, and he's been soaring lately, rushing for 529 yards in his past three games.
Freshman quarterback Joel Stave has been better than former starter Danny O'Brien under center, but he's still not the kind of guy who can single-handedly lead the Badgers to victory.
Ball and White have to come ready to play against a strong Michigan State run defense.
Key Matchup: Wisconsin Running Game vs. Michigan State Run Defense
It's going to be very interesting how the Wisconsin running game fares against the Spartans' formidable defense.
While Ball and White have excelled in the past three games, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota don't exactly have the most challenging run defenses. Ball and White were also held in check in the 30-27 loss to Nebraska (Ball rushed for 90 yards on 32 carries (2.8 yards per carry).
Prediction: Michigan State 23, Wisconsin 20
I know this is the unpopular pick (given Wisconsin is favored by 6.5 and at home), but while I could see Le'Veon Bell gaining ground on the Badgers, I actually can't see Ball and White doing much against Michigan State.
The Spartans' run defense is allowing just 3.37 yards per carry this season (tied for 23rd in the nation) and has ceded just three rushing touchdowns.
Plus, it's not like Michigan State has been blown up in its recent losses. The Spartans lost by a combined five points to Michigan and Iowa and lost by one point to Ohio State.
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