Coming off a 70-3 annihilation of the Austin Peay Governors, the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers go on the road to kick off the Big Ten season against the No. 24 Michigan State Spartans.
Both teams are coming off relatively weak non-conference schedules, and fittingly both teams are 4-0. But now, each team gets its first "real" test.
Sure, Wisconsin needed a blocked extra point to defeat Arizona State, while MSU needed a fake field goal to get by Notre Dame. However, this game will be a great benchmark for both teams.
If Wisconsin is going to prove it's BCS-worthy, winning on the road against a good team is absolutely essential. If the Spartans are going to prove that they could be a sleeper in the Big Ten, defeating a contender at home is a must.
Yeah, Iowa-Penn State may be the Big Ten's premier matchup this week, but don't be surprised if Wisconsin-Michigan State ends up being the better game.
Here are five Badgers who could—and if Wisconsin hopes to win, need—to have big games on Saturday afternoon.
After starter and team captain Chris Maragos graduated last spring, many wondered who would step up to take his place at free safety.
Would it be an incoming freshman? A backup from last year?
Nope; instead it was a cornerback who excelled his freshman year before he was injured his sophomore season, redshirted while he rehabbed, and largely fell out of the limelight. Yet Aaron Henry is back, and he's playing better than ever.
In his first four games playing free safety at the collegiate level, Henry has already recorded 12 tackles and five pass breakups, plus taken back a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown.
But that was against non-conference opponents. On Saturday, he'll be seeing a different class of offense.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins has already thrown for 863 yards and six touchdowns on 67 percent passing. Simply put, this Spartan offense is good.
Needless to say, Wisconsin's pass "D" will need to step up—which means, if they do, Henry could have a monster game and establish himself as one of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten.
With the loss of star linebacker Chris Borland to a season-ending shoulder injury, much of the focus at linebacker now shifts to Wisconsin's other up-and-comer: redshirt sophomore Mike Taylor.
Last year, Taylor was leading the team in tackles before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Wisconsin's home loss to Iowa. However, luckily for the Badgers, Borland stepped in and shined in place of Taylor.
This year, it's the other way around. With Borland out, it's Taylor's time to step up.
After four games (playing in three), Taylor has 11 tackles, including two for loss. With Michigan State boasting a strong running game to go along with its passing game, Taylor should get his fair share of opportunities on Saturday.
If he can play anything like he did his freshman year, Taylor should be able to adequately fill the hole that Borland left.
Despite running the ball just 77 times these first four games, junior running back John Clay already has over 500 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Averaging 6.5 yards a carry, Clay appears virtually unstoppable.
But many fans are questioning why—with those kinds of numbers—he isn't getting the ball more. Well, expect that to change.
Presumably because Bret Bielema wanted to limit Clay during the non-conference schedule because of his offseason ankle surgery, Clay averaged under 20 carries a game. Now, with the Big Ten schedule beginning, Clay should be unchained.
Expect at least 25 carries from the big man on Saturday and, if all goes well, his 11th straight 100-yard game.
Although the Spartans are giving up only 2.7 yards per carry this year, Wisconsin's rushing attack is a little different than Northern Colorado's.
After missing the last three games because of a lingering turf toe injury, star receiver Nick Toon is expected to be back for the Badgers on Saturday.
A preseason All-Big Ten selection, Toon has a lot of catching up to do if he hopes to earn a spot on that team. Against the Spartans, he may do just that.
With quarterback Scott Tolzien appearing to finally find a rhythm, Wisconsin's passing offense is not something opposing defenses should overlook—especially Michigan State.
So far, the Spartans have already allowed eight passing touchdowns and are giving up over 250 yards through the air.
Although Toon could be a little rusty after being out for three weeks, expect it to be a short adjustment period.
There has been one Badger who's been absolutely playing out of his mind in 2010: tight end Lance Kendricks.
In just four games, the 6'4" Kendricks has already hauled in 17 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He's simply too fast for linebackers to keep up and too big for defensive backs to cover.
With the Spartans struggling like they are against the pass, expect Tolzien to target Kendricks early and often.
If Kendricks can keep this up, All-Big Ten is a lock.