Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: Keys to the Game and Prediction
Man, what a game we just watched last Saturday against the Wolverines, huh?
Well, don't relish in the victory too much Spartan fans because this week rolling into town are the big bad Badgers of Wisconsin. That's right, in what could be the game of the week, Wisconsin walks into Spartan Stadium undefeated, looking to keep their BCS National Championship dreams alive.
But not if Michigan State's defense has anything to say about it.
The Spartans' gritty defense vies to gain Big Ten supremacy by smacking the Badgers all the way back to Madison but Wisconsin will certainly give the green and white the biggest battle they've seen this year.
In order for either team to start thinking of smelling the roses come January they will need to follow these three steps to secure this crucial Big Ten win.
Wisconsin Key No. 1
Make Spartan Stadium sound like a library
If any player has ever said it was easy to play in East Lansing, slap them on the face and call them a liar.
Then run fast.
The bottom line is that Spartan Stadium is one of the toughest venues to play in, not only in the Big Ten, but the entire nation. Players have compared this stadium to "playing in a cage" and "feeling confined", two descriptions visiting teams aren't thrilled about.
There is, however, a way to silence the fans, and that is to light up the scoreboard early.
Now that's a lot easier said than done, but if there is any team that can do it, it's definitely the number one scoring offense in the nation.
Wisconsin Key No. 2
Be creative on offense
Wisconsin has arguably the number one offense in the country.
Michigan State has arguably the number one defense in the country.
Interesting, isn't it? Now what would be the best way for the other team to break the game open?
Easy, have that number one offense keep the defense on their toes with unorthodox play calling.
The Badgers can do this a couple of ways, like giving the Spartans odd formations. Last week Michigan tried to put Denard Robinson at wide out and have him run in motion, leaving the defense anxious to see where the ball would be going. Now I'm not saying that is exactly what Wisconsin should do, but keeping the defense guessing even before the ball is snapped wouldn't hurt once in a while.
And, of course, there is always the occasional trick play that can be doled out. Those always seem to work too.
Wisconsin Key No. 3
This one is obvious, but stop the run
Now before you say 'No really, they should try to stop the run? No kidding', let me tell you why this is extra important against MSU.
Michigan State ran for more yards against Michigan (213) than they did against Notre Dame and Ohio State combined (100). The Spartans also scored more points against Michigan (28) than Notre Dame and Ohio State combined (23). See the correlation there?
It's obvious that the worse your run game is, the worse the final score is but with Michigan State their run game could mean life or death. Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but he hasn't proven he is good enough to throw 40-50 passes a game. Clogging up the running lanes for MSU will give them only one option and that is to have Cousins put the game on his arm, something he hasn't been able to do all season.
Michigan State Key No. 1
Play like civilized humans
I love roughing it up during a rivalry game, but my goodness what on earth happened on the field last Saturday? I couldn't see past all the yellow flags that piled up on the field.
All that I know is that MSU needs to clean up the penalties, Dantonio needs to chew out his players if they act like hooligans, and William Gholston should be laying low from the authorities for a while. Geez, he's probably wanted for attempted murder somewhere for crying out loud.
In a nutshell I'm just trying to say that this extra-hitting, stick-it-to-'em garbage isn't going to fly. If the Spartans can give up 124 yards worth of penalties against the Badgers like they did against the Wolverines and still win, I will go to every one of my classes in a dress for a week.
Michigan State Key No. 2
If the linebackers don't show up, the fans shouldn't show up.
Michigan State has a great defensive line anchored by Jerel Worthy.
Problem is, Wisconsin has an offensive line that is even better than the Spartans defensive line, so the game will most likely fall to the production of the linebackers.
If the defensive line can't stop running back Montee Ball in his tracks, then the linebacker core is the next, and could be the last, line of Spartans he has to battle through. If they decide to pass the ball, blitzing may be on the cards more times than none just to assure Russell Wilson is constantly making quick decisions. If Wilson decides to cut through the line and create some action with his legs then the linebackers are going to need to bring him to a halt before he creates a monster play.
Pressure's on you linebackers.
Michigan State Key No. 3
Give Kirk Cousins President-esque protection
Offensive line, you cannot let anyone in a red and white uniform even come close to touching your quarterback. You need to have the same feelings about your quarterback as Terrell Owens had for his quarterback.
The reasons are simple:
1) Cousins, as well as every other quarterback ever to grace this earth, can use all the time he can get. The more protection he has the more opportunities he has to take a shot at a home run down field with B.J. Cunningham or Keyshawn Martin.
2) If he gets hurt, this could be some serious trouble. Sure, backup Andrew Maxwell is having a decent season, but those stats are from janitor minutes against sub-par teams. Remember how he did last year when he was put in against 'Bama? Not good.
3) See reasons 1 and 2
Michigan State- 24
Spartan fans, I'm sorry, but Wisconsin looks like they are on their way to a title game. And besides, I predicted Michigan to win last week so maybe I will be proven wrong again this week. You never know.
Highlights for Wisconsin
-- Montee Ball will explode in this game, giving him coveted "Heisman Dark Horse" status. Finally.
-- Wisconsin's defensive line starts showing the nation that it isn't just their O-line that knows how to play ball
Highlights for Michigan State
-- Kirk Cousins shows promise for the rest of the season, silencing a portion of his critics this season.
-- Jerel Worthy proves he can still cause some havoc, even when paired with a monster offensive line
-- No one dies
Lowlights for Wisconsin
-- Russell Wilson throws two picks and completes only 55 percent of his passes
-- Someone is going to have a season-ending injury. I don't know who, I don't know how, but it will happen. If this happens I will be opening my fortune-telling hut within five days of the event.
Lowlights for Michigan State
-- Defense shows it can be beat, and how it can be beat.
-- Great, here come the "just another year where the Spartans prove they are not for real" crew. Can't wait to hear those phone calls 1,000 times on the radio stations.