College Football Picks Week 8: Michigan State Can Take Down Wisconsin
Just last year, the Michigan State Spartans ruined the Wisconsin Badgers' chance at a perfect season.
Looking to get revenge, the No. 16 Spartans will be the biggest test the No. 6 Badgers have faced yet this season.
Both teams are the division leaders in their respective Big Ten divisions, and are undefeated in Big Ten play.
Here's a look at why the Spartans will hand the Badgers their fourth straight loss at Spartan Stadium, in what could be a preview for the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.
Strength of Schedule
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While it isn't the be all, end all of college football statistics, schedule strength can put a school's record into a strong, more accurate perspective.
The Badgers' current strength of schedule doesn't even crack the top 120 college teams, which says a lot about their competition.
Michigan State, on the other hand, has a schedule strength of 84, which isn't all that impressive either, but coming off a win against the Michigan Wolverines, who were undefeated heading into the game with a schedule strength of 69, really shows the Spartans are capable of pulling it off.
The Best Defense Isn't Always a Good Offense
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Though the Badgers' offense is among the best in the nation, they will have to get through one of the best national defenses in Michigan State.
Leading the nation in scoring with 50.1 points per game, the Badgers have yet to be tested by an excellent defensive team.
Wisconsin's No. 8 total offense will have to get through the Spartans' No. 2 total defense. While the Badgers are also ranked quite well in defensive categories, their defense cannot stack up to that of the Spartans. Schedule strength can be very misleading in that area, too.
While they certainly have the edge in offense, this should be nothing alarming for the Spartans who just defeated Michigan, who also was offensively stronger.
Spartans' Defense Too Much for Wisconsin
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The Michigan State Spartans will undoubtedly have their hands full with the Badgers' offense, but it's a reciprocal relationship.
As far as offensive vs. defensive rankings go, the Spartans match the Badgers pound for pound.
The Badgers are also nationally ranked fourth in pass defense, third in scoring defense, eighth in total offense.
It should come as no surprise that Michigan State ranks first in pass defense, fourth in scoring defense, second in total defense, and third in rushing defense.
The biggest difference that the Spartans have the glaring edge in, is the fact that their No. 1 pass defense will be faced with shutting down Wisconsin's No. 31 passing offense. If that is any indication, the Spartans will force the Badgers to run the ball all game long.
When Nebraska played Wisconsin on Oct. 1st, the Cornhuskers blitzed Badgers' quarterback Russell Wilson often early on with success.
Look for the Spartans' defensive line to give Wilson and the Badgers all they can handle.
Offense Shines for Spartans
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While he hasn't been the most consistent quarterback by any means, Kirk Cousins plays incredibly well when he keeps his game within the offense.
With a completion rate of 65.9 percent and only eight touchdown passes, look for Cousins to hand the ball to Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker to run through the Badgers' defense. This pair will give the Badgers their biggest test thus far in the 2011 season.
If Cousins can maintain his composure and not force plays, the Spartans are going to find themselves pleasantly surprised with, not only his game but the end result on the scoreboard.
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After handing the Michigan Wolverines their first loss of the season, ruining an otherwise undefeated record, the Spartans are licking their chops at the chance to repeat the same feat a week later.
With the Badgers sitting nicely at 6-0, the 5-1 Spartans have the chance to spoil an undefeated season for the second week straight.
However, it would also be the same situation as last season when the Spartans handed Wisconsin its only loss of the season, defeating them 34-24.
From that, the Spartans, Badgers, and Ohio State Buckeyes all finished 7-1 in Big Ten play, where the Spartans just missed the Rose Bowl because Wisconsin was ranked higher in the final BCS standings.
As if they already weren't motivated through the roof, the Spartans will look to make Saturday's game in East Lansing look just like last season. Mark Dantonio, who is a no-nonsense, business-oriented coach, will certainly remind his team of the opportunity at hand.
You can expect Spartan Stadium to be one tough place to be if you're Russell Wilson and the Badgers' offense, with the Spartan faithful flooding the seats for this one.