Quarterback Russell Wilson (pictured) is one reason that Wisconsin will beat Michigan State in Week 8 of Big Ten football, but I don't want to totally spoil the next slide.
October is a rough month for legitimate contenders and wannabes. For example, this weekend the Spartans must try to upset the Badgers, who are rated No. 6 in the nation. This game is followed by a crucial road contest in Lincoln against Legends Division rival Nebraska.
This weekend's "Bye" teams are Ohio State and Michigan. Ohio State should be riding high after handing Illinois their first loss of the season, while Michigan is trying to recover from their first loss of the year at the hands of cross-state rival Michigan State.
Now back to the usual routine of looking at the:
- Big Ten College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW)
- Chiller (sometimes called a "trap" game)
- Snoozer (the game you couldn't get me to watch)
- Big Ten Player To Watch
- Etc. (the rest of the Big Ten games)
As a Michigan State graduate, I took the dispassionate approach to this Spartan Homecoming game. I reviewed the statistics and promptly swallowed my gum.
Here are five reasons that Wisconsin will beat the 15th-ranked Michigan State Spartans in Saturday night's Big Ten College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW):
No. 1 - The Badgers' offense is merciless.
Yeah, yeah, Michigan State's defense is clearly the best in the conference. They have given up an average of 67 rushing yards per game and allowed only three touchdowns via the ground attack.
BUT the Spartans have never, ever faced a team with a more balanced offensive attack than Wisconsin. How does 1,545 yards rushing and 1,594 yards passing sound?
The Badgers have scored 40 touchdowns in six games. Michigan State has scored 18 in six games. Wisconsin has scored an average of 50 points a game.
No. 2 - The Badgers' defense is No. 3 in the conference.
It looks like it will be a great game when you argue that it features the Big Ten's best offensive team (Wisconsin) and the conference's best defensive team (Michigan State). Now flip the comparison.
The Spartans' offense is ranked No. 7 in the Big Ten and the Badgers' defense is No. 3 in the conference. One little statistic in Wisconsin's favor is they have allowed seven touchdowns in 2011, while MSU has allowed eight.
No. 3 - Wisconsin can run the ball and Michigan State can't.
It's difficult to imagine a Mark Dantonio-led Spartan team that cannot run the football, but MSU is No. 10 (gulp) in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Michigan State running back Edwin Baker is No. 8 in the conference in rushing with an average of just under 70 yards per game.
The Badgers' running attack is led by running back Montee Ball (pictured). Ball has rushed for 16 touchdowns and averages 108.8 yards a game, which is just one-tenth of a yard behind league leader Denard Robinson of Michigan.
Ball's rushing partner is James White, who is No. 9 in the conference, just three yards behind MSU's Baker. Add the running abilities of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and you've got a trio of rushers who could be successful against the Spartans' rushing defense.
No. 4 - Russell Wilson is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.
I thought Wilson was being over-hyped before the season started as the guy who could lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten title. Now I see a solid quarterback who seems comfortable running with and throwing the football.
Wilson has completed 74 percent of his passes and has thrown only one interception. He's thrown 14 touchdown passes in six games and has accumulated 1,557 yards passing.
As mentioned before, the Wisconsin quarterback can also run the ball. He has carried the ball 24 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 5 - The Badgers look to avenge last year's loss to the Spartans.
Last year, Michigan State won their showdown match in October, 34-24. The game was a lot closer than the score indicates and some critical mistakes by the Badgers prevented them from finishing with an unbeaten season record.
A number of Wisconsin players, including running backs Ball and White, remember that loss and it's quite likely they've been pointing to this game as their second big test of the season. (The first was the game against Nebraska that the Badgers won, 48-17.)
The College Football Gameday crew will enjoy their visit to East Lansing, and the Badgers will head home Saturday night with another win.
Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 26.
Penn State goes on the road to spoil Northwestern's Homecoming game.
Wildcats quarterback Dan Persa may be back, but he faces the No. 2 pass defense in the Big Ten. Led by defensive back Nick Sukay (pictured), the Nittany Lions have held opposing quarterbacks to a 50 percent completion rate. Sukay has three of his team's 11 interceptions.
Penn State may be scoring just 21 points per game, but they have given up an average of 11.5 to opponents this year. Northwestern is even. They give up 23 points a game and score 23 a game.
Northwestern won't be able to battle past the Penn State defense in a low-scoring game.
Penn State 17, Northwestern 13.
The good news is the University of Minnesota is celebrating its Homecoming. The bad news is they have to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the football field.
Nebraska probably used their "Bye" week to sort through a number of issues. The Cornhuskers may be 5-1, but their embarrassing loss to Wisconsin has raised eyebrows and questions about the team.
Now star defensive lineman Jared Crick is injured, and the team must patch up a defense that entered the season with high expectations. Minnesota's offense is rated in the cellar of the conference, so the Cornhuskers' defense may exact some redemption this Saturday.
The Minnesota defense in some ways has played better than expected. They are No. 10 in team defense in the Big Ten. Many preseason predictions said the Golden Gophers would have the worst defense in the conference.
Expect Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and running bank Rex Burkhead (pictured) to run the ball well and often. They need to build some momentum before their showdown game with Michigan State on Oct. 29 in Lincoln.
Nebraska 42, Minnesota 10.
The wild card that could lead to Michigan State upsetting the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers is Spartan wide receiver Keshawn Martin (pictured).
Martin caught two touchdown passes from MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins in their 28-14 victory over Michigan last Saturday. He finished the game with three catches for 31 yards.
The senior wide receiver from Inkster, Mich., also returns punts for the Spartans. If you remember last year's game, it was Martin's 74-yard return of a punt for a touchdown that gave Michigan State at 13-10 lead that they never relinquished.
Another special teams touchdown for the Spartans might be enough to help them beat the Badgers.
Illinois should bounce back from their disappointing loss to Ohio State and beat Purdue.
The FIghting Illini offense needs to reassert itself and has that opportunity in facing the Boilermakers middle-of-the-pack defense. Expect great success for the pitch-and-catch combination of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.
Illinois 28, Purdue 13.
Running back Marcus Coker (pictured) of Iowa is having a solid year. He's No. 6 in the conference with 578 yards rushing.
Coker has run for six touchdowns in 2011. He and wide receiver Marvin McNutt should have great games against the worst defense in the Big Ten.
Iowa 34, Indiana 7.