Michigan State vs. Wisconsin Keys to the Game and Prediction
Well Big Ten fans, the day we have all been waiting for is almost here. After years of yearning for a conference title game, the college football world will finally watch the game that determines who the true king of the Big Ten really is.
With three weeks left in the season both the Michigan State Spartans and the Wisconsin Badgers determined their own fate. Win out, and you win a free trip to Pasadena.
Both teams, however, wouldn't have controlled their own fate if what could be the game of the season didn't happen just over a month ago. You may know it as the "rocket" game, the game you will never forget, or the game that caused you to punt your TV through a wall.
After Keith Nichol caught the game winning Hail Mary that capped the craziest win in Spartan Stadium, people were bracing themselves for a rematch. Now that weeks have passed and the teams have dominated, they are ready for a grudge match that is for all the marbles.
Will Wisconsin get revenge and head to their second Rose Bowl in a row? Can Michigan State book their flights to Pasadena for the first time since 1988? The only thing we know right now is that Saturday's winner will be clamping roses in their mouth and advancing to the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin Key No. 1
Front four needs to dominate the trenches
When Michigan State has the ball there is not a group of players with more influence than the Badgers' defensive line.
If they don't show up and perform, Michigan State will have an offensive field day. It will bust the running game wide open for the Spartans and allow them to run a balanced offense. In their first meeting Michigan State's running backs ran for 102 yards. Not a bad number for Wisconsin, but still enough to give Spartans an option for offense. Another negative would be that pocket passer Kirk Cousins will be comfortable and in a zone. Obvious, but this with Cousins it could be the difference between a great game and sending his team to the Michigan State Federal Credit Union Bowl presented by SchoolInYourPJs.com.
On the contrary, the front four could have Spartan fans pulling their hair out by halftime. If the run game is halted, then Cousins will have to carry the load for the team. He's a good quarterback, but not good enough to control a game by himself. If the front four dismantles the run game and the pass game, Dantonio may forfeit out of anger by halftime.
Wisconsin Key No. 2
Put the "special" in special teams
In the first meeting Wisconsin's special teams blew the game, its as simple as that. As a matter of fact, they hit the trifecta of terrible special teams blunders:
35+ yard punt return? Check.
Blocked field goal? Check.
Blocked punt? Check, and that one ended in the end zone, giving MSU every ounce of momentum to be found in Spartan Stadium.
If Wisconsin wants to do worst on Saturday, they will seriously have to put their minds to it, because it will be hard to top (or bottom) that performance.
Wisconsin Key No. 3
Two words: Russell Wilson
When Wisconsin first met the Spartans in October Russell Wilson had a marginal game under his standards.
He threw for a decent 223 yards and two touchdowns, but he killed his team with two interceptions that changed the game. His first one at the end of the first quarter got the crowd right back into the game, and they never piped down after that. With just seven minutes left to go in the game Wilson hit the Spartan's secondary in stride, stopping a game-tying drive dead in its tracks.
In Indy the crowd won't be a big factor, but interceptions that can mentally bring a team back in the game can't be thrown on Saturday. Special teams blew the game for them the first time around, but Wilson didn't have the greatest game in the world either. If he rises to the occasion on Saturday he could be the very reason why his team is headed back to Cali.
Michigan State Key No. 1
Stop Montee Ball
Do anything it takes. Have someone assigned to him the whole game, blitz the lights out, use blow darts, or just anything to stop this touchdown machine.
In the October meeting Ball ran for 115 yards and one touchdown. Pretty good right? Well what if I reminded you he nearly missed the entire third quarter? Yeah, this guy can play football.
If this SUV doesn't get contained we could be looking at 30 carries for 170 yards and 18 touchdowns. By halftime.
Montee Ball, however, isn't a one man show when it comes to his success. Jerel Worthy and company will have to break down a massive offensive line. How massive, you ask? The Badgers offensive line weighs 15 pounds heavier than the Green Bay Packers offensive line.
I would not want to get on a rowboat with these guys.
Michigan State Key No. 2
Make Nick Toon irrelevant, again
Last time these teams clashed the Badgers number one receiver was hardly a factor. Some people forgot he was even at the game, that's how good the Spartans were at shutting him down.
The coverage Toon had only allowed him to have two catches for 58 yards, and that was a key factor in stalling the passing game.
If the Spartans can repeat that kind of coverage on Toon they will eliminate a huge part of their offense by taking away Russell Wilson's number one target.
Michigan State Key No. 3
In words of Barney, use your imagination and be creative
If Michigan State wants to set the tone and keep Wisconsin on their toes the whole game, they will need to be creative with the playbook. We all know Mark Dantonio isn't afraid to pull a couple of Houdinis during a game (i.e. Notre Dame "Little Giants", fake punt after intentional false start penalty against Northwestern last year).
Probably the most noted trick play from this year is the Keyshawn Martin reverse that gave Michigan State their first touchdown of the game against, you guessed it, Wisconsin.
It's plays like those that have the opportunity to change a game, and that is why Dantonio needs to be creative with the play calling. Do a flea flicker, double-reverse fake punt pass, or possibly line up Sparty in the slot for one play. Whatever it takes to have Wisconsin scratch their heads as you run into the end zone, do it.
Michigan State- 31
Wisconsin jumps out to an early lead and Michigan State fights back late in the game. Unfortunately it will be too late in the game to make a comeback.
Highlights for Wisconsin
--Uh, winning, duh.
--Montee Ball seals his invitation to the Heisman Trophy award ceremony
--The world gets to find out this fun fact: Wisconsin only wears red pants at the Rose Bowl. Now you can sleep better tonight knowing that.
Highlights for Michigan State
--Despite the loss, Kirk Cousins still has a good game.
--BJ Cunningham makes the college football world how great of a receiver he actually is.
--Provided Michigan gets to a BCS bowl, they can say they beat two BCS teams!
Lowlights for Wisconsin
--The secondary gets slightly carved up by Cousins
--Another special teams blunder in this game will make Bielema's head explode.
--A player sustains a mouth injury after biting a rose in the wrong spot, causing a thorn to cut his lip.
Lowlights for Michigan State
--Montee Ball runs the ball to the hills and back.
--The Spartan running game is stopped early.
--Their little sister in Ann Arbor most likely punches their ticket to a BCS bowl. "Where is the justice in this world?" wonders every citizen of Spartan Nation.