In the NBA, they say it’s extremely difficult to sweep a playoff series.
In college basketball, they say it’s tough for a team to win three straight against a conference foe (usually two in the regular season, one in the conference tournament).
In college football, it’s hard to beat anyone, let alone the same team twice. The Michigan State Spartans will attempt to do just that when they face off with the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game.
They are many reasons why the above theories tend to be true: Losing teams learn from their mistakes and losing teams understand their opponents better the next time around, not to mention the classic “revenge factor."
If ever a team wanted revenge, it would be the Badgers. They suffered their first loss of the season on the now-infamous Hail Mary to Keith Nichol in East Lansing back in October.
The very next week, a still-shell-shocked Wisconsin team lost on another last-second play at the hands of Ohio State (and Urban Meyer was not even there yet!) It’s fair to assume that the Badgers would have played much sharper against the Buckeyes if their own undefeated record was still in tact.
After the way the 2011 college football season has unfolded, with everybody except the boys from Baton Rouge losing at least one game (no, Houston does not count), Wisconsin undoubtedly realizes that their dreams of playing for a national championship could have easily come to fruition if not for that fateful fall night in Spartan Stadium.
The Badgers are currently playing like a team possessed. They have won their past four games by a combined score of 177-54, including a demolition of a Penn State team last week that was vying for a spot in this very same championship game. The Wisconsin running game seems nearly unstoppable at this point, with Montee Ball picking up touchdowns as if they were merely first downs.
Looking back at their game against Michigan State, you realize that the Badgers played awful from the beginning of the second quarter until the middle of the fourth quarter. They lost Ball to an injury for most of that time period as well. Yet, led by Russell Wilson, the Badgers still managed to tie the game late. That was on the road, at night, in a hostile environment.
Yes, it’s hard to beat the same team twice in one year (believe me—LSU does not want to see Alabama in the national championship. They’d rather play the Dallas Cowboys). It is even harder when the team that lost can specifically point to your team as the reason they are not playing for a much grander prize.
For Wisconsin, Michigan State is that team. The Badgers want a neutral field. They want a BCS berth for the second consecutive season. They want revenge.
That’s why everyone has Wisconsin winning this game. That’s why Vegas has the Badgers as 9.5-point favorites. That’s why the folks in Madison are already booking flights for Pasadena.
That’s also why I have the Michigan State Spartans winning 35-31 and believe East Lansing will smell like roses. Nothing ever goes the way it’s supposed to in college football.
Enjoy the inaugural Big Ten Championship.