Bucky Banter: Michigan State Spartans

Carl Stine@@CFBAllDayCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

This week's battle features two teams who are looking to establish some momentum heading into the Big Ten portion of the schedule.

Here is a breakdown of some key position comparisons that will affect this game:

Passing Game

Alright, class...

Who leads the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating?

If you answered Michigan's Tate Forcier, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, Penn State's Daryll Clark, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, or Illinois's Juice Williams, you were incorrect.

If you answered Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien, you were correct!

Surprisingly, Tolzien has prove to be an effective passer for the Badgers' offense, averaging 214 passing yards per game. Not bad for a guy who started practice at No. 3 on the depth chart!

Not quite as surprising is the success of MSU's Cousins. Michigan State has good receivers, and Cousins has taken advantage, amassing 649 yards on 70 attempts and five touchdowns in his first three games.

The quarterbacks in this game have both shown they can make the big play, and Tolzien has great field vision.

The defensive secondaries for both teams have been shown susceptible at times, MSU against both Notre Dame last week and Central Michigan the week before. Wisconsin was scorched by Fresno State's passing attack but made adequate adjustments to force some turnovers and win the game.

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This week, the Badgers will try and slow down MSU's potent passing attack.

The difference between the two opposing quarterbacks is this: Cousins mainly throws to two receivers, Tolzien really spreads the ball around.

This will benefit the Badgers, who will be able to zero in on those two receivers and maybe limit some of the Spartans playmaking ability.

Advantage: MSU

Running Game

Wisconsin's sophomore tailback, John Clay turned in a lackluster performance in his first career start against Wofford last week.

Clay fumbled the ball three times and did not score, while his backup Zach Brown had only one fumble to two touchdowns.

The Badgers are searching for someone to carry on the great Badger tradition of pounding the ball, but with the inexperience along the offensive line, they are finding it difficult.

Expect more platooning this week.

MSU doesn't have a running back in the top 10 in yards gained in the conference.

Advantage: Bucky

Defensive Line

The Badger defense has sacked the opponent's quarterback seven times this season, MSU, eight.

The difference in this game is the fact that Wisconsin has the more balanced offense and an opportunistic defense.

MSU will be kept guessing all day long as to whether the Badgers will throw or run, and Bucky will be able to sometimes send pressure from the linebacker position, while dropping back linebackers in coverage in certain situations.

Michigan State was expected to have a stellar defense, and then the season started...

The Spartans' rushing defense is fourth in the Big Ten, but they have yet to play a team with running backs that are the caliber of Wisconsin...

The Badgers were much maligned before the season, based on the guys they lost last year and lack of experience. Defensive ends JJ Watt and O'Brien Schofield have really stepped up for the Badgers. Schofield has 7.5 tackles for loss on the season, tied for first in the nation, and will be hungry for more come Saturday.

Advantage: Even

Defensive Secondary

As was already mentioned, both squads have struggled in this area, leading me to believe this will be a high scoring game.

Wisconsin has the third best passing defense in the conference and has faced a quarterback close to Cousins's caliber in Fresno State's Ryan Colburn.

MSU is a little weaker statistically, based on their performance against Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame.

Advantage: Even

Expect a shootout, with Wisconsin coming out on top because they are at home, and, let's face it, Camp Randall is a bad place to be the opponent...

What to Watch

Turnovers - The Badgers have a +2 turnover ratio, MSU is even.

Linebackers - Michigan State's Greg Jones leads the conference in tackles, but the Wisconsin triumvirate of Culmer St. Jean, Mike Taylor, and Jaevery McFadden can all be found among the Big Ten's top 20 in tackles...the next MSU defender after Jones, can be found at No. 33 on the same list.

Coaching - Wisconsin's coaches have made good in-game adjustments this season, especially on defense. Michigan State's...not so much.

The winner of this game may take third place in the Big Ten.


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