ESPN College GameDay is heading to East Lansing to watch the Big Ten’s two best teams face off in prime-time. After being snubbed in the recent BCS rankings, the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0) feel they have a lot to prove while the #16 Michigan State Spartans (5-1) hope to emerge from the shadows as a BCS contender.
All eyes are on Heisman Hopeful Russell Wilson and how he reacts to a stifling Spartans defense. The Badgers have not fared well in East Lansing while dropping their last three at Spartan Stadium, including their only regular season loss in 2010.
Michigan State Synopsis: If anyone can slow down the Badgers high-octane offense, it would be the Spartans. Michigan State’s defense is straight nasty as they rank second in the country while allowing only 186.2 yards per game. They specialize in shutting down the passing game as they’re the best in the country in pass defense (119.2 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (84.4). Fitting that the Spartans next test comes against Wilson, the country’s leader in pass efficiency (210.9). Something has to give; either Wilson becomes a Heisman favorite or the Spartans defense keep chugging along as one of the best in the land.
Michigan State is fresh off a very emotional win over their in-state rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. Star QB Denard Robinson was put on lockdown and wasn’t able to do anything on the ground or through the air. However, Spartan defender William Gholston got a little carried away and twisted Robinson’s face-mask, most likely resulting in a suspension.
Gholston would be a huge loss, but it will remain a tough task for the Badgers offensive line to contain against a ferocious Michigan State defensive line. In the last two weeks, the Spartans have racked up 16 sacks and they’re not too bad against stopping the run either (nationally ranked 3rd in rushing defense at 67.0 ypg). Montee Ball and James White beware.
For the full Michigan State season preview go here.
Wisconsin Synopsis: One thing’s for sure, the Badgers are tired of hearing about their cupcake schedule. I’m not sure how beating Nebraska by 31 points doesn’t factor into a lot of computer rankings, but I digress. At the conclusion of their consecutive games in East Lansing and Columbus, I’m not sure the “soft schedule,” will be a valid argument anymore.
The Badgers demolished Indiana last week and lead the nation with 50.2 points per game. The defense is considered above average, but has yet to be tested by a decent offense. This week will be a true test for every position on the Badgers, but more importantly the wide receivers. As mentioned before, the Spartans are the best in the country at wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Wilson’s best friends on Saturday will be his wideouts.
In my opinion, the key player for the Badgers this weekend will be senior WR Nick Toon. Toon missed the game against the Hoosiers due to a sore foot, but is expected to be back and healthy in East Lansing. Last season, Toon had some significant drops and will certainly be looking to redeem himself this year. Not only that, but Toon has emerged as one of Wilson’s favorite targets and has the skill-set to make something happen against the Spartans talented corners.
For the full Wisconsin season preview go here.
Prediction: To me, this is Wisconsin’s toughest game on the schedule. I think the match-up starts as your typical Big Ten game with a few three-and-outs and plenty of run plays. Expect Montee Ball and Edwin Baker to get a lot of work on Saturday night. The difference in the game will be the turnover battle and that is why I like the Badgers. Wisconsin’s defense has stressed the importance of turnovers all season long and the Badgers offense doesn’t really turn it over.
Wisconsin 30 Michigan State 20
What do you think will be the result of Saturday Night’s game? Will Russell Wilson have a good game or a nightmarish night against the Spartans? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.