Game of the Week: Badgers in for stiff test against stout Spartans
Michigan State and Wisconsin have developed a healthy Big Ten rivalry over the years, and it doesn't even involve a trophy. What it has involved for roughly 20 seasons are programs that typically lean heavily on the run, feature dominant offensive lines and field physical defenses. Both teams are using that formula this year to contend for the Big Ten championship. Due to a schedule adjustment in the wake of Nebraska's Big Ten jump, Wisconsin will travel to East Lansing for the second consecutive season. ESPN's
Michigan State counters with the Big Ten's top rush defense (67), passing defense (119.2) and total defense (186.2). State has 21 sacks (including 16 in the last two weeks), led by linebacker Denicos Allen's 4.5, and defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Marcus Rush can disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage. The secondary is led by safeties Trenton Robinson and Isaiah Lewis, the latter of whom sealed the Michigan win with an interception return for a touchdown. Neither team can claim it has faced strong competition. MSU has played three teams with offenses ranked No. 84 or worse plus an FCS team; Wisconsin hasn't faced a top 50 defense yet. That all changes Saturday.
Wisconsin enters the game as a 7.5-point favorite. The Badgers are a remarkable 12-0-1 against the spread in their last 13 games. Michigan State is 4-10 against the spread as an underdog the last four years, though its lone cover as a home dog during that period came last year against Wisconsin.
Since losing to Michigan State last year, Wisconsin has won nine straight Big Ten games by an average of 29.5 points.
Michigan State will presumably do everything it can to slow Wisconsin's running game, and the Spartans have the front seven to do it. The return of wideout Nick Toon will help Wilson test MSU's secondary should the Badgers fail to establish the run. On the other side, Cousins has been really solid at home and Edwin Baker showed against Michigan he can be a game-controlling back. Michigan State beat Wisconsin 34-24 last year, but needed a punt return for a touchdown and two fourth-down conversions to do so. Wilson will prove to be the difference in a hard-fought battle.