Scouting Report and Prediction: MSU vs. Wisconsin

Hondo S. Carpenter

 

Sparty will have his head held high as he leads the Spartans on Saturday.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.
Sparty will have his head held high as he leads the Spartans on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

A look at this week’s opponent…

The Badgers from Wisconsin are on the way and that means a tough, physical football game. You heard the Badgers head coach Bret Bielema this week on Spartan Nation radio call these teams “Mirror images.” Although I probably wouldn’t have said mirror, I would call them similar.

When MSU has the ball…

I love pound green pound. The Spartans have to run the ball to win on Saturday, but I think the Spartans need to change that up slightly. How often have we seen MSU come out in all three bowl games that Mark Dantonio has led us in and open up the playbook? MSU needs to do more to force the Badgers not to crowd the line of scrimmage with seven or eight men in the box. MSU needs to better utilize the TE and aerial attack to open up running lanes with the passing game.

I have no doubt MSU can run on the Badgers. I also have no doubt that they can’t just run. They have to keep them off balance.

When MSU is on defense…

I believe MSU can hang with Wisconsin on defense with their running attack. They have three great backs, but Big John Clay is the workhorse. Not only is he a great back, but he is an even better young man. Each and every time I have spoken with him (both on and off the record) he is a true gentleman and a great ambassador for the game of football.

He is big at nearly 250 pounds, but agile. He has great feet and you can’t take him down with Sportscenter type big hits. You have to just use great solid tackling. I expect the Spartans to come out using a lot of stunts on the defensive line. The Badgers have eaten the Spartan’s lunch with their TE attack. They use the TE as good as anyone in the nation. In fact, MSU has better TE talent, but woefully underused in comparison.

MSU has to stop the run, but if they can’t get pressure with the front four lineman the Spartans can’t win. We saw last year that when MSU had to move more men up to stop the run, the Badgers attacked the MSU safeties with their TEs.

If MSU has to commit extra men to get pressure it is game over. Watch the defense close. If you are sitting in the stands or at home and the Spartans are blitzing out of need and not out of want, you don’t need to see the score. If they are blitzing and dictating the terms of the game then they are winning.

I fully expect to finally see more of Steve Gardiner. He is a great young man off the field, and frankly, he is a great football player. He had to fight in jury when he first got to MSU or you would have seen a lot more of him. In 2011 he will be your starting SAM linebacker and he can really help MSU when they lineup with the Badgers. Keep your eyes open looking for #50, he makes plays and is a big, physical backer.

Intangibles…

I usually do a good job of gauging the mood of the team and how they will react. They are thrilled to have Coach D back, but I can’t get a gauge on how that will affect them. Will they get too high or will they balance it?

What about all of the dumb unforced penalties? I have said that they CAN NOT WIN if they have to beat Wisconsin and MSU. If the Spartans get pressure with their front four and avoid costly penalties they are in the game. They are as good as Wisconsin, but they are not as experienced.

Turnovers…We always mention turnovers, but in a game like this and Iowa later in the year they are more than critical, they are essential. The Spartans have to cause the Badgers to make mistakes and stop drives with turnovers. Can they continue their present trend? I loved seeing four interceptions last week, but that was a scrimmage. This is the real deal.

Dan Conroy…He has been great this season. Perfect. Can he do it on the big stage? Coach D called the now legendary “Little Giants” play against Notre Dame to avoid putting his young kicker in a tough spot. This is a national game. It will be a close game. Can he step up and make the biggest kick of his life?

Prediction…

I like the Spartans chances. If they were to play this game ten times I think MSU would win four. The Spartan Nation can look at the Badgers and really see where MSU is going. They are very similar teams and I do believe MSU has better coaching. What I know is that MSU doesn’t have the experience that the Badgers have.

On my TV show I predict 17-14 Wisconsin. As it gets closer and I have seen the weather reports I think it will be 21-20 Wisconsin. I also hope I am wrong. 

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