This Saturday the No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers will host the Michigan State Spartans in a Big Ten showdown. These two teams played twice a year ago. The first time around Michigan State stunned Wisconsin on a last second hail marry pass to beat the Badgers 37-31. Wisconsin would get their revenge by knocking off the Spartans 42-39 in the Big Ten Championship Game. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 ESt at Camp Randall Stadium and will be televised nationally on ABC or ESPN2.
For those of you looking to place a wager on this matchup, oddsmakers currently have Wisconsin favored by 6.5-points over Michigan State with the total set at 41.5 points.
The Spartans suffered yet another devastating loss this past weekend, losing at Michigan 10-12 on a last second field goal. Michigan State lost the previous week at home to Iowa 16-19 in double-overtime and earlier this year lost to Ohio State by a final of 16-17. The Spartans are now 4-4 overall with a dismal 1-3 record inside the Big Ten.
Michigan State really struggled to move the ball against a stingy Wolverine defense this past weekend. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell was able to complete 21 of 34 attempts, but most of those completions were for short gains. He ended up with just 192 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
The difference in this game wasn’t the play of Maxwell, it was more of the ineffectiveness of junior running back LeVeon Bell, who managed just 68 yards on 26 attempts. It was the third time this season Bell failed to reach the 100 yard mark in a losing effort.
When Michigan State can’t run the ball their offense really has a difficult time scoring points, especially against strong competition. It doesn’t look good heading into Saturday against a Wisconsin defense that ranks 18th in total defense (giving up just 315.6 ypg) and 21st in scoring defense (17.8 ppg). However, it is worth mentioning that the Badgers allowed 269 rushing yards in a 27-30 loss at Nebraska.
The Badgers are turning out to be a lot better than everyone expected after the first month of the season. They come into this game having won three straight games by at least 17 points. Their two losses have both come on the road to Oregon State and Nebraska. That loss to the Beavers doesn’t look so bad all of the sudden, as Oregon State is now 6-0 and ranked No. 8 in the country. They also had a 27-10 lead over Nebraska before allowing 20 unanswered in a stunning defeat.
Wisconsin is now 3-1 inside Big Ten play and appear well on their way to playing in their second consecutive Big Ten Championship Game. With Penn State and Ohio State both ineligible to participate in postseason play, Wisconsin only has to worry about Purdue, Illinois and Indiana, who have all opened up 0-3.
The Badgers got off to a slow start in their most recent game against Minnesota, as they went into the half leading just 14-6. Wisconsin quickly jumped out to a 24-6 lead midway through the 3rd quarter and put the game away for good with two more touchdowns early in the 4th quarter.
The running game was certainly working against the Golden Gophers. Wisconsin rushed for 337 yards behind the duo of James White and Montee Ball. White led the way with 175 yards and three touchdowns, while Ball added another 166 yards and two scores. The Badgers have rushed for a ridiculous 977 yards over their last three games.
Ball has quietly got himself back into the Heisman race. He has accounted for 529 yards and 7 touchdowns during the Badgers three game winning streak. He is currently 4th in the country with 982 yards and is tied for 7th with 13 rushing touchdowns.
While the emergence of the running game has played a big role in Wisconsin getting back on track, you also have to give some credit to freshman quarterback Joel Stave, who has given this team new life after taking over the starting job from Danny O’Brien.
It’s going to be interesting to see if the Badgers ground game can continue their string of success against a very good Michigan State defense. The Spartans come in ranked 5th in the country, giving up just 279 total yards per game. They are 12th against the run (101.5 ypg) and 17th against the pass (177.5). It is worth mentioning that Ohio State put up 259 rushing yards on Michigan State earlier this season.
There are a couple of key trends favoring the Spartans in this one. Michigan State is 5-2 ATS over the last 7 meetings overall and the underdog is 6-1 ATS during that same stretch. However, Wisconsin is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 conference games, 13-4-1 ATS in their last 18 home games, and 33-15-1 ATS in their last 49 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.