The no. 8 Wisconsin Badgers will look to remain undefeated this weekend as they welcome the Michigan State Spartans to town. Game time is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, October 12 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Current betting lines list the Badgers as 10.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 40 points. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
Wisconsin remains a potential player in the College Football Playoff discussion after last week’s 48-0 win over Kent State. It was already the third time the Badgers kept a shutout this season. To be fair, two of those games were against MAC teams. However, keeping a shutout against any FBS team is no easy task, and doing it three times in five games is nothing to scoff at. The Badgers also have a pair of Big Ten wins over Michigan and Northwestern, putting them at the top of the Big Ten West standings.
At the moment, all roads lead to a Wisconsin-Ohio State showdown in a couple of weeks. However, the Badgers still have to take care of business against Michigan State and Illinois before getting the Buckeyes. Since they didn’t begin the season as a top-10 team, Wisconsin may not be able to survive a slip-up. If they want to stay in the CFP conversation, the Badgers have to keep winning.
Meanwhile, Michigan State is coming off a 34-10 drubbing at the hands of that same Ohio State team. Conference wins against Northwestern and Indiana have Michigan State hanging around in the Big Ten East division. But the Spartans need to prove that they can go toe-to-toe with the top teams in the Big Ten.
To make matters worse, the Spartans have two more games against ranked teams after this week’s trip to Madison. MSU has a bye next week followed by a home date with Penn State. With that schedule, the Spartans could be heading into November on a three-game losing streak. They’ll be eager to make sure that doesn’t happen by scoring a road upset over Wisconsin this week.
Mark Dantonio would also like to cleanse his memory of the last time he saw Paul Chryst and the Badgers in 2016. Wisconsin marched into East Lansing and won 30-6. Even with both teams having completely different rosters, Dantonio will be wary of a similar result on Saturday.
The good news for Michigan State is that facing Wisconsin will be a different experience than facing Ohio State last week. However, I’m not convinced the results will be any different. I’m never going to count out the Spartans being able to pull off a surprise. But I don’t think they have the kind of team that can go on the road and keep up with the Badgers. I like my chances with Wisconsin winning this game going away and being able to cover the 10.5-point spread.
For the last two seasons, Michigan State has had one of the best run defenses in the country. But that’s not what we saw last week against Ohio State. Sparty got ripped to shreds, giving up over 300 rushing yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run by J.K. Dobbins. MSU won’t have to worry about a mobile quarterback the way they did against Ohio State. But the pro-style Wisconsin rushing attack can be just as lethal. Jonathan Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards in every game and scored 12 touchdowns in five games. With the way the Badgers can push teams around, the Spartans will be hard-pressed to keep Taylor contained for 60 minutes.
Also concerning is that MSU looked vulnerable in the secondary last week. It was a similar case the previous week against Indiana. For what it’s worth, Wisconsin hasn’t shown much of a downfield passing game this season. But part of the reason for that is that they haven’t needed it. With the Spartans having to sell out to stop Taylor and the running game, Quintez Cephus is someone to watch on balls over the top.
I also have plenty of concerns for Michigan State on the other side of the ball. As mentioned, Wisconsin has already pitched three shutouts this season. The Badgers win at the line of scrimmage and don’t give up much on the back end. For a Michigan State offense that needs to be methodical and lacks explosiveness, that figures to be a problem. I’m just not sure they’ll be able to sustain long drives or strike quickly. Brian Lewerke must have one of his better games to give the Spartans a chance. But his completion percentage has plummeted since the start of Big Ten play, which makes me nervous about him facing the Wisconsin defense.
In the end, I expect Wisconsin to keep dominating on both sides of the ball. The Badgers didn’t look past Kent State last week so I won’t worry about them looking past Michigan State this week. They’ll keep the Spartans to a low point total and should have no problem covering the 10.5-point spread.