The matchup: YOUR Michigan State Spartans vs. the Wisconsin Badgers
Kickoff: 8:17 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
The Line: Wisconsin by 10
It’s now about 12 hours before kickoff in one of the biggest games of the past decade for Michigan State football, but apparently no one told the Big Ten that Wisconsin is already going to the Rose Bowl, because they’re still insisting on holding the game.
In a detail unrelated to any of the football analysis that follows, I got in the car last night and someone on sports radio was talking about how Wisconsin was going to win. Fine. But when posed with the question, “How can MSU pull this off (again)?” said talking head replied with “Well, they’ll have to play good defense, and they’ll have to do it without cheating.” Look here sir. That defense gave up the fewest yards per game in the Big 10. Yes, even fewer than Wisconsin. They had no penalties in the first matchup. Just because you saw a YouTube video of William Gholston trying to give Denard Robinson a Swedish neck massage does not mean Michigan State has a defense full of cheaters. They have a defense full of beasts and head hunters.
On to the matchup! There are a few key points that will determine the outcome of this game, and I’m going to dig into them below. Quick summary: Running game, non-offensive scoring, pass pressure and emotional magnitude.
Key to victory 1: The running game. One thing most people seem to agree on is that running the ball will be of the utmost importance in this game. For the Spartans, this means they need to execute the running game better than they have at times this season and contain Montee “Moneyball” Ball. The key to Michigan State getting some significant yardage on the ground is it’s young offense line, which has recently shaped up into a decent blocking unit. If Le’veon Bell can get in the neighborhood of 100 yards, it should do wonders for the Spartans passing game and offensive rhythm.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State needs to exploit Wisconsin’s somewhat patchwork offensive line (more on this later). Montee Ball is a strong, tough back, but not extremely explosive and if MSU can take away the inside, Wisconsin will be forced to work him to the edges of the field, where he can be dangerous, but not lethal.