Today at high noon, we have the biggest game of the day in college football, with the Wisconsin Badgers heading to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans. It always seems when these two teams play each other, it always makes for an entertaining Big Ten battle. There will be no doubt that the same will be true this Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin took a while to wake up last week, while Michigan State took Notre Dame to the woodshed in their marquee matchup, but this is a game where you know the Badgers will not be coming out lazy with the stakes and bar raised high. Here are three things to watch for today’s game.
1. Wisconsin looks to shake off sluggish performance
You would think a team that started the season with a hard-fought victory over LSU and a blowout win over Akron would be hitting its stride in Week 3, but the Badgers looked like they were sleep-walking their way through a game last weekend against Georgia State. The Badgers’ offense was nowhere to be found against the Panthers and was held to a pair of field goals in the first half by the visiting Sun Belt squad. It was nothing too inspiring. Wisconsin even dug a hole in the second half and trailed 17-13 before coming up with some key plays to avoid a complete meltdown. The Badgers cannot afford to be so sloppy against Michigan State on the road. The Spartans are showing they will not make it easy for you if you miss on taking advantage of any opportunities you may have against them.
2. Where is the pressure from Michigan State’s defensive line?
When they needed big plays to be made against Notre Dame, the Spartans came through up front. But the pressure from Michigan State’s defensive front has been oddly missing the first three games of the season. Three games in, the Spartans have just three sacks, which is tied with Indiana for the second-fewest in the Big Ten (Purdue is at the bottom with one). Michigan State also is lacking in tackles for a loss with a mere 10.0 through three games. For the sake of comparison, Michigan State had the second most TFL among Big Ten teams last season with 95.0 and was third in the Big Ten with 37.0 sacks. Given Michigan State’s reputation, we can probably expect the Spartans will pick up the slack as the line continues to gel, but that may not come quickly against Wisconsin.
3. Wisconsin has lost four straight games in East Lansing
The last time Wisconsin made the trip to Spartan Stadium and left with a win was in 2002. The Badgers have run off with a loss in each of their four most recent trips to East Lansing, but only one of those games was a blowout loss. The last time Wisconsin made the trip resulted in Kirk Cousins unloading a Hail Mary for Michigan State win in the closing seconds, setting the stage for an epic rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game later that season. The last time Wisconsin won at Michigan State, Barry Alvarez was the head coach, Brooks Bollinger was the quarterback, and Anthony Davis was running the football. It’s been a while.