5 to Watch: Wisconsin Offense

BadgerNation.com presents five players on offense that Michigan State fans should keep an eye on when the teams square off on Saturday afternoon.

Note: BadgerNation.com publisher Benjamin Worgull offers five key players to watch for Spartans fans as Michigan State travels to Wisconsin for a Saturday afternoon battle.

#1 – RB: Montee Ball (5-11, 215 Sr.)
After finishing fourth in last year's Heisman Trophy voting, it's not surprising that the offense's key player is Ball. After running for 166 yards and two touchdowns in UW's win over Minnesota, Ball registered the 23rd multiple-touchdown game of his career (NCAA record is 25). Ball ranks No. 4 nationally with 982 rushing yards this season. Since November 1, 2010 when Ball became the starting running back (a span of 27 games), Ball has scored 66 touchdowns and averaged 136.4 rushing yards per game. In his last 17 Big Ten games, Ball has scored 51 touchdowns (an average of 3.0 per game), with at least two TDs in each contest.

Against Michigan State last season, Ball ran for over 100 yards in both meetings and scored a combined six touchdowns.

#2 – RB: James White (5-10, 197 Jr.)
What makes Wisconsin really dangerous is that when Ball isn't performing, the Badgers can hand the ball off to White with similar results. Against Minnesota when Ball was off to a slow start, White found his rhythm early, and finished with 175 yards and three touchdowns. Wisconsin became the first FBS team to have two 150-yard rushers in the same game this season.

White currently owns the best rushing average in UW history at 6.12 yards per carry, placing him ahead of Ron Dayne's school record of 5.84. White ranks fifth nationally among active players with his average of 6.12 yards per carry.

#3 – WR: Jared Abbrederis (6-2, 188 Jr.)
Wisconsin's best downfield threat, without question, is Abbrederis, who leads Big Ten at 89.6 receiving yards per game. Among Big Ten players, only Penn State's Allen Robinson (8) and Ohio State's Devin Smith (7) have pulled in more touchdown receptions than Abbrederis' five TD grabs this season. Abbrederis' average of 19.0 yards per reception ranks fourth in the Big Ten and is 11th nationally among players with at least 25 catches. With no other receiver really stepping up to plate, Abbrederis' play is vital for Wisconsin if it wants to balance its offense.

#4 – QB: Joel Stave (6-5, 219 Fr.)
Leading the Big Ten in pass efficiency rating in conference play at 142.1, Stave is 47-for-84 with four touchdowns and two interceptions in Big Ten play and is averaging 188.0 yards per league game. While those numbers are good, Stave has struggled with his passing and accuracy the last two games – throwing for only 176 yards at Purdue and just 106 yards against Minnesota. Fortunately the running game has carried the load, but Stave will be seeing a top-notch defense for the first time this weekend. With the amount of blitzes and different looks the Spartans likely will throw at him, this will be his biggest test to date.

#5 – OL: Ryan Groy (6-5, 318 Jr.)
Groy is the most versatile player on Wisconsin's offensive line – having played every position on the line (except right tackle) and has lined up at fullback and tight end throughout his tenure. With the health of Ricky Wagner in question, Groy could start his second straight game at left tackle after moving over from left guard. With Michigan State having two of the best defensive ends in the conference, Groy will be tested unlike he has ever been tested before.


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