No, this isn't an 1807 US Senate debate between Henry Clay (WH – KY) and George Jones (R – GA). It is the head on collision of Big Ten offensive player of the year and Big Ten defensive player of the year. Michigan State, thanks to senior linebacker Greg Jones, has been stout against the run this year, giving up only 85 yards per game. However, they haven't faced an elite back like John Clay (or even a good back like James White). On the flip side, Clay is fifth in the nation in total yards (501) despite being pulled early in multiple games and being limited due to off-season ankle surgery. Clay racked up 142 yards and a score last year and carried three times for 52 yards and a score at MSU two years ago, and another strong performance will go a long way towards the Badgers coming out of East Lansing with a win.
2. Aerial Assault
Last year, the MSU quarterback tandem lit up the Badger secondary for almost 400 yards. Wisconsin managed a respectable 243. While Wisconsin's secondary seems to be improved, the Michigan State offense has as well. Michigan State has one of the Big Ten's most talented receiving corps, and it will be the first big test for the back four/five. On the flip side, MSU secondary has looked every bit as porous as Wisconsin's did last season and the Badgers bring a talented group in their own right, led by Nick Toon in his first game of 2010.
3. Key 3 – Keshawn
The leader in all-purpose yards? Denard Robinson. Duh. But number two wears the green and white. Keshawn Martin does a little bit of everything, tallying 59 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards, 102 punt return yards and 201 kickoff return yards. The Badgers face their first dynamic return man since the Arizona State debacle and we'll see just how much coach Bret Bielema's changes on special teams have improved things. He's no slouch as a receiver either and slowing down the passing game starts here.
4. Attack of the Killer B's
No, it's not Bagwell-Biggio-Berkman, but the duo of Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell has created a big buzz around East Lansing. The duo has racked up 845 rushing yards in four games, terrorizing front sevens to the tune of 8.0 yards per carry. Again, the Spartans have yet to face a defense with a pulse, (go ahead, try to say Notre Dame can stop someone) but the sophomore/freshman duo has to have the attention of Dave Doeren.
5. Home Cooking
The last five games in the series have gone to the home team. A game in Camp Randall would have the Badgers as a significant favorite. In East Lansing, the line is trending towards pick ‘em. In their first true road test of 2010, the Badgers will have to keep focused in what will be a raucous atmosphere.
Nothing fearless about it, but I think the Badgers can escape with a win. Michigan State's passing attack is similar to last year, but the improved running game might have them running the ball more. Lists of the Badgers' strengths on defense usually aren't started with "secondary," so any reduction in passing attempts could actually improve their chances, even with dynamic MSU running backs.
Wisconsin 38 Michigan State 34