Michigan State Musings from Maragos

Former Wisconsin safety Chris Maragos knows all about suffering tough losses, only to get motivated by them heading into the next season. After losing a heartbreaker at Michigan State in 2008, Maragos and Wisconsin bounced back in 2009 to pay back the Spartans, something this year's Wisconsin team is looking to do on Saturday.

MADISON - Sometimes a bad loss sticks in the mind longer than a good win. The bad loss fuels a player, makes him push harder and think about that shortcoming all week if and when the two teams meet again.

For former safety Chris Margaos, Michigan State falls in one of those categories. Up 11 points in East Lansing with nine minutes to go, Wisconsin couldn't hold the lead and lost in spectacular fashion on a last second field goal, one of the many forgettable moments from the 2008 season. That loss, along with five others, fueled Wisconsin and Maragos in the offseason and during game weeks. How sweet it was then when the Badgers washed that Spartans stink out of their mouth in the 2009 conference opener with a 38-30 victory.

Wisconsin lost only two games last season, the conference opener at Michigan State and the Rose Bowl to TCU. One of the consensuses in the postgame locker room Saturday was that the Spartans' loss hurt more, and the Badgers were thankful to the conference schedule makers for allowing Wisconsin to head back to East Lansing this week for a shot at redemption.

In our weekly feature, Maragos talks about his impressions from the defense, getting motivated after a bad loss and how Spartans Stadium is a weird place to play.

BN: Wisconsin has seven turnovers in the last three games. Confidence is everything for a football player, and can you tell that these guys are playing with a ton of confidence to go out and make a play?

Maragos: Those turnovers come in bunches and that seems to be the case. The first two games of the year, they just weren't getting many looks. They were getting balls thrown their way or enough opportunities to play the ball, but you've really seen them make some great plays on the ball over the last couple weeks. That's just the way the game goes sometimes.

BN: Going back to your senior year in the opener, you make that deflection at the end of the Northern Illinois game to preserve the victory. The next week against Fresno State, how much confidence did you have in overtime when the ball was thrown your way that you were going to pick that pass off? Is that the confidence you are talking about that you made one play and you can make more?

Maragos: Yep. I think that when you get around the ball, you get a good feel for it. You get a rhythm and get comfortable more. You get that itch where you want it more and you try to put yourself in the best positions possible. A lot of times as a defensive back, you have to be in the right coverage against the right play call and the quarterback has to throw it your way and you have to make a great play on it. There are a lot of factors that got in to an interception and getting turnovers. That's why I always say to run the defense the best you can and don't worry about the turnovers. If you are playing solid defense and not giving up a lot of points, the turnovers will come when they come.

BN: As a competitor, how long does a loss sit with you, especially a loss like the Iowa you're your senior year or last year's Michigan State game when the loss occurred basically Wisconsin shot itself frequently in the foot?

Maragos: You know, you don't want to let it affect but while you don't want it to affect you, you still know and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Believe me, as the guys are game planning this week, they are going to know and remember. They are going to want to make sure they handle their business because they know what happened last year and they want to make sure that it doesn't happen again this year.

BN: How much fun was 2009 and your team's revenge tour after the tough 2008 season, especially beating Michigan and Michigan State after your tough losses the year before?

Maragos: It's huge, specifically for these guys this week. They want to make sure they handle their business and do it in a way that's very thorough. As you go on, it's extremely gratifying and a great feeling know you put in the preparation for an opponent that you lost to the year before. Those (wins) were great feelings, especially the Michigan game on Senior Day. You definitely have a great feeling and redemption to describe the feeling of that.

BN: Wisconsin hasn't won at Michigan State since 2002. Are you surprised by that?

Maragos: Wow. It's such a weird place to play in. When you are there, you are obviously revved up, but they play us really well there. I am surprised because of all the great teams Wisconsin has had in the 2000s. It's a big-small stadium. It's not really big crowd and it's not usually a riled up crowd. In years past, Michigan State is a big team but they aren't the big team like an Ohio State or a Michigan or an Iowa game. I don't want to say coast or relaxing but you get into a weird groove in the game. Michigan State handles its business there and it's kind of hard to put your finger on it.

BN: What's the hardest thing about your first Big Ten road game? What's toughest about being at home for so long and establishing that momentum only to take it on the road?

Maragos: It's a hostile environment and it definitely doesn't make things easy to know you are playing a good team away from your crowd. You almost have to be twice as good to be equal to them when you are playing a great team in their home stadium. You have to be sure you are riding the momentum and that you really handle the plays, because you have to be detailed because you are at somebody else's stadium. You really have to be honed in to what you are trying to execute because the littlest thing can swing the momentum and dictate the things in the game. Look at the Michigan game in 2008. We were beating them, doing great and one things leads to another and we lose that game.

BN: Bret Bielema mentioned that one of the things that the team will have to deal with this week is playing on natural grass. Is there a real big difference between playing on grass and FieldTurf and if so, what is it?

Maragos: It sounds kind of goofy, but there is a difference, especially for the guys at the skill positions. When you are used to cutting on the turf, you are getting a true break every time. The turf slides a little bit, but it sticks to the ground. When you are on grass, there is unevenness at some points, which the grass might give way or tear off. It's a whole different thing where you have to be focused on your footwork and different things to make sure you are getting great footing.

BN: Michigan State is 5-1, having national exposure with College Game Day and are looking to show they belong in Big Ten title conversation. Wisconsin is 6-0 with national title hopes. Who has more to prove in this game?

Maragos: It's bigger for Wisconsin, just because of what's at stake for those guys. When you look at the rest of their schedule and what they can accomplish for this year, it's a really big game. It's also a big thing because they need to handle some more adversity. Nebraska was a better opponent but now they are on the road and they will really be put to the fire. When you come out victorious in those situations, you will only get stronger and will help them for where they want to go this year.

BN: Wisconsin has beaten every team on its schedule by at least 31 points and is 8.5-point favorites Saturday. What's your pick for Saturday to move to a perfect 7-0?

Maragos: Definitely Wisconsin because I think they are the clear-cut favorite. I look at Michigan not being really that of a team and Michigan State was able to handle them. I really look at a couple points for the game and really where the deciding factor of this game is going to lie is in the trenches and it will be really interesting to see where our offensive line matches up against their defensive line. I think the Badgers have an edge in every other position but it's going to be interesting to see that one. I think Wisconsin wins 38-24.

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