Five Keys to Victory: Michigan State

Top offenses and top defenses will occupy Spartan Stadium on Saturday as both No.4 Wisconsin and No.15 Michigan State are looking to add a signature win to its resume. With first place in each Big Ten division on the line, Badger Nation breaks down its five keys to a Wisconsin victory.

1. On the road again

At long last, the Badgers make their way to another college campus and a very uninviting one at that. Wisconsin has dropped its last three games in East Lansing, and the Spartans will be looking for revenge after missing out on the BCS last year. Composure will be the name of the game for the Badgers Saturday if Wisconsin is going to escape with a win.

2. Line vs. line

Historically, offensive line has been a big strength for UW. This year is no different as the running game has thrived and Russell Wilson has had plenty of time to work his passing magic. The 2011 version hasn't matched up against anything quite like the Spartans defensive line though. It was the d-line that prevented Ohio State from reaching 100 total yards until 54 minutes into the game. It's the d-line that is responsible for 3.5 sacks a game. It's mainly the d-line that can be credited with Michigan State's No.2 in the nation ranked defense. If there is a true strength vs. strength match-up, this is it, and the line that imposes their willpower will most likely belong to the winning team.

3. Mirror image

Power run game with the capability of breaking free in the open field? Check. Seasoned pocket quarterback with the ability to break outside and throw on the run? Check. Big plays off of the play-action pass? Check. We all know Wisconsin scores 100 percent on this quiz, but not as many realize MSU can claim the same. Kirk Cousins has seemingly been leading the Spartans for 6 or 7 years and Edwin Baker can bruise with the best of them. The Badgers defense would be wise to use what they've learned going up against the Badgers offense in practice to get an upper hand.

4. No Go-hlston

After letting his fist fly against arch-rival Michigan, sophomore defensive end Vernon Gohlston will be watching this game from the sidelines. While key No.2 still holds true, there may be an opening to exploit the absence of the prolific pass rusher. The Spartans defense rotates players often, however Gohlston was one of the quickest defensive ends they had. There may be more of an opening for a bootleg pass than there would have been with Gohlston chasing Wilson down.

5. The road to a title starts here

If Wisconsin wants to be considered a legit national title contender, it will need to take care of business Saturday. While a three-point squeaker might keep them as heavy Big Ten favorites, it might not impress voters and computers the way winning by 17 would. If the Badgers are going to jump the likes of Oklahoma, Boise State and Stanford, this is the place to do it.

Fearless Prediction

If the past is any indication, the Badgers offense might slow to a grind Saturday. The game against Notre Dame (albeit an improved Notre Dame) is any indication, the Spartans have some exploitable areas both on offense (inconsistent offensive line play) and defense (vulnerable corners). As bad as the Ohio State offense was against MSU, the Spartans offense was almost as bad, at least point-wise. With a top five scoring offense and defense, Wisconsin finds a way to win.

Wisconsin 27 Michigan State 24

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