Breakdown: Michigan State

In the first meeting between the two programs in Madison since 2009 and the last in the regular season until 2017, Wisconsin and Michigan State look to add another memorable chapter to its growing rivalry. Badger Nation breaks down and predicts the match-up.

Michigan State (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, October 27 at 2:30 p.m. CT

Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/Grass)

Television – ABC/ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham and Jeannine Edwards)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Michigan State leads 29-22 (Series tied 13-13 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 42-39, on December 3, 2011 in Indianapolis

Last week's Badger Nation game coverage

Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

Since snapping an eight-game losing streak against the Spartans with a 1993 win in Tokyo, Japan, Wisconsin is 10-6 against MSU.

Though the all-time series in Madison is tied at 13-13, UW has won five of the last six meetings with Michigan State at Camp Randall, dating back to 1995.

The Badgers have won seven of the last eight games between the teams played outside of East Lansing, including a 42-39 win in the 2011 Big Ten Football Championship Game.

The Badgers have two Michigan natives on their roster: OL Zac Matthias (Hemlock) and TE Jacob Pedersen (Menominee)

Three Spartans hail from the state of Wisconsin: RB Marcus Horne (Milwaukee), NT Mark Scarpinato (Milwaukee) and CB Trae Waynes (Kenosha).

Michigan State offensive coordinator Dan Roushar (1998-2002) and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi (2000-02) both served on the Northern Illinois coaching staff with UW offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who succeeded Roushar as the Huskies' offensive coordinator in 2003. Wisconsin assistant coach Thomas Hammock was a running back for the Huskies from 1999-2002.

Spartans defensive line coach Ted Gill was UW head coach Bret Bielema's position coach while Bielema played on the defensive line at Iowa from 1990-92.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin has been ranked in 18 of the last 19 BCS standings, dating back to the final edition of the 2009 season.

Wisconsin is 24-6 in its last 30 games. Each of the Badgers' six losses — including two to Michigan State — have come by seven points or less, with an average margin of 4.2 points (25 total points).

Montee Ball and James White have both eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of the Badgers' last two games, racking up a combined 712 rushing yards in that span. The duo have both rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game five times in the past three seasons.

Wisconsin has held 16 of its last 22 opponents to fewer than 18 points, going 15-1 in those games.

The Badgers have allowed just five rushing touchdowns this season. UW is one of five teams in the nation to allow five rushing TDs or fewer through its first eight games, joining Utah State (1), Michigan State (3), Florida State (4) and BYU (5).

Opponents are converting just 27.5 percent of their third-down attempts this season, which ranks the Badgers No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten in third-down defense. Florida State leads the nation at 23.2 percent.

Michigan State Notes

Since 2010, Michigan State has won 15 Big Ten games, trailing only Wisconsin (16) in conference victories.

Michigan State has lost consecutive Big Ten games in the same season for the first time since October 2009 (vs. Iowa, 13-15; and at Minnesota, 34-42).

Through eight games, the Spartans have surrendered nine offensive touchdowns (three rushing, six passing) – the sixth-fewest allowed in the NCAA FBS.

Junior running back Le'Veon Bell ranks second in the Big Ten and 11th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing, averaging 123.0 yards per game in 2012. With 984 rushing yards, Bell needs just 16 yards to reach the 1,000-yard milestone for the first time in his career. He also ranks second in the nation in carries (226), third in rushing yards (984) and 21st in all-purpose yards (146.1 ypg.).

Over the last three seasons, Michigan State is 11-4 (.733) in games decided by 10 points or less, including a 2-3 record in 2012. The only losses have come against Wisconsin in the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game (42-39) along with Ohio State (17-16), Iowa (19-16 in 2OT) and Michigan (12-10) in 2012.


Michigan State's offensive woes started the minute Kirk Cousins leapt into Mark Dantonio's arms in Tampa after beating Georgia in the Outback Bowl last January 1. Why? Because not only was Cousins, Michigan State's emotional leader for the past three seasons, heading to the NFL, he was taking B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol with him into the sunset, leaving behind Le'Veon Bell and a whole lot of question marks.

Unlike a lot of teams around the country who have overcome personnel losses, Michigan State's offense still is searching for its identity. Held under 24 points in six of its eight games and under 17 points in three of its four conference games, the Spartans rank 109th in the country, averaging just 19.6 points per game.

Still, Wisconsin isn't fooled, especially with Bell having rushed for at least 75 yards in the two team's last three meetings.

"Bell is one of the best running backs in the Big Ten, if not the country," said senior cornerback Devin Smith. "He's a very explosive player. They have the abilities to make plays. It shows up on film."

The last three meetings have also been marred by the Spartans' ability to convert on third downs, as the Spartans have converted 51.1 percent (24-for-47) in the last three meetings against Wisconsin. In the team's last meeting, Bell was responsible for three of Michigan State's seven third-down conversions.

Big plays have also been a killer in this series, as Wisconsin has allowed five scoring plays over 30 yards in the last three meetings. That point has been driven home this week to a Wisconsin secondary that either witnessed it in person or, in Smith's case, on his couch while recovering from a broken foot.

"It was very frustrating not being able to be out there and help my team," said Smith. "It's the first time I have sat out a year of football since I was five years old. It was hard watching all the games, but I felt like we learned from those mistakes and we've definitely moved on. Something that was really evident over the last three meetings has been big plays."

Big plays, missed tackles and defensive breakdowns were a cancer in Wisconsin's first five games. Starting the season 3-2, Wisconsin gave up 19 plays that went over 20 yards (3.8 per game). On Wisconsin's three-game winning streak, the Badgers have given up only eight of those plays (2.7) and none against Minnesota.

"I think we are a lot stronger unit, just the fact that we have experience and a lot of confidence out there," said Smith. "We've been around each other the past three, four years and we are a close knit group. We understand our roles and seniors have to play their best football for the team to be successful."

The statistics back that up. Trough eight games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing 17.8 points per game, a mark that ranks the Badgers fourth in the Big Ten and 21st nationally. UW is 45-3 under Bret Bielema when holding teams to 20 points or fewer.

In three road games, Michigan State is averaging only 14.7 points per game, and Andrew Maxwell hasn't gotten much support. The fourth-year junior has connected on 65-of-105 passes (.619) for 757 yards, five TDs and one interception. His road passing totals rank among the best for Big Ten quarterbacks: first in passing yards (252.3 ypg.), tied for first in TD passes (5) and second in passing efficiency (136.3 rating).

But without dynamic receivers that can make a lot of one-on-one plays and a consistent rushing attack, Michigan State has seen productive slip against good (and not so good) defenses. In my eyes, Wisconsin has an above-average defense, which is the big reason, I think, Vegas has tabbed the Badgers as six-point favorites.

Smith believes Wisconsin's secondary can play even better and I think Wisconsin's secondary will continue creating turnovers. Joel Stave will struggle against the Spartans' top-notch defense, but Montee Ball and James White will make enough plays to push Wisconsin to 7-2.

Wisconsin 24, Michigan State 21

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 7-1

Against the Spread: 6-1

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