Saint-Dic, the highly thought of defensive end is finally putting together the big season that has been predicted for so long, leading the Big Ten in sacks. MSU as a team has sacked opposing quarterbacks an impressive 21 times so pass protection and down/distance management will be key (see key #2). As a said factor, how Donovan handles the expected pressure will be important.
2. PJ Hill on 1st Down
The Spartan defense is tops in the league on defense on third down. Wisconsin must run the ball effectively on first down to avoid these 3rd and longs. Hill is still under 5 YPC, which isn't special for an elite back, but Chryst can't wait until the second half to unleash the Badger hogs up front, even though MSU has allowed just 2.9 yards per carry.
3. We are due, Baby!
Wisconsin's highly thought of defense has forced just 3 turnovers in 4 games, all interceptions. This simply cannot continue if Wisconsin wishes to reach their goals and they will not beat the Spartans without forcing some turnovers.
MSU, behind gamebreaker Devin Thomas, ranks second in the Big Ten in kickoff returns. Wisconsin ranks first in kick coverage, though Mehlhaff was inconsistent last week. In an evenly matched games, special teams often impact the game and this is the matchup to watch.
5. Will the Real Wisconsin Badgers Please Stand Up
Wisconsin is still striving to put together a complete game in all phases. There comes a point at which they simply need to start acting like a great team rather than the good team they have shown to this point. The clock is ticking…
On paper, this looks like fairly even matchup between two mid tier Big Ten teams. Based on expections, that statement seems to fit the Spartans more than it fits for the Badgers, but as mentioned, they need to prove it on the field. Like last week, I think this will be a game that is defensive in nature. I don't think either team has a significant matchup they can exploit offensively, so issues like turnovers and special teams will determine the victor. I like Mehlhaff over Swenson at the kicking position and the experience of this Badger team, so I will go 24-17 Wisconsin.