1. Will the Real Badgers Please Stand Up?
While we have seen holes and sloppy play at times this year, we have also seen some very strong football. They have not made plays down the stretch in a few games and have played a tougher schedule than many, which has managed to cover this strength. They have also not managed to turn yards into points on a consistent basis, due to shaky special teams and not winning the turnover battles. For instance, many would be surprised to know that Wisconsin has a better total offense AND total defense than Michigan State (against a slightly stronger schedule). Which team we see remains to be seen.
2. Snaps for Ringer
MSU tailback Javon Ringer comes into play on Saturday as the most heralded opposition back the Badgers have faced to this point. However, Michigan State is only averaging 162 yards per game (7th in the Big Ten) and more importantly, just 3.8 yards per carry, which is 8th in the Big Ten. Ringer averages just 4.6 yards per carry, which is a fairly pedestrian average. However, the Spartans have given him the ball 300 times already, showing that their commitment to the run is unquestioned. I believe the Badgers can contain Ringer, but believe it is important to keep the MSU offensive snaps under control, as that is where he really starts making an impact. Keep him under 25 carries and I believe the Badgers win.
3. Mark Dell Going Vertical
Michigan State wideout Mark Dell is the Spartan's home run threat, averaging 21 yards per catch. With Wisconsin's pass rush being inconsistent at best, one must presume that QB Brian Hoyer will have time to deliver the ball. Allen Langford and the other Badger corners must prevent the speedy Dell from hitting on the home run, as they did with Illinois receiver Aurrelious Benn.
4. Trevor Anderson vs. Eric Vandenheuvel
With Gabe Carimi still looking doubtful, the Badgers have tentatively moved RT Eric Vandenheuvel to the left side where he matches up with the Spartans premier pass rusher in Trevor Anderson. Anderson is more compact in stature and relies on a good outside burst and should prove to be a challenge for the much larger Vandenheuvel.
5. Otis Wiley vs. Brad Nortman
In a game pitting two seemingly evenly matched teams, the old cliché of special teams and turnovers would seem to apply. On paper, I would give a slight edge to the Spartans in both categories. One area of worry is the inconsistently of Badger punter Nortman, kicking to a dangerous return man in MSU defensive back Otis Wiley. Nortman's numbers looked great last week, but while he did kick better, he also benefited from some kind rolls. A consistent effort is needed on Saturday.
On paper, I like this match-p better than I did last week's match-up against Illinois. I don't see anything special that should give the Badgers a unique headache. I think the team's match up incredibly evenly across the board and expect a very competitive game. Both teams will try to be balanced offensively, while both teams play the pass pretty well and are ok against the run. Turnovers and special teams, as always, will be key, and I think MSU gets the edge in both. On paper, I like Hoyer's decision making much better than Dustin Sherer's. Throw in the home field advantage along with MSU playing for higher stakes, and I give the Spartans a narrow victory 27-21.