MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 15: Russell Wilson #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs with the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers at Camp Randall Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Badgers won 59-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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SPOILER ALERT -- Wisconsin's offense so far has been really, really good. The Badger rushing attack, composed mainly of running backs Montee Ball and James White, have both averaged at or above 6.0 yards a carry. The team as a whole has averaged 5.87 yards per carry so far, good for 8th in the nation.
And I haven't even gotten to Russell Wilson yet. I doubted whether he could make the transition from the do-everything role he had to play at NC State to the master distributor role he's now playing at Wisconsin, but he's convinced me and then some. Wilson's currently leading the nation in pass efficiency (210.94), is fourth in completion percentage (74.2%), and has a yards per attempt that is divine (12.2, 1st in the nation and 1.5 yards above 2nd place). As if that's not enough, he's also averaging 7.6 yards a carry as well, first among players on Wisconsin that have more than two runs a game.
After the jump, three ways that the Spartans can game plan for Wisconsin's explosive offense.
- Don't sell out against the run. While it may seem tempting given the Badgers' current and historical success on the ground, that's what they want you do. There's a reason why Wisconsin is tied for fifth among BCS teams for passing plays of 30 yards per greater, and it's called one on one coverage thanks to opposing defenses putting eight men in the box. While Wisconsin is eighth in the nation in yards per attempt another Michigan State opponent, Notre Dame, is seventh with 5.97 yards per attempt. Michigan State held them 2.41 yards below the Irish's season average at 3.56 yards per carry. MSU's proven they can stymie a high-caliber rushing attack, they shouldn't compromise their pass coverage to do so.
- Treat Russell Wilson as one would any drop-back passer. While Wilson has averaged 7.8 yards per carry, he's only ran 24 times this year, with 4 or 5 of those (help! I know Joe Brennan has taken a few of the 8 sacks allowed by Wisconsin this year, but I don't know exactly. Please and thank you.) being sacks. While his running ability should definitely be respected, it shouldn't be emphasized to the point where a spy is used to keep that ability in check. I'm much more concerned about the big passes from Wilson than I am the big runs.
- DON'T GIVE UP THE BIG PASS YOU HEAR ME DON'T GIVE UP THE BIG PASS As you've read earlier, Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the NCAA in completing passes of more than 30 yards (15, tied for fifth), more than 40 yards (9, tied for sixth), and more than 50 yards (4, tied for tenth). The good here is that Michigan State is the best team in the FBS at preventing pass play of more than 10 yards and 20 yards. While part of this can be attributed to playing subpar opponents and quarterbacks of dubious passing ability, they did a decent job of keeping Tommy Rees in check. However, I don't think I'm making that big of an assumption by stating that Russell Wilson >>> Rees, and the secondary will have to play focused on every snap.
Three easy steps right? Also, don't have a turnover margin of -3 like last game. That almost put a damper on things.