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Previewing MSU vs. Wisconsin

Looking at the numbers and key's to Saturday's game in Madison.

Gregory Shamus

Game Time: 3:30 PM
Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
Radio: Spartan Sports Network
Online streaming: ESPN3 (only outside of Midwest)
Opponent Blog: Bucky's Fifth Quarter
Game Week Q&A: Here
Tickets: Here
Forecast: 47 degrees, sunny
Line: Wisconsin -6.5

Still fighting for bowl eligibility, the Spartans head to Madison for what many expected to be the toughest game of the season. For their part, the Badgers are about to lock up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. MSU has lost three Big Ten games by a total of six points, and things aren't getting any easier. The Badgers are riding a long home winning streak, while the Spartans are desperate for anything. Can MSU pick up a huge win?

Wisconsin's season to date (6-2, 3-1): W 26-21 vs. Northern Iowa, L 10-7 at Oregon State, W 16-14 vs. Utah State, W 37-26 vs. UTEP, L 30-27 vs. Nebraska, W 31-14 vs. Illinois, W 38-14 at Purdue, W 38-13 vs. Minnesota

By the numbers:

21: Wisconsin's current home winning streak, which is the second-longest active one in the nation, behind LSU.

3: Montee Ball has averaged three touchdowns per game in his last 17 Big Ten games

402: Wisconsin has averaged 402 rushing yards per game over the last two games.

100.2: Rushing yards per game allowed by MSU this season, which leads the Big Ten and is 13th in the nation.

40: The Badgers have won 40 straight home games against unranked opponents.

2001: The last time MSU won at Camp Randall Stadium (42-28).

1: Touchdown allowed by MSU's defense over the last two games.

2: Touchdowns scored by MSU's offense over the last two games.

277.1: Total yards per game allowed by MSU's defense, which is No. 5 in the county.

315.6: Total yards per game allowed by Wisconsin's defense, which is No. 18 in the country.

6 and 10: The last six games between these teams have been decided by 10 points or less, with five within one score.

Three keys for MSU:

Stop the run: It's obviously Wisconsin's bread and butter. Not only is Ball back in form, but James White is coming off a monster game. Don't be surprised to see the Badgers use their new "Barge" formation, with seven offensive linemen, two tight ends and two running backs.

Big plays: MSU actually got quite a few deeps balls off against Michigan, and connected on at least one. If Andrew Maxwell can get enough time, the receivers finally got some separation. The Badgers have given up four plays of 50+ yards this season, and have been prone to give up some big plays. According to our friends at Bucky's 5th Quarter, the wheel route has killed them. MSU has two running backs who catch well, so we'll see if that's in the gameplan.

Get pressure with front four: This certainly is wishful thinking, but it would obviously go a long way. If MSU can get pressure with the front four, or at least take on their blocks, it will allow the linebackers more freedom and to plug up the other gaps to help stop the run.

Three keys for Wisconsin:

Keep rumbling: The rushing numbers are above, but after a rough start, the Badgers have put up some incredible games, bad defenses or not. MSU's rush defense has been superb this season, but Wisconsin always has one of the top offensive lines in the country.

Turnovers: The eight turnovers gained by Wisconsin are the second-fewest in the conference. Given MSU's offensive struggles, you don't want to give them any help with a short field off a turnover. Meanwhile, After going more than 200 passes without an interception, Andrew Maxwell has thrown one in each of the last two games.

Hold the line: MSU is going to blitz, we know that. In 2010, the pressure from Greg Jones got there. In two games last year, it mostly didn't. MSU's front four hasn't gotten much pressure on its own. If the young Joel Stave is given plenty of time, he'll make the throws.

Prediction: 17-14 MSU

Not really sure why I went with this prediction. I guess I just think MSU hasn't gotten much luck this year, and they'll finally make enough plays to win one we don't expect them to. As with my Michigan prediction, if the Badgers get off to a quick start, I don't see MSU climbing out (like they did twice last year). I just think Wisconsin's insane numbers are a result of playing terrible defenses, and MSU's will be much better.

Despite playing similar styles and having defense built to stop the other type of offense, these teams tend to put up a lot of points on each other. I think the defenses finally keep this one low-scoring, as both offenses have some big flaws. I think MSU's defense keeps this one close, the offense gets a couple of big plays for scores, and the defense finally get the stop at the end.