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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

After being thoroughly beaten by the Ohio State Buckeyes last week, Michigan State has another tough road test this weekend. The Spartans travel to Madison to play the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday afternoon, and yes, it is homecoming for the Badgers, so that’s fun. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Wisconsin is rolling right now, with a perfect 5-0 record. The Badgers are yet to give up more than two touchdowns in a game. Michigan State comes into the contest with a 4-2 overall record, including a 2-1 mark in Big Ten play.

Game preview, commence:

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2019 Record — 4-2 (2-1 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 392.2 total yards, 260.5 passing yards, 131.7 rushing yards

Defense (per game average) — 299.7 total yards allowed, 199.33 passing yards allowed, 100.3 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 167 (27.83 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 109 (18.17 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 18th

2019 Record — 5-0 (2-0 Big Ten)

Offense (per game average) — 456.8 total yards, 202.8 passing yards, 254.0 rushing yards

Defense (per game average)— 178.6 yards allowed, 131.0 passing yards allowed, 47.6 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored: 217 (43.4 ppg)

Cumulative Points Allowed: 29 (5.8 ppg)

Current S&P+ Ranking: 6th

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 30-23
Current streak: Wisconsin with one win
Last Michigan State Win: Oct. 27, 2012 (16-13)
Last Wisconsin Win: Sept. 24, 2016 (30-6)
Michigan State all-time record: 705-461-44 (.601)
Wisconsin all-time record: 710-495-53 (.585)

Previous Game Results

Ohio State 34, Michigan State 10

Despite fumbling its first two possessions away, Michigan State hung with Ohio State...for one quarter. It was a 3-0 Buckeyes lead after the first, then the OSU coaching staff made adjustments and it was all over. Ohio State outscored Michigan State 24-10 in the second quarter, and then there wasn’t much scoring from either side after that (the Buckeyes would score seven more in the fourth quarter). It looked like we might have had a game on our hands when Brian Lewerke hit Darrell Stewart Jr. on a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, which made the score 10-7 in the Buckeyes’ favor, but that was all of the excitement on the Spartans’ end. MSU had opportunities, but couldn’t execute. J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields ran all over the defense.

On to the next one...

Wisconsin 48, Kent State 0

Wisconsin dominated yet another Mid-American conference opponent in Kent State. In two games versus MAC foes, the Badgers have outscored Kent State and Central Michigan 109-0 (they’ve outscored Big Ten opponents 59-29). As expected, Jonathan Taylor ran all over the Golden Flashes with 186 yards on just 19 carries (9.8 ypc) and five total touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Coan didn’t have to do much heavy lifting, but was efficient throwing the football, as he completed 12 of 15 passes for 134 yards and two scores. The Wisconsin defense held Kent State to just 124 yards and 10 first downs in the entire game. The Golden Flashes converted a first down just twice on 11 third down attempts. This game went exactly as expected.

Wisconsin now gears up for homecoming and is putting a strong emphasis on a family-like atmosphere at Camp Randall:

Key Matchups

Jonathan Taylor versus Michigan State front seven: This is the matchup that is most important for the MSU defense to stop, or at least contain. Taylor is tied for third in the nation with 745 rushing yards, and tied for second in the nation with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Badgers are not a passing team, so if MSU can stifle the rushing attack and force Coan to beat them, then the chances for a win go up exponentially. Of course, generating a push in the trenches against that offensive line and stopping Taylor is much easier said than done, but if anybody can do it, it’s guys like Raequan Williams, Mike Panasiuk and Kenny Willekes.

Brian Lewerke/MSU receivers versus Wisconsin secondary: Yes, Wisconsin does in fact lead the nation in passing defense, giving up only 131 yards through the air per game. Lewerke — for the most part — has been sharp this season. Despite a couple of clear mistakes, Lewerke played fairly well against a very good Ohio State defense. He has his work cut off for him once again against this UW defense. It will be important for wide receivers Cody White, Darrell Stewart Jr. and C.J. Hayes to try to get separation from the defensive backs, but that is no easy feat. However, Wisconsin has not faced many strong passing attacks so far this season, so Lewerke and company could test them.

Battle of the trenches: As many football games go, this game will be decided by who is able to control the line of scrimmage. We’ve already talked about Wisconsin’s running . prowess, but on the other side of the ball, MSU has to get its own running game going with Elijah Collins and control the time of possession. In addition to that, the Spartans have to slow down a Wisconsin pass rush that ranks eighth in the nation with 21 sacks. This is a tall order against arguably the best offensive line in the NCAA, and an almost equally impressive defensive line, but Michigan State’s only chance to win this game is by controlling the trenches.

Game Info

Time: 3:30 p.m. (EST)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison
Weather expectations: Mostly Sunny, high of 49 degrees, winds southwest at 17 miles per hour
Line: Wisconsin -10.5


While they don’t play each other every year, these two storied programs are quite familiar with one other and have given us some great moments throughout the years. With that said, MSU has not defeated Wisconsin since 2012, although this will be just the second meeting between the Spartans and Badgers since then.

The 2019 Wisconsin squad looks strong and has dominated just about every team it has played, outscoring its cumulative opponents by a ridiculous mark of 217 points for versus just 29 points against (with three shutouts). This team is in the top-11 in the NCAA in scoring offense, rushing offense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. But the Badgers haven’t really been challenged yet, and MSU could very well be the team to push them. The Spartans’ defense, despite its struggles the past two weeks, is still amongst the most talented units in the nation. The one area the Badgers are not strong in is passing offense, so if MSU’s front seven can take away the rushing attack from Wisconsin, the Spartans can control the game. Again, it’s equally important for the MSU offense to control the ball, control the clock and limit the time the Wisconsin rushing attack is on the field.

I am absolutely expecting a classic Big Ten battle with a lot of run plays, a lot of defense, a decent amount of hard hits and a limited amount of points. I could see this game coming down to the wire where a last second field goal wins it (come on, Matt Coghlin, it’s your time to shine).

For more on Wisconsin, check out our “Get to Know the Opponent” piece.

How are we feeling, Spartans Nation?


Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Michigan State
    (60 votes)
  • 59%
    (89 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now