EAST LANSING — Michigan State is hitting the road again this weekend to play the Wisconsin Badgers for the first time since 2016 and the first time in Madison since 2012.
The Spartans have won three of the previous five meetings, including a 16-13 overtime victory in their last matchup in Camp Randall Stadium.
Mark Dantonio is 4-4 in his tenure against Wisconsin (although they are 2-3 against AP-ranked Badgers during that time).
What were your preseason predictions? Did you see Wisconsin busting out of the gates like this? The Badgers have improved to 5-0 for the second time in three years.
I somewhat expected the Badgers to be in this spot but I didn’t expect them to win in such a dominating fashion to open the season. I thought the team would handle their business in the non-conference and squeak out the other two games because they were at home. However, I didnt see them winning their non-conference games 158-0 and dominating a top ten Michigan team the way they did. Overall, the team has looked really good but they’ve still got a long ways to go and this weekend will be another big test for them.
Jonathan Taylor tied a school record with five touchdowns in a single game, as well as the first Big Ten player to score five TDs in a game since former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry, rushed for 745, and scored 12 times on the ground (4 additional receiving touchdowns). Do you think he’s on his way to potentially win the Heisman? How will he perform against a stingy Spartan defense that prides itself on stopping the run?
I think he is certainly in the conversation for the Heisman, but despite the gaudy numbers I still think it may be a little difficult. The Heisman has kind of turned into a quarterback award as they’ve won 15 of the last 17 I believe. Taylor will be, and should be, in the running all season but I think it’s going to be hard for him to keep this pace up as you start to get bigger tests like Michigan State and Ohio State over the next three weeks. I think the biggest spurn in his campain will be how he performs in these two games. If he has that quote “Heisman moment” on a big stage, it certainly helps him continue to roll toward an invite.
Taylor will have to have another big game on Saturday as the passing game has not hit on all cylinders lately. In addition, weather appears like it will make it hard to throw the football. Dobbins found some holes when running the ball against that front seven, but that was in a spread look. Wisconsin will certainly have a test against MSU’s front seven, but so far they’ve passed every test so we will have to wait and see.
Wisconsin leads the FBS in scoring defense, limiting the opposition to just 5.8 points per game; in addition to three shutouts, they have given up just 29 points on the season. What are your expectations for them against Michigan State? Will they stifle a Spartan offense still trying to find their rhythm?
I think Wisconsin is going to come out and try and take away the run game. I know it hasn’t been MSU’s strength so far, but taking away the run game sets up Wisconsin to pin it’s ears back and force Brian Lewerke to beat them. If there’s area Wisconsin’s defense has had trouble a bit, it’s been the pass defense as they rank 8th in the nation instead of 1st (GASP). I might be in the minority but I think the passing attack of Lewerke and guys like Darrell Stewart will be the toughest test so far since Shea Patterson looked inept at QB against UW. I think forcing that phase to beat you is the best strategy given the advantage of having the weather on your side to hurt any passing games.
What can you tell Spartan nation about QB Jack Coan? He’s won his last seven starts, with the Badgers averaging 42.7 points in those games. He’s also completing 74.6% of his passes on the season, which is good enough for sixth among FBS players. How successful could he be against the MSU secondary?
I think Jack Coan is a really solid quarterback. He knows the offense, he has command of the huddle, and he takes care of the football. That’s something Wisconsin didn’t really have under Alex Hornibrook. Jack has faced a lot of doubters but thus far he’s proved them wrong. I think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for, but we’ll see what he looks like in the passing game against MSU. He’s been really efficient, but he hasn’t had to throw much the last two weeks.
Favorite match-up to watch this weekend?
I think the trenches are going to be fun to watch on both sides. Paul Chryst noted in his Monday presser that physicality is always prevalent when playing a Mark Dantonio team. I think both of those matchups will be fun to watch in a classic smashmouth Big Ten contest.
Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?
UW 20 MSU 10
I think the Badgers will do just enough on offense to win this game, and I think the defense at home with the weather assisting them slows down the Michigan State passing game. I could see this being even more low scoring, but for right now I give the slight edge to Wisconsin.