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Get to Know the Opponent: Wisconsin

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State (2-4) looks to tally the win column for the first time since the second week of the season as it prepares to face Wisconsin (3-3) on Saturday in East Lansing. Wisconsin comes into Spartan Stadium following a 42-7 victory over Northwestern, while MSU looks to defend its home turf after failing to do so against Ohio State in a 49-20 defeat.

School: University of Wisconsin

Nickname: Badgers

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Head Coach: Jim Leonhard takes over as the interim head coach after the Badgers fired Paul Chryst, who finished with a 67-26 record in his eighth season.

Series History: MSU leads 30-24. The last time these schools met, Wisconsin featured a stable of running backs headed by the reigning NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor en route to a 38-0 blowout win, the largest margin of victory in the series’ history.

Players to Watch

Wisconsin junior quarterback Graham Mertz, while underperforming thus far in his career with respect to his recruiting profile, holds career highs in completion percentage (64.3 percent) and touchdown throws (13) after only six games this year. He just shredded Northwestern for 299 yards and five touchdowns last week.

Sophomore running back Braelon Allen comes off a freshman season eclipsing 1,200 yards and has continued his solid performance this year, running for 634 and six scores, exactly on pace to match his freshman totals of 1,268 with 12 scores. He comes off 135 yards against Northwestern.

Mertz’s increased competence numbers-wise suggests Wisconsin will showcase more versatility than in past years, as the Badgers are traditionally viewed as a “ground and pound” unit. Wisconsin could follow in Minnesota’s footsteps, which, without its best wide receiver, came into Spartan Stadium and discarded its reputation as a run-first team in the first half to jump to and early advantage and never look back.

Pregame Trends

Wisconsin opened as a five-point favorite and is now listed as an even heavier road favorite now (-7.5). This is pretty telling considering the Spartans’ desperation status, as they seemingly need a victory for a chance at a postseason berth, and have home field advantage on homecoming weekend.


The numbers don’t lie, but Michigan State needs this one. The Spartans will capitalize on possibly the best home field influence MSU will see for the remainder of this season and extend hope for a bowl bid.