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Game Preview: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Michigan State Spartans

Marvin Hall/The Only Colors

Michigan State currently sits with a 2-4 record overall, and a winless mark in Big Ten play. The Spartans are looking to break a horrid four-game losing streak in which MSU has been defeated by double-digits in each contest.

Michigan State’s next opportunity to get a much-needed win comes this weekend in East Lansing as the Spartans host the Wisconsin Badgers (3-3). The game is scheduled to kick off at 4:05 p.m. Eastern Time and will broadcast on FOX.

The contest will also mark Michigan State University’s 106th Homecoming game, so there should be many alumni and supporters in the stands cheering on the Spartans, despite the team’s struggles.

For the second week in a row, Michigan State is a home underdog. Wisconsin enters the game favored by seven points, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook.

While Michigan State is reeling right now, Wisconsin has had its issues, too, recently firing head coach Paul Chryst after a 2-3 start. However, in interim head coach Jim Leonhard’s debut, the Badgers dominated the Northwestern Wildcats by a final score of 42-7.

Can Wisconsin carry that momentum into Spartan Stadium, or will Michigan State finally get a win in conference play? A preview of the matchup is below.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2022 Record — 2-4 (0-3 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 342.3 total yards, 235 passing yards, 107.3 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 445.5 total yards allowed, 292 passing yards allowed, 153.5 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 155 (25.83 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 162 (27.0 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 58th

2022 Record — 3-3 (1-2 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 409.1 total yards, 235.5 passing yards, 173.6 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 320.5 yards allowed, 203.5 passing yards allowed, 117 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 191 (31.83 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 117 (19.5 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 28th

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 30-24
Current streak: Wisconsin has won two games in a row
Last Michigan State win: Oct. 27, 2012 (16-13)
Last Wisconsin win: Oct. 12, 2019 (38-0)
Michigan State all-time record: 723-476-44 (.599)
Wisconsin all-time record: 731-509-53 (.586)

Uniform Watch:

Michigan State:

It’s time for the script “State” helmets! The green helmets feature a white stripe down the center with white script “State” text on each side and a white face mask. The jerseys are green with white lettering and numbering, while the pants are white.

A closer look:


No word on Wisconsin’s uniforms yet, but I would expect white helmets, white top and red pants.

Previous Game Results

Ohio State 49, Michigan State 20

It started better than anticipated for Michigan State, but finished as expected with a blowout victory by Ohio State.

Ohio State struck first, taking its opening possession of the game into the end zone as quarterback C.J. Stroud found wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. on a 19-yard touchdown strike. The Buckeyes led 7-0 early.

It was actually Michigan State’s much-maligned defense that answered, though, as cornerback Charles Brantley intercepted a pass from Stroud and it took it to the house. The game was tied at 7-7.

The Buckeyes responded immediately, however, as Stroud hooked up with wide receiver Emeka Egbuka on a 69-yard touchdown play. OSU regained a first quarter lead at 14-7.

In the second quarter, Ohio State extended its lead to 21-7 after a 51-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to wide receiver Julian Fleming. Michigan State answered, though, as quarterback Payton Thorne found wide receiver Jayden Reed for an 18-yard score. After a missed extra point, the score was 21-13 in OSU’s favor.

It was all Buckeyes from there. Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson found the end zone, and Stroud connected with Harrison once again put OSU up 35-13 by halftime.

The Buckeyes continued to pour it on, scoring on the first possession of the second half, thanks to yet another touchdown pass from Stroud to Harrison. Already up 42-13, Ohio State added another touchdown for good measure. This time, Stroud hit tight end Gee Scott Jr. for the score and OSU took a 49-13 lead in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was mostly uneventful, but Michigan State backup quarterback Noah Kim did connect with wide receiver Montorie Foster Jr. for a late touchdown. The score went final with Ohio State winning 49-20.

For more on the loss to Ohio State, please read our full game recap and peruse the postgame quotes from head coach Mel Tucker and some players.

Wisconsin 42, Northwestern 7

After losing back-to-back games and parting ways with Paul Chryst, Wisconsin got back in the win column under Jim Leonhard’s leadership against Northwestern.

The Badgers didn’t open up the scoring until late in the first quarter, as quarterback Graham Mertz found wide receiver Skyler Bell for a 15-yard touchdown, which gave Wisconsin the 7-0 lead.

Wisconsin would strike again to open up the second quarter. Mertz hit wide receiver Chimere Dike for a 52-yard touchdown, putting the Badgers up 14-0.

UW added two more scores before halftime, as Mertz and Dike hooked up once more and even running back Braelon Allen got in on the fun, throwing a touchdown to fellow tailback Chez Mellusi. The Badgers took a 28-0 lead into the locker rooms at halftime.

The third quarter went scoreless, but Mertz and Dike connected once more in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. Northwestern would finally get on the board on the next drive, as quarterback Brendan Sullivan hit running back Anthony Tyus for a touchdown. The score was 35-7 in Wisconsin’s favor at that point.

Mertz added a late touchdown toss to wide receiver Markus Allen, which put the Badgers up 42-7. That would be the final score.

Key Matchups

Graham Mertz/Wisconsin wide receivers versus Michigan State secondary: Michigan State’s passing defense was shredded by Ohio State last week, giving 377 passing yards on the day. While that is expected for C.J. Stroud versus this porous secondary, MSU has shown that just about any quarterback, no matter the style of play, can pick it apart. Graham Mertz is not necessarily a signal-caller who puts fear into opposing defenses. However, the same was said about Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan who threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns against MSU. The Spartans give up 292 passing yards and rank 122nd in the FBS. Meanwhile, Mertz will be coming into East Lansing with a renewed confidence after torching Northwestern for 299 yards and five touchdowns. Until this passing defense is corrected by head coach Mel Tucker, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton and the players on the field, MSU will continue to lose games. The defensive unit needs to show a pulse on Saturday.

Michigan State pass rush versus Wisconsin offensive line: For all of the criticism Michigan State’s defensive backfield takes (and rightfully so), the pass rush has been nonexistent against Power Five competition. The Spartans have only recorded two sacks in the past four games. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin offensive line is still solid, but it has not been as dominated as past Badgers teams in the run game. UW’s unit has also allowed 12 sacks this season, which is tied for the fourth-most allowed in the Big Ten. Michigan State ranks fourth in conference in sacks with 14, but again, most of those came from the first two games. If MSU can pressure Mertz, record sacks and force poor throws, it will bode well for the Spartans.

Elijah Collins/Jalen Berger vs. Wisconsin defensive front: I believe the team that can better establish the run will win. Last week against Ohio State, Michigan State ran for an abysmal seven total yards (after sack yardage was subtracted). Against Power Five opponents, the offensive line has struggled to open holes and the running backs have displayed poor vision when the holes are actually there. MSU is only averaging 107.3 rushing yards (114th in the FBS), while Wisconsin only allows 117 rushing yards per game (33rd in the FBS). That matchup doesn’t look great on paper for MSU, but the Spartans can’t afford to be one-dimensional. Perhaps Jarek Broussard can mix in on a few plays, but Collins and Berger need to lead the charge. Collins has proven to be the hardest runner on the team, and the guy who will fight for extra yardage. He has earned the right to carry the load. Meanwhile, this game will obviously be important to Berger against his former team, and he should get plenty of carries, too.

Game Info

Time: Saturday, Oct. 15, 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (kickoff scheduled for 4:05 p.m.)
TV Channel: FOX
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Weather expectations: Partly cloudy, temperatures around 51 degrees at kickoff, winds blowing west/southwest at up to 15 miles per hour
DraftKings Line: Michigan State +7


Plain and simple, this is a must-win game for Michigan State if the Spartans plan to make a bowl game in 2022. It will be interesting to see if MSU can return any of its injured players on the defensive side of the ball to help matters. Last week, safety Xavier Henderson and defensive tackle Jacob Slade both dressed, but did not play. Could they play this week? Perhaps, but we won’t know until the game kicks off.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin is coming off of a blowout win and could be playing with a new passion under Jim Leonhard. The Badgers have had plenty of issues of their own this season, but this is by no means an easy opponent for a struggling Michigan State team.

I talked about the importance of establishing the run for Michigan State. If the Spartans can move the ball and run the ball on their term, as Mel Tucker likes to say, that will go a long way toward winning. However, Payton Thorne has to play better at the quarterback position for his team to succeed. A bounce-back performance from Thorne is much-needed for the Spartans’ sake.

Can Michigan State pull off the mild upset? Perhaps. But this team is reeling right now and Wisconsin isn’t going to back down. This one will be interesting to watch.

For further analysis on Wisconsin, please read our “Get to Know the Opponent” article and check out our “5 Questions with Bucky’s 5th Quarter” conversation.


Which school wins?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Michigan State
    (30 votes)
  • 57%
    (40 votes)
70 votes total Vote Now

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