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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Five keys for Michigan State against Wisconsin

Michigan State knows what its up against when it faces Wisconsin Saturday night. The Badgers, ranked No. 6 in the nation, lead all FBS teams in offense, averaging 50.2 points per game. Defensively, Wisconsin is ranked third in the country, giving up just 9.7 points per game. Wisconsin, however, may not fully understand what its up against heading into East Lansing. Here's five keys for the Spartans to pull out a win Saturday:

1. Crowd must make a difference --
For all of Wisconsin's accomplishment's this season, the Badgers have yet to play a road game. On the road under coach Brent Bielema, Wisconsin is 14-10. Wilson, in his two full seasons as a starter at North Carolina State, was just 3-7 in road games. Michigan State hasn't lost in Spartan Stadium since Sept. 12 2009 (when Central Michigan came from behind to pull out the upset.) Add in an 8 p.m. start with a ESPN College Gamday crowd coming off a fourth straight win over rival Michigan, and you can expect a difficult atmosphere for Wisconsin. Part of me thinks this would have been the better game to unveil the Nike Pro Combats.
2. Score early, and often -- As good as Michigan State's defense is, the Spartans are going to have to put a healthy number of points on the scoreboard to win this game. It won't be a 10-7 outcome like it was over Ohio State. MSU's defense is the best Wisconsin has faced this season and is fully capable of holding the Badgers under 40 points -- but other than that, all bets are off. Kirk Cousin, who's one win shy of becoming MSU's all-time winningest quarterback, has to turn in his best game of the season and Edwin Baker has to keep moving the chains on the ground.
3. Make Wilson hurt -- Michigan State has to continually bring pressure on Wilson, force him to make quick decisions and land hits on him throughout the game. These are all things Nebraska didn't do against the Badgers, and it lost 48-17. Not having William Gholston for this game really hurts MSU. He's the type of player that can continually get off the ball and into the backfield. Jerel Worthy is going to need to have a Ndamukong Suh-type performance.
4. Turnover battle -- The Spartans had two inexcusable fumbles last week against Michigan, which against a better team -- or Michigan on a better day -- would have costs them that game. MSU can't get away with mistakes like that against Wisconsin and will also have to create some turnovers of its own to get a short field.

5. Need a hero -- Somebody other than the Spartan poster boys is going to have to step up in this game. Whether it be sparingly-used Bennie Fowler, Keith Nichole or Nick Hill on offense or players like Marcus Rush or Isaiah Lewis on defense -- a role player is going to have to become a star Saturday. A return for a TD from Hill would like nice, wouldn't it?

Festivities galore
In addition to College Gameday making its first visit to East Lansing since 2005, the Spartan fans have reasons other than Erin Andrews to celebrate. It's also homecoming for MSU. As part of the celebration, Michigan State and National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame will jointly honor former Spartan Gene Washington.
Washington closed out his college career as MSU's all-time leader in receptions (before later being passed by Matt Trannon and then current Spartan B.J. Cunningham this season) and was selected to two Pro Bowls during his NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings.

Here's some other reports on conversation on the game from around the web:
A look at the history of 'GameDay' at MSU (and it hasn't always been pretty) -- The Oakland Press

Kirk Cousins used to being a long shot --

Badgers know there's no guarantee of BCS title shot --


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