A Wolverine Hosts a Spartan and a Badger…(an MSU/Wisconsin preview)

…clearly coming up with catchy post titles is not my thing-something to work on for down the road. Anyway, I digress…since the start of the college football season Doug (owner of The Detroit Transplant blog and the resident Spartan), Joe (writer of Joe Knows Stuff and the resident Badger) and myself have been hosting a football roundtable, and this was supposed to be no different. The opening of Big Ten conference play presented a nice little opportunity to change things up just a little bit however: Michigan State opens up at home against the University of Wisconsin in a very big game for both ranked teams. We all thought it’d be better if I shelve the jokes about Greg Robinson’s defense for a week and just play moderator for Doug and Joe. Hey, it’s that political time of year and there’s nothing wrong with a good debate. Ready? Let’s go, with the first question directed toward Doug…

Why will Michigan State win on Saturday?

Doug (MSU): Offensive balance and momentum. The guys will be ready to play, and Coach D will be upstairs coaching. We’re on a 4 game winning streak, and the team is playing better and better every week. Caper is back for his first big game, and all three (yes, three) running backs are playing outstanding right now.

In terms of offensive balance, how many teams can say they can have 3 running backs on their roster that could start? Kirk Cousins hasn’t made many mistakes this year, and he’s got a lot of weapons to throw to. If Wisconsin stops the run, we can pass with the best of them, and vice versa.

That’s why MSU will win on Saturday.

Joe (Wisconsin): Doug, you guys have a good team, but I giggled a bit when you talked about the three running backs playing outstanding. That’s par for the course over in these parts. We have a veteran quarterback that’s not going to lose us games, we’re getting our offensive weapons back from injuries, and you still have to worry about the backs and Kendricks at tight end. Of course, we also have the farm boys at offensive line. I’d put our offense up against yours.

As for defense, we still have playmakers, even if we are lacking Chris Borland. If we can remember how to play something other than a cover 4 soft zone against a team that matters, I like our chances of stopping your offense too, maybe not every time, but enough to help our offense take care of business.

If Michigan State wins, it will be because our special teams decided to be terrible again. They do that quite frequently. I don’t see them failing as miserably as they did against ASU, because if they do, they have no chance at doing any damage in the Big 10. None.

Doug: I’ll give you the fact that Caper hasn’t shown much on the season since he’s only played one game, but you can’t deny the fact that we have a top 20 running game with 3 guys that are some of the most explosive in the big ten– you’ll see that saturday. It’s hard to judge either offense though, because neither team has really played a sizeable opponent, most likely a good explanation for the #10 and #17 running game rankings.

While we’re talking stats, both teams are within 3 points of each other in points for and points against– also can be attributed to not playing anyone tough as of yet.

It’s really hard to get a judge on how this game will play out based on those numbers– neither team has been tested. If I’m going based on sheer momentum, MSU is going to win because they’re not accustomed to starting undefeated and being ranked, where it’s just a walk in the park for Wisconsin. That’s the perfect recipe for an upset.

Alright, for Joe: which player on the Badgers should the Spartans be most concerned about on Saturday?
Joe: I hate to give away trade secrets, but Lance Kendricks is another in a long line of two-way Badger tight ends. We’re going to get running yards, that’s not going to be completely stifled, but if the Spartans get gashed by Kendricks slipping across the formation on a play fake, it could be a long day for Sparty.
Doug: I’ve got two, and one of them is going to be covering Kendricks for a large portion of the afternoon–

Greg Jones. He had 2 INTs last week (first two of his career), and he’s been playing hard all season so far. This is going to be our first test, and I think Jones is up to the task. He’s one of the best linebackers in the country.

Our hidden weapon though, who really has flown under the radar for the most part, is Keshawn Martin. Last season, every time he touched the ball (rushes, receptions, KRs and PRs) he averaged 18.2 yards A TOUCH. This season, he’s averaging 14.8 a carry rushing, and 13.2 a catch. He’s got the speed, and he’s got the moves to make big plays.

Alright, just interrupting for a moment. This is the part in the discussion where I realized that I pretty much suck at asking questions that can keep the conversation going, or even moderate a debate. I blame my high school counselor for not letting me take a Journalism class until my senior year. Anyway, I decided to just throw it out to let one of these two ask the next question, and Doug obliged.
What scares you about MSU?
Joe: From the reports I’m getting, they’re a very similar team to what we are, and I don’t see nearly the special teams problems. If MSU can make a play or two on special teams, this could get too close for comfort.

Your turn. What scares you about the Badgers?

Doug: Scott Tolzien. He’s a great passer, and our secondary is comparable to the Lions’. I think we can handle the run with our great linebackers, but the passing defense has left a lot to be desired, especially giving up 400+ yards to Notre Dame. Scott Tolzien could have a monster game against us.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Joe: I have Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 21. A late Badgers drive, up 3 and needing to protect the ball, finally breaks it open with Clay left, Clay right, Clay left, Clay right, and so on and so forth. A worn down Michigan State defense can only create 2 third down situations, and both are easily mastered. With less than two minutes to play, the Badgers finally cross the goal line, and a last ditch Michigan State drive ends in a tipped pass interception.
Doug: Haha Joe, that’s very specific. I’ve got MSU winning a shootout– 42-38. Both teams are high scoring, neither defense has been tested entirely either, and I think both teams are going to catch each other off guard on offense. Kirk Cousins will have a big game, but the explosive backs will carry Sparty to the gigantic upset– especially Le’Veon Bell.
So there you have it. Wisconsin visits Spartan Stadium to kickoff the Big Ten season for both teams (I really need to work on my closing statements too).
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