ES Game Day Preview: Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 21 The Enlightened Spartan: ES Game Day Preview: Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 21

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ES Game Day Preview: Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 21

Michigan State (1-2, #78 Sagarin) at Wisconsin (3-0, #16 Sagarin)

Saturday, September 26. 12:00 pm noon EST.
Weather: 67, rain.
Latest Line: Wisconsin favored by 3.
Tickets available.

Injuries: Michigan State — C Joel Nitchman (knee), probable; LG Joel Foreman (ankle), questionable; RG J'Michael Deane (leg), doutful. Wisconsin — RG Bill Nagy (heel), probable; C John Moffitt (pectoral muscle), probable; C Travis Frederick (ankle), probable; DE Louiz Nzegwu (shoulder), probable; DE Brendan Kelly (groin), questionable; S Shane Carter (suspension), out; S Aubrey Pleasant (suspension), out.

MSU Roster Shakeup: First off, let's see the o-line shakeup for MSU. On the OLine, last week it was Cironi-Foreman-Stipek-Deane-Moss. This week, it's Cironi-Ruhland-Nitchman-Moss-Young. Addition of Nichman = Yeah; Loss of Deane & Foreman = Boo. And, Moss is moving further inside. On defense, the secondary has moved around a bit (in comes Davis-Clark, up the ladder moves Adams, down goes Rucker), but why Robinson continues to get the nod after his shitty performance vs. ND is beyond the ES.

ES predicts Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 21.

On offense, MSU seemingly has established itself with a capable running game with Caulton Ray and Larry Caper, and a very good passing game behind a Joe Montana-ish type accuracy of Kirk Cousins. Funny, Bleacher Report erroneously mentions Cousins mainly throws to two targets as a Wisconsin advantage by taking season statistics in aggregate, without realizing that Cousins actually DOES spread the ball around quite frequently (seven receivers caught passes at ND). MSU boasts four significant receiving threats in White, Cunningham, Dell, and Gantt. Sorry, B/R didn't do their homework - advantage MSU! The offensive line has been oft-injured, but played well beyond expectations. Wideouts had a great performance at Notre Dame, making great grabs and big plays all game long. The Wisconsin defense statistically seems similar to the Irish, giving up decent amounts through the air and land; but, they've played nobody (see below), so it is tough to tell what they hell they're made of.

On defense, MSU is hemorrhaging in its secondary - by far the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment in the Big Ten so far this year. What was to be a strength is seemingly a glaring weakness of lack of confidence. For the most part, Trenton Robinson has played poorly, as has Chris Rucker and Danny Fortener and Marcus Hyde. They all seem lost with passes zinging all around them, not to mention missed tackles. The rush defense has been good, and has made life tough with hard hitting vs the first three opponents (ND used its direct snap formation to break loose Armando Allen, though he had no major gains). Spartan LBs are playing well, now that Brandon Denson has taken a seat. The Spartan pass rush is largely ineffective so far without a blitz, which mean DBs need to make plays. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema ain't happy with their running game, even though they piled up over 200 yards on the ground last week. Wisconsin backs John Clay and Zach Brown statistically are solid: Clay had four fumbles last week vs. Wofford while Brown was 12-63, but the week before vs Fresno State Clay ran for 143 yards on 21 carries (6.8 avg), including a 72 yard TD. ES figures our D-line will likely keep this somewhat in check, similar to the ND game around 120-130 yards, which will force WIS to go through the air. QB Scott Tolzien has been untested this year, period. His defensive competition has been nil; he should get a faceful and mouthful of Spartans this week, and likely he'll be rattled by an improved and determined Spartan secondary coverage. We ain't Fresno State. The ES expects at least 2 interceptions this week, or more, off of Tolzien. Note: Wisky was just 5-13 on third downs vs Fresno.

Special teams seems to be the Spartans' strength so far. Aaron Bates is kicking deep when asked, and has pinned punts, when asked. Brett Swenon has been very accurate (though MD should have called a timeout on Swenson's rushed, but barely-missed 52 yarder). Punt and kick coverage has been good, though we can kick the ball a bit deeper. Glenn Winston and Keshawn Martin have been excitingly close to busting loose with a TD return. For Wisconsin, their return game is nothing to brag about, averaging just 21 on kick returns and 8 on punt returns vs weak competition thus far. Their kicker, Philip Welch, is just 3-of-6 so far this year, and their net punting ranks 75th in the land. Huge advantage to MSU.

Opponents faced: Both teams whipped opponents out of their division (MSU over Montana State, Wisky over Wofford). Both teams faced a MAC opponent, with MSU losing to MAC-champion contender CMU while Wisky squeaked by MAC-midtier Northern Illinois. MSU lost at a tough annual rival, Notre Dame; it took Wisky 2 OTs at home to beat a Fresno State team blitzed by Boise State. Certainly, it is tough to tell how Wisconsin stacks up, while MSU has already encountered good competition and adversity. This should be a major advantage for the Spartans, and the Badgers can expect to see a can of whoop-ass opened up on Saturday by MSU. We're hungry, and we'll play extremely physical.

Actually, the ES feels comfortable about this game. I see Michigan State as a better matchup this week vs Wisconsin than last week vs ND with our defense facing a more typical offensive set; the balanced offense by Wisconsin should relieve some pressure off the Spartan secondary, and allow it to make plays (and INTs) against the Badgers. Kirk Cousins should rebound from last week, and he showed he has amazing, All-America capability in that arm with a very efficient receiving corps. Cousins should take advantage of a Wisconsin secondary that isn't as talented as the Irish. I don't expect the Spartan run game to be as effective this week, but a 120+ yard team effort is likely, and would be a solid contribution. Wisconsin will play a physical defense, as expected, but not outplay the Spartans as they did last year (and lost). Expect the Spartan defense to play better and for it to make enough plays to be a difference-maker. Michigan State is far above the caliber the Badgers have played so far, and it will show as the game wears on.

Halftime score: MSU 21, Wisconsin 14. Game MVP? Blair White will score 2 TDs from Kirk Cousins and have another 150 yards receiving, with 6+ catches.

Game Day Analysis on Wisconsin: USA Today, College Football News/Scout (WIS 27-23), The Sports Network (MSU 35-24), Big Ten Network (WIS 23-20), Bucky's Fifth Quarter (from WIS-WOF), Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

What do you think? What will be the game's biggest surprise? Comment Below -


  1. dude, I can't believe you are picking MSU, shocking!

  2. Game's on ESPN, not BTN.