Wisconsin (3-0) vs. Michigan State (2-0)
Since 2011, Michigan State is 2-1 against the Badgers and have won those two games by an average of 4.5 points per game.Wisconsin will start redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook in this game. Hornibrook came in the second half of last week’s home win against Georgia State and played very well.
The Badgers are coming off a lackluster home win over Georgia State and expect them to be into this game against the Spartans in East Lansing. This is the first conference game for both teams and Wisconsin will look to start fast on the road.
Offensively, the Badgers are rushing for 205 yards rushing yards per game and are passing for 236 yards through the air against opposing defenses. Quarterback Bart Houston has played well within the system and is completing 62% of his passes for 527 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. However, his failure to come through last week at home against Georgia State led to his benching and allowing Hornibrook the opportunity to run the offense. It is critical for the running game to take the pressure off of the young quarterback making his first career start and more importantly on the road. Hornibrook completed 8 of 12 passes for 122 yards with 1 touchdown and one interception. Through the first three games, he has completed 76% of his passes for 183 yards with 2 touchdowns and one interception.
Wisconsin will look to work off of play action early to keep the Spartans defense on its heels. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst loves to utilize the tight end in his play calling which can have an impact in this game. In order for the Badgers to have success early on they must be able to loosen up the front seven of Michigan State with passes on first and second down which can open up running lanes later in the game.
Running back Corey Clement leads the team with 197 rushing yards with three touchdowns and he must have a big day on Saturday to take the pressure off of Bart Houston. Clement is tough inside runner that has been battling injuries throughout last year and the first three games of this season.
Wide receivers Robert Wheelwright, Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagali are a solid group of pass catchers that will need to exploit the Spartans secondary over the middle. All three players have combined for 34 receptions for 499 yards with 2 touchdowns.
After defensive coordinator Dava Aranda left for LSU, many thought the defense would not be as strong as it was last season. However, through the first three games, this unit has been very good especially in run support. The Badgers are giving up 82 rushing yards per game and 178 passing yards per game. The unit has recorded 7 sacks but has forced teams to methodically work down the field.
In order to get the road win, the Badgers must force Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor to beat them over the top. Wisconsin cannot allow the Badgers to run the football consistently on Saturday to dictate the tempo.
Wisconsin is even in turnover margin entering this game.
The Spartans are coming a solid upset road win in South Bend in which they defeated Notre Dame 36-28 in an impressive victory.
The Spartans offensive line was very impressive in the win and has opened up running lanes for L.J Scott and Gerald Holmes. Michigan State is rushing for 215 yards per game on the ground and is passing for 215 yards per game through the air. Scott and Holmes will be critical to the offense this weekend. Both players have rushed for 303 yards with 4 scores and give head coach Mark Dantonio the ability to have fresh legs in the ball game at all times. Michigan State pounded the rock for 260 yards last week against the Notre Dame front seven and will look to challenge Wisconsin early on between the tackles.
The ability to run the football consistently allows quarterback Tyler O’Connor to work off of play action to test opposing defenses down the deep third of the football field. The Spartans love to attack on the perimeter in the passing game “outside the hashes” on throws that give O’Connor the opportunity to complete a high percentage of passes. Through the first two games of the year, O’Connor has completed 72% of his passes for 431 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Wide receivers Monty Madaris, Donnie Corley and R.J Shelton are a blue collar group of pass catchers that are not afraid to block in the running game. The group has combined for 21 receptions for 310 yards with 2 touchdowns.
Defensively, Michigan State has done a fantastic job in wearing down opposing offensive lines and has been excellent in run support allowing 72 rushing yards per game. Michigan State did a solid job in making the Notre Dame offense become one dimensional and forced them into third down and long situations.
The weakness for the Spartans has been the secondary that is giving up 241 passing yards per game.
Michigan State is +1 in turnover margin entering this game and will need to force turnovers at home to help out their offense.
The Spartans have recorded 3 sacks through the first two games and must be able to get pressure on Houston to force him into throwing underneath coverage on short passes. If the Spartans do not force pressure early on it can give Hornibrook confidence early on in the game and allow Chryst the ability to open up the play book in the passing game.