Our friend Sparty Tom is back to give us a look at this weekend's Big Ten Opener between the Badgers and the Spartans from a Michigan State viewpoint. Sparty Tom will be attending the game this weekend so we hope to get a wrap up of his trip to Madison some time next week. Also, look for my take on this game from a Badger perspective sometime tomorrow. I am sure you are all anxiously awaiting to see where this rates on the High Life Watchibility Scale.
On to Sparty Tom's preview:
The Spartans must win this game, plain and simple. For a team and fans that had preseason expectations of Big Ten Championship contention and a New Year’s Day Bowl game, falling into a 1-3 hole could be the beginning of a lost season. Although Wisconsin has enjoyed a light early season schedule, the fact that the Badgers are 30-3 at Camp Randall since 2004 doesn’t make the Spartan faithful feel any more comfortable. Wisconsin will be looking to avenge last year’s 25-24 heartbreaker at the hands of Sparty in East Lansing. Wisconsin has more talent on offense this year and will be geared up for their first real test of the 2009 season.
On offense, Michigan State will look to expose a Wisconsin defense that has some new faces this year. Head coach Mark Dantonio has said in his weekly press conference that he will continue to utilize both Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol at the quarterback position (…and to inject my personal feeling on the matter, this circus needs to stop. Kirk Cousins leads the Big Ten and ranks 14th in the NCAA in passing efficiency. He completed 70% of his passes against Notre Dame, throwing for over 300 yards. He was voted team captain and leader of the offense….let him play). The return of senior center Joel Nitchman, along with junior wide receiver Mark Dell for a second week should also give the Spartans a boost on offense. On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin will have to shore up its running game for this one. The Badger running backs had problems with fumbling against Wofford, and junior Quarterback Scott Tolzien will also have to be sharp against a blitz-happy MSU defense (at one point during the ND game, MSU blitzed 26 consecutive times).
Anytime the Badgers and Spartans line up, it promises to be a typical hard hitting Big Ten slugfest. Both teams take pride in winning the battle of the trenches. Although both have struggled with the run game early on, don’t expect them to completely abandon their style. Big Ten openers are hard to predict because emotions are running high on both sides. However, I think MSU just has too much to lose in this one and will be playing with more desperation.Prediction: MSU – 27 WIS - 17