Thursday, September 24, 2009

Badgers vs. Spartans - The Wisconsin Take

Yesterday we provided you with a great preview of this weekend's Wisconsin-Michigan State tilt from or local Michigan State expert, Sparty Tom. As a side note, in the future, Sparty Tom will provide us with a step-by-step guide on how to set fire to a couch. Anyhow, today you are going to get a less accurate preview of the game from a Badger alumni, Roger Murdock.

This is a great game to kick off the Big Ten season. Both teams are trying to figure what exactly they have and the result of this game will go a long way in setting the tone for the Big Ten season for both teams. Here is what we know so far. Wisconsin is 3-0 with a balanced offensive attack, but has definitely shown warts in their first three games. Scott Tolzein has been a wonderful surprise for all Badger fans. He throws a great ball and is willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit to deliver the ball at the last possible moment. The Badger's JS beat writer told me that Tolzien gained a ton of confidence last season in his few mop-up appearances and it is definitely showing in his play this year. The running game is not off to the greatest start ever, but I am not as down on these guys as a lot of people are. One of the biggest things slowing down the running game is the fact that the O-line is still coming together. With Bill Nagy and John Moffit out for most of the first 3 games, the best O-line has not been on the field yet. It probably won't be out there on Saturday either, but the guys playing have had 3 games to gel, so that is a plus. Everyone knows about Clay's fumbling issues last week. Maybe he was wearing the Ahman Green Memorial Wet Leather Arm Sleeve. At any rate, Clay wasn't a big fumbler last year, so hopefully this is just a blip on the radar. Brown has been ok. Nothing flashy, but that is what you get out of Zach Brown. Erik Smith looked good against Woffard, but in the Big Ten he looks to be nothing more than a 3rd down/change of pace type guy.

The Badgers defense looks solid up front but relatively brutal in the secondary. I almost wish Soup Campbell and B.J. Tucker were out there. OK, maybe not so much on Tucker. Anyhow, O'Brien Schofield has just been a beast this year. He has 6.5 tackles for loss so far this season and just always seems to be flying towards the ball. By far and away the defensive MVP so far this season. The Badgers seem to be getting a decent push up front this year. May be attributed to better D-line depth. The secondary got torched by Fresno State. Aaron Henry still seems a bit unsure following two knee surgeries and an illness. By all accounts he is a great person and was a great talent prior to the injuries. Let's hope he can get back the groove this year. In general, the D-backs seem to be lining up in no mans land. They are plying too far off the line for bump and run coverage but not deep enough to hang with receivers on deep routes. This unit really needs to step it up starting now.

MSU comes in to the game at 1-2 but could easily be 3-0. Hey, losses to MAC teams occasionally happen. It stinks, but losing to Central Michigan wasn't the end of the world for the Spartans. Central Michigan needed to recover an on-sides kick and then have an off-sides penalty on Michigan State on the missed game-winning field goal attempt before they hit the actual game winning FG. The game last week against Notre Dame should have, at minimum, gone into overtime. Cousins missed a wide open receiver in the end zone and on the next play throws a terrible pick when the Spartans were easily in FG range. So, this team could easily be 3-0.

As I mentioned, this game should be interesting. I think it will be a close game throughout with plenty of scoring. Michigan Sate is going to rely on their passing attack and go after the Badgers secondary. If they start hitting on some plays early, it could be a long day for the Badgers. I hear Cousins has looked good so far this season and there is no reason it shouldn't continue on Saturday. To combat this, the Badgers are going to have to bring some pressure and make Cousins uncomfortable in the pocket. If the line can get good pressure and force him to throw the ball before he wants to, this will help out the secondary greatly. Look for the Badgers to blitz a bit more than usual.

I look for the Badgers running game to step it up this week. Look, I really don't care who the starter is, Clay and Brown will get the same amount of carries. I almost like having Brown start and having Clay come in later in the game and using his size to just run over some guys when they are tired. The running game will rack up solid yardage and Tolzien will continue to impress against a suspect MSU secondary. Cousins and Tolzien will both rack up some good stats, but in a game where the last team to have the ball may win, I look for Tolzein to come through in the clutch with a pass to Toon or Graham.

Michigan State needs this game badly. They play at Michigan next week. A team that had New Years Day bowl aspirations at the start of the season cannot tolerate a 4 game losing streak. The Badgers have motivation for this game as well. They will remember last year's vomit-inducing loss at State and be out for blood. I am going to call this a 31-28 victory for the Badgers and give the game a solid 6.5 High Lifes out of 10 High Lifes on the Miller High Life Watchibility Scale.

Both Sparty Tom and I will be at this game so hopefully one of us can produce a solid recap next week.


  1. Don't sell this one short Murdock. I think its a solid 7 out of 10 High Lifes, given the rematch factor from last year's debacle. Didn't want to steal your patented rating system, but I think the Minnesota - NU game is only a 5.5 this week...

  2. Sadly, I think the Wisconsin secondary is a major problem and will be exposed again this week. Hope I'm wrong.