East Lansing – ESPN had it right when they selected Saturday’s game for prime time coverage last summer.  When the #4 ranked and undefeated Wisconsin Badgers come to Spartan Stadium the game could be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship game scheduled for December 3 in Indianapolis.  The Badgers (2-0) along with Penn State (3-0) are undefeated in the Leaders Division while MSU (2-0) leads the Legends Division.

Saturday’s prime time (5:00 PM PST) homecoming game will be just the 11th night game in Spartan Stadium.   MSU is 6-4 at home at night including a 28-6 win over Youngstown State to start this season.  Mark Dantonio said that MSU and Wisconsin are similar in that both teams want to run the football and dominate at the line of scrimmage.  In the past six MSU games with Bucky the home team has won, including the Spartans 34-24 win last year.   Brett Bielema has never won in Spartan Stadium and was largely responsible for his team’s fourth quarter collapse in 2008 when he went berserk on the sidelines costing his team with penalties.  The Badgers led that game by 11 points with 9:19 to play before Bielema’s unsportsmanlike conduct call gave MSU 20 yards and ignited a 12 point fourth quarter comeback.  Brett Swenson kicked a 44-yard field goal with seven seconds giving the 22nd ranked Spartans the win.

This will be Bucky’s first Big Ten road game this year as well as the first hostile crowd test for Heisman trophy candidate QB Russell Wilson.  The Badgers behind their big offensive line averaging 301 lbs have rolled over opponents at home by at least 31 points per game.   Wilson has not faced a blitzing defense like Michigan State.   Mark Dantonio and Coordinator Pat Narduzzi love to disrupt the quarterback and you can be sure that Narduzzi will throw the kitchen sink at Wilson as will the packed Spartan Stadium crowd who will have a full day to get primed and amped for the game.

In the past two games against Michigan and Ohio State, the Spartans have recorded 16 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.   Last year the MSU defense held the Badgers to a season-low 292 yards of total offense.  MSU is riding an 11 game home winning streak and the Spartans have plenty of motivation not to give that up to the team that stole their Rose Bowl bid last year.

Russell Wilson will need to keep his eyes on MSU’s three line backers – MLB Max Bullough (41), STAR LB Chris Norman (35), and SAM (32) Denicos Allen who rank 1-2-3 on the team in tackles.  Allen leads the team in tackles for loss (9.5 for 44 yards) and sacks (4.5 for 31 yards).   Something will have to give at the line of scrimmage as MSU has only allowed 67.0 yards per game on the ground while the Badgers behind their tandem of Montee Ball and James White have averaged 257.5 yards.

The MSU offense line of red-shirt freshman C Travis Jackson, Captain LG Joel Foreman, RG Chris McDonald, LT Dan France, and RT Fou Fonoti have come together nicely since the loss at Notre Dame.  Dantonio praised the play of France and Jackson against Michigan indicating that a key block by Jackson allowed Rock Baker to score MSU’s first touchdown.   The MSU O-Line has not given up a sack in the past two games against Michigan and Ohio State.   Last year MSU out rushed the Badgers 175 yards to 165, don’t be surprised if they do it again.

MSU is an 8.5 point underdog at home against Bucky.   You can be sure that will provide even more incentive for Dantonio’s Spartans to protect home turf on homecoming night.

 

KIRK COUSINS WATCH:

GAMES WON AS THE STARTING QB:  (#1)

Cousin’s 21-10 record as a starter (67.7%) tied Jeff Smoker (2000-03) for the school record with 21 career victories as the starting quarterback.   

 

PASS COMPLETIONS:  (#2)

570 trail Jeff Smoker who is #1 at 685, and past Drew Stanton who is now #3 at 543.

 

`PASSING YARDS:  (#2)

With 7,132 total yards Cousins trails Jeff Smoker who is #1 with 8,932 yards.

 

TOUCHDOWN PASSES:  (#2)

With 49 Cousins passed Bill Burke who was #2 on the MSU career list.   Jeff Smoker is #1 with 61.

 

WR B. J. CUNNINGHAM WATCH

Saturday B. J. moved up the charts in the MSU All Time career record book.

CAREER RECEPTIONS:  (#1)

B.J. CUNNINGHAM has 181 catches;  Matt Tranon (2003-06) is #2 with 148.

 

CAREER RECEIVING YARDS:  (#3)

B.J. has 2,401 yards passing Kirk Gibson (2,347) for #3 and Courtney Hawkins (2,210) for #4 on the MSU All-Time list.  Andre Rison (1985-88) is #1 all-time with 2,992 yards, and Charles Rogers (2001-02) is #2 with 2,821.

 

CAREER TOUCHDOWN RECEPTIONS: (#7)

With 15 career TD catches, Cunningham tied #7 Eugene Byrd (1975-79) on the career list.  Gene Washington (1964-66) is #6 with 16 TD catches.  Charles Rogers is at the top of the list with 27 TD’s from 2001-02.