Big 10 play opens Saturday in East Lansing, MI for a pair of unbeatens when number 11 Wisconsin travels to face the number 24 ranked Michigan St. Spartans (3:30 pm ET). Michigan St., which will have head coach Mark Dantonio back in the press box after his recent heart attack following an exciting 34-31 overtime win over Notre Dame two weeks ago, seeks its first 5-0 start in 11 years. Wisconsin enters Big 10 play unbeaten for the seventh consecutive year.
The key to the game for Michigan St. is stopping the punishing ground game of Wisconsin. The Badgers seem to always have a great running back, this year they have two in junior John Clay, who rushed for over 100 yards for the tenth consecutive game in last week’s 70-3 annihilation of Austin Peay, and freshman James White who ran for 145 yards on eleven carries last week. Senior quarterback Scott Tolzein is experienced and accurate, with a 76% completion percentage so far this season after completing 64% of his passes last year, but he has been known to turn the ball over as evidenced by his eleven INTs a year ago. Michigan St linebacker Greg Jones was the Big 10 co-defensive player of the week following last week’s 45-7 win over Northern Colorado for his two interceptions and forced fumble. If he can maintain that level of play against Wisconsin and force turnovers, it will greatly enhance his team’s chances for success.
Michigan St’s offense is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is in his second full year as a starter and threw for almost 2700 yards with 19 TDs and 9 INTs a season ago. The Spartans have their own dynamic duo on the ground in Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. The freshman Bell has had a great start to his college career rushing for 396 yards on 49 carries (8.3 avg.) through four games with 7 TDs, and Baker has run for 449 yards on 57 carries (7.9 avg.) for five TDs on the season. The Badger defense has only allowed an average of 94.5 yards on the ground this season, but this will be by far their biggest test to date.
Michigan St. has lost 14 of 15 against ranked opponents since 2005 and Wisconsin is 4-8 on the road in the Big 10 the last three season, including a 25-24 the loss in their last trip to East Lansing in 2008. Last season, the Badgers defeated the Spartans 38-30 in Madison, WI on the strength of four touchdown passes from Tolzien. The Badgers are 1-4 ATS in their last five games against a team with a winning record, and the Spartans are 3-7-1 ATS in their last eleven games overall. The over is 7-3 in Wisconsin’s last ten conference games, and the over is 7-2 in Michigan State’s last nine games overall.
Wisconsin vs Michigan St. Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Wisconsin Badgers -2
@ Michigan St. Spartans +2
Michigan St. +110
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Wisconsin vs. Michigan St. Prediction for Week 5 Saturday Afternoon Game:
Spread Prediction (Top Play): The Spartans as a home underdog riding the emotional high of their coach Dantonio coming back after his recent hear attack look like a solid play here. Take MSU and the points at home in what looks to be a very even matchup of teams with similar run-oriented styles. The difference comes down to Michigan State’s home-field advantage and their quarterback Cousins’ propensity to take care of the ball just a little bit better then Tolzien, but do not underestimate the lift that the ice water cool Dantonio’s (remember the ‘Little Giants’ call against Notre Dame?) return will provide to the Spartans which could tip the scales just enough to earn the victory.
Over/Under Prediction: The over is the direction that that trends pint to here, both teams have put points on the board in bunches so far, against more rugged Big 10 competition they will not score as much as they have early in the season, but both teams should put enough points on the board in and evenly matched game to squeak by 53.5 on the total. Expect most of the big plays to come on the ground early, but things could open up later in the game in the passing game as both defenses become worn down. Prediction: OVER 53.5 Points
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