Wisconsin Hits Road At Michigan State Spartans

By: Michael Robinson | Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wisconsin looks to snap Michigan State’s 11-game home win streak.

The Wisconsin Badgers find themselves in an unusual position, on the road, when they play the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night.

Don Best has Wisconsin as 8-point favorites, with the total at 49-points. ESPN will broadcast at 8:00 p.m. (ET) from Spartan Stadium, arguably the best game on the college football betting schedule.

The Badgers (6-0 straight up, 5-0-1 against the spread) haven’t played a true road game since before Thanksgiving of last year. Their six games this season have included five at Camp Randall Stadium and a neutral site contest versus Northern Illinois in Chicago.

The Wisconsin schedule has been filled with more ‘cupcakes’ than a bakery with one ranked opponent in Nebraska, four FBS foes with a combined record of 7-19 SU (9-16-1 ATS), plus FCS South Dakota. The smallest margin of victory is 31 points, a big reason for this pointspread.

The newly released BCS rankings take schedule into consideration with the computer rankings and that’s a big reason why Wisconsin is No. 6. The AP and Coaches Poll (both No. 4) and Don Best Linemakers Poll (No. 5) all rank the Badgers higher.

Coach Bret Bielema now takes his team to a place its historically struggled. The Badgers have lost three straight (1-2 ATS) at Michigan State, including last year 34-24 as 3-point favorites, their only regular season loss of the season.

The ‘over’ is 2-0 in the last two and 7-1 the last eight meetings between the teams.

Wisconsin was controlled by Michigan State last season, losing the time of possession battle 36.5-23.5 minutes. Quarterback Scott Tolzien had one of his worst games of the year (11-of-25, 127 yards), but the team has a major upgrade in Russell Wilson.

Wilson steers the nation’s top-ranked scoring offense (50.2 PPG) and his leading 210.9 quarterback rating makes him a serious Heisman candidate. The best part is he won’t get rattled on the road as there’s no stage too big for the senior transfer.

Leading receiver Nick Toon (447 yards) is also probable to return after missing last week’s 59-7 win over Indiana with a foot injury.

The Badgers still love to pound the ball first with the hogs up front and backs Montee Ball and James White. The 257.5 YPG rushing ranks seventh nationally. Michigan State has been tremendous with run defense all year (67 YPG, third nationally), but this will be its biggest challenge.

The Badgers won their final three Big Ten road games last year (3-0 ATS) after losing at Michigan State. They’re 12-0-1 ATS in their last 13 games overall.

The ‘over’ is 4-2 for Wisconsin this year and 11-4-1 in its last 16 overall.

The Spartans (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS) are ranked No. 16 in the BCS and No. 13 at Don Best. They moved ahead of in-state rival Michigan with a 28-14 home win last week as 3-point favorites.

The 42 combined points scored went ‘under’ the 47 ½-point total. The ‘under’ is 5-1 on the year with the defense allowing just 10.8 PPG, among the nation’s leaders.

The offense has contributed to some low scoring affairs, its 28 PPG ranked just 65th. That number is slightly down from last year (29.5 PPG), a surprise given the return of quarterback Kirk Cousins, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham and running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell.

Cousins has a solid 65.9 completion percentage, but his 7.6 yards per attempt is mediocre. Finding another consistent receiver outside of Cunningham (621 yards) has been a challenge. Baker is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but just broke 100-yards for the first time this year against Michigan (167 yards).

This offense can’t afford to be too conservative on Saturday. Lots of points need to be put on the board because it will be extremely hard to keep Wilson and company under 30.

The Spartans' only loss of the year (31-13) was at Notre Dame on September 17. They’re 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS at home and have an 11-game home winning streak.

Wisconsin’s defense has been tremendous statistically (9.7 PPG), but it’s nowhere near as talented as its offense, and has a lot to prove in a nationally televised night game against a quality opponent.

The injury situation for Michigan State has center Blake Treadwell (knee) and defensive end Tyler Hoover (back) both questionable after missing multiple games. Fellow defensive end William Gholston could be suspended after some personal fouls against Michigan.

Weather in East Lansing should be clear and dip into the 40s.

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