Wisconsin, Michigan State Meet For Big Ten Title

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Wisconsin Badgers get a chance for some sweet revenge when they meet the Michigan State Spartans for the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night.

This is the inaugural conference title game after Nebraska moved over from the Big 12 to bring the Big Ten to an even dozen. It will be played in Indianapolis with Wisconsin representing the Leaders Division and Michigan State the Legends.

Don Best has Wisconsin as somewhat lofty 9½-point favorites, with the total at 54½-points. FOX will broadcast at 8:15 p.m. (ET) from Lucas Oil Stadium with the winner getting a bid to the prestigious Rose Bowl to likely play Oregon.

The BCS No. 15 Badgers (10-2 straight up, 7-4-1 against the spread) were looking like a juggernaut went they strolled into Spartan Stadium on October 22 with a 6-0 SU (5-0-1 ATS) record and ranked No. 4 in the AP and Coaches Poll.

The result was a shocking 37-31 Badgers loss as 7-point favorites that ended on a 44-yard Hail Mary that was almost stopped at the goal line. Wisconsin had previously scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to tie up the game.

The home team has now won the last seven meetings between the teams (5-2 ATS). The ‘over’ is 3-0 in the last three and 8-1 the last nine. The total in October was 50½-points.

Coach Bret Bielema’s team seemed rattled after the Michigan State loss and even more so after a 33-29 defeat at Ohio State as 7½-point ‘chalk’ the following week. That was also decided on a late Ohio State pass after another Wisky fourth-quarter comeback.

The Badgers saw their national title hopes end after Ohio State and needed to run the table (and get some help) just to make this game. They did respond by winning four straight (2-2 ATS), including a 45-7 home thumping of Penn State last week.

Wisconsin did get its first two road wins in November at Minnesota (42-13) and Illinois (28-17), but is 0-4 ATS away this year. That doesn’t include a neutral site win against Northern Illinois in Chicago in September, 49-7 as 15-point favorites.

The Spartans (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) have to feel disrespected as almost double-digit ‘dogs. Not only did they win the first meeting, but they’re ranked higher in the BCS at No. 13.

Note the Don Best Linemakers Poll has been bullish on the Badgers all year and has them ranked No. 7 (118.5). However, that ranking is only 4.8 higher than No. 13 Michigan State (113.7).

Michigan State lost 24-3 at Nebraska after the Wisconsin game, but has rebounded to win four straight. That includes a 31-17 win at Northwestern last Saturday even though it had already clinched the conference title game the week before.

Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins has stepped up the last four games with 260.5 YPG and 10 TDs versus just one interception. The offense as a whole has been better over that span at 38.5 PPG, compared to just 26 PPG over the first eight.

The Spartans do have some offensive weapons with receivers B.J. Cunningham (1,125 yards) and Keshawn Martin (627 yards), plus running backs Le’Veon Bell (794 yards) and Edwin Baker (624 yards).

The offense needs to play very well Saturday as Wisconsin (44.8 YPG, fourth nationally) will certainly put up points in the indoor environment. Russell Wilson (192.9) is the most efficient quarterback in the country and running back Montee Ball is second in rushing yards (1,622) and his 34 total touchdowns are the second-most in NCAA history.

Ball had 115 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting (6.4 per carry). He left for part of the game after a head shot which was a big blow (figuratively and literally) to the Badgers. Backup James White (42 yards, 11 carries) was not nearly as effective against the physical Spartans front seven.

The Badgers have seemed to shore up the special teams the last few weeks. It killed them in the first game against Michigan State with a punt returned for a touchdown and a short field goal blocked.

Wisconsin has a key injury with star center Peter Konz (ankle) doubtful. The offensive line is still very good, but has had to shift players around. MSU will be a challenge up front especially with defensive end William Gholston extra motivated after being suspended during the first contest.

Weather will not be a factor with the retractable roof closed.

DON BEST LINEMAKERS POLL - NCAA College Football Rankings
1 LSU 123.9 1
2 Alabama 122.7 2
3 Oklahoma State 119.7 3
4 Oregon 119.2 9
5 Oklahoma 119.1 10
6 Stanford 118.7 4
7 Wisconsin 118.5 15
8 Arkansas 116.9 8
9 Boise State 115.5 7
10 Georgia 114.8 14
11 Virginia Tech 114.1 5
12 Michigan 113.8 16
13 Michigan State 113.7 13
14 Southern California 112.6 NR
15 Houston 112.2 6
16 South Carolina 112.1 12
17 Notre Dame 111.4 NR
18 Florida State 111.2 NR
19 TCU 110.3 18
20 Kansas State 110.2 11
21 Clemson 109.9 20
22 Nebraska 109.2 19
23 West Virginia 108.4 23
24 Texas A&M 108.2 NR
25 Southern Mississippi 108.1 24
26 Baylor 107.9 17
27 Tulsa 107.8 NR
28 Texas 107.2 22
T-29 Missouri 107.0 25
T-29 Ohio State 107.0 NR
Don Best Linemakers Poll - College Football Power Rankings
Updated November 28, 2011
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