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Wisconsin vs. Michigan State

Betting Line: Wisconsin -2 o/u 53

10/2/10

This could be the season HC Mark Dantonio has been waiting for all along. The former Ohio State defensive coordinator experienced mild success as the HC of the Cincinnati Bearcats before coming to Michigan State, but this seems like it could be his breakout year. His Spartans are 4-0 and ranked #24 in the AP Poll. They will do battle at home against #11 (4-0) Wisconsin in a battle for the inside track in the Big Ten. The Badgers won the last meeting between these two schools last year by a score of 38-30. They covered the 2 point spread. The spread is also 2 points in their favor this year.

Doctors and analysts say that college football HC's have a tremendous amount of stress. This was put on display when Dantonio had a heart attack after a game winning trick play in OT against Notre Dame. It is unclear if he will be on the field at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, but if he is not then offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will fill in. Bret Bielema is the HC of the Badgers. He is in his fifth year and has an overall record of 38-14.

The Spartans are largely an unknown quantity. The only good team they have played this year is Notre Dame, but they won 34-31. In that game QB Kirk Cousins passed for 245 yards, two TDs, and an INT. The junior is a natural, and we can expect him to improve as the season goes on. Freshman RB Le'Veon Bell has 396 yards and 7 TDs on 48 carries this year. He was very happy to get a surprise visit from Dantonio this week. These Spartans will go out and try to get a victory for their ailing coach.

Wisconsin's offense is powered by junior RB John Clay. He has picked up 501 yards and 6 TDs so far in 2010 on 77 carries. The RB had 123 yards and 2 TDs in the Badger's road opener against UNLV. Senior QB Scott Tolzien is something of a caretaker QB. He has 5 TD passes this year and 851 yards. It's tough to say how good he really is, and its quite possible he could come out of nowhere with a big game. It was nice to see him not throw an INT against Arizona State's tough defense two weeks ago. This offense is going to do most of its damage on the ground.

The Badger's team has sacked opposing QBs 8 times. It will be important for them to keep pressure on Spartans QB Kirk Cousins. They held UNLV to just 217 total yards and 10 first downs in the first game of the year. SS Jay Valai made two big plays for Wisconsin against Arizona State. He blocked an extra point late in the game that gave Wisconsin the win, and he stopped a kick from going back to the house after half time. The defense of Wisconsin is presented with a unique challenge in the form of Michigan State. 

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Sophomore CB Joe Adams is an up and comer for the Spartans defense. He was able to get an INT from Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist two weeks ago. The defense has been a little suspect overall. They have stifled any team's attempts to run the ball, but have yet to meet a serious RB threat like John Clay. The secondary has been susceptible to giving up big plays this year. They should have the advantage playing against an inexperienced QB, but that won't matter if they can't stop, or at the very least slow down John Clay. This game could be in their hands.

Yards per point is a great stat for a handicapper. But it's difficult to use for early season college football due to the soft schedules teams play. It works better towards the end of the year when you can ferret out the weak teams. It works even better in the NFL. But we can still use it if we take into account schedule strength. For example, both teams here have current offensive numbers of roughly 12. Wisconsin has an 18 on defense while Michigan State has a 19. That's a one point edge for Michigan State. Give them at least a field goal for home field and Michigan State would be a 4 point favorite. Now, adjust for schedule strength. Surprise.....while both have played weak schedules, it looks at though the Spartans have played a schedule 2 points stronger than Wisconsin. That makes Michigan State -6. Maybe the wrong team is favored here.

Michigan State has every conceivable motivational edge in this game.

1) Revenge (lost 38-30 last year)

2) Home dog

3) Lower ranked team playing a higher ranked team - chance to move up in the polls.

4) Win one for the gipper. A big win for an ailing coach who will be in a box upstairs.

These teams are familiar with each other. They have played 3 straight close games including one decided by a field goal and one decided by 1 point. The talent on both sides is similar. We see no reason not to back the home dog here as they become the early season "story" in the Big 10. Michigan State +2


 

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