5th Quarter Consensus: Badgers take Big Ten opener

Michigan State at Wisconsin

Kickoff: 11:00 AM CT

Location: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

Weather Forecast: 69F, Mostly cloudy, 30% chance of rain

TV: ESPN

Radio: WIBA-AM 1310, WIBA-FM 101.5 and the Badgers Radio Network

Coverage: A week's worth of coverage on our Michigan State Game Page.

Opposing Blog: The Only Colors

The Consensus

Jake Harris (3-0, +25): Wisconsin 20, Michigan State 17

Adam Hoge (3-0, +49): Wisconsin 34, Michigan State 24

Eric Levine (3-0, +50): Michigan State 24, Wisconsin 10

Ben Worgull (Scout.com): Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 24

"Wild Card" Pick (TheOnlyColors.com): Michigan State 31, Wisconsin 27

The Reasoning

It's the first week of the Big Ten season, which means we are going to find out a lot about both Michigan State and Wisconsin. Based on what Wisconsin has done this season it is very hard to figure out how good this team is. In one corner, we have a team that was a couple bad calls by the officials and a flu bug away from blowing out both Northern Illinois and Fresno State. In the other corner, we have a team that failed to hold onto a big lead against Northern Illinois, gave up big plays to Fresno State and fumbled six times against Wofford.

Do you go with what could have/should have been or what actually happened? For the purposes of playing Michigan State, we better go with the latter.

In my mind, Wisconsin is either going to win comfortably Saturday or lose another heartbreaker like they did so many times last season. After a 1-2 start, the Spartans are going to come in desperate, which means they are going to either put it all together or continue to fall into the habits that have cost them two games already this season.

It's hard to imagine that Michigan State will actually start 1-3, but UW has only lost two games at home under Bret Bielema and those came at the hands of Ohio State and Penn State last season -- two teams that were far and away better than the Badgers. Michigan State is at best, equal to this Wisconsin team.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Even

Defense: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Michigan State

Coaching: Michigan State

Intangibles: Wisconsin

5th Quarter's Take 5 with The Only Colors

Bucky's 5th Quarter exchanged five questions with TheOnlyColors.com. We did the same for them and our answers to their questions can be found here.

B5Q: What is the morale of this Spartans team after two straight losses?

TOC: Given the situation, pretty good.  While the last two weeks have definitely been painful, we lost to two good teams by a combined total of five points.  Our offense has generally been good so far (especially against Notre Dame), and while the defense has certainly been a disappointment, all the stories I've read this week describe an overwhelmingly positive locker room outlook.  To some degree, the team has been exposed; we're not going to win the conference.  But there definitely seems to be a sense that what's done is done, and the start of the conference season presents an opportunity to effectively redeem the entire season.  The team still can achieve all of its goals; starting with something of a blank slate seems at least a bit liberating for our very young team.  All week, the team has seemed quite fired up about heading to Madison; under the circumstances, I couldn't ask for much more.

B5Q: Would it have been better for the Badgers to face a 2-1 MSU team or the current 1-2 team? In other words, did the Notre Dame loss actually make this a hungier team?

TOC: Eh, if I'm a Badger, I'd probably rather play a 2-1 MSU team, I think?  If you'd rather play a 1-2 team, you're effectively banking on that team being discouraged and down, and quite frankly, I've seen very little of that from the team this week.  It seems to me that there's very little desperation, and plenty of resolve to prove that this is a better team than the record indicates.  Nonetheless, this is a very big game for us: next week, a rejuvenated Michigan team comes to town, and if we don't pick up the win on Saturday, we're staring directly at a 1-4 (0-2) start.

B5Q: What's the status of Michigan State's quarterback situation after the way Cousins ended the Notre Dame game?

TOC: There should be very little.  Cousins made two bad plays to end the game, but nearly everything he did beforehand was exceptional.  I suppose that there's two or three boneheads running around the internet saying that he'll always be a failure because of what happened, but the rest of us see a guy who, in his third game as a starter, brought us back from an early deficit, converted third down after third down, played excellent football, made one bad mistake, and then said and did all the right things after the game to make us believe that he'll only improve from the experience.  I suppose the only question is, why isn't he the undisputed starter?  This has baffled most of us for a couple weeks now, and I'm still not sure of the answer.  Keith Nichol shouldn't really be an option at this point.

Cousins is very, very good, and I'm completely confident in him; as long as the weather is good enough on Saturday to throw the ball, I expect him to do big things.

B5Q: I'm sure there is a "Here we go again..." attitude from fans in East Lansing. How confident are you that Mark Dantonio will turn this into a successful season?

TOC: I'm not really so sure that there is a "Here we go again" attitude this time around; I certainly haven't sensed it over at our blog.  (Also, I've seen more doom and gloom about MSU in the Wisconsin papers this week than from our beat writers.)  The loss to Central Michigan hurt a lot, and the Notre Dame game was agonizing because we were so close, but people trust Dantonio, and every indication is that the team does as well.  Over the last week and a half, there's been virtually none of the panic which characterized the John L. Smith and Bobby Williams years; on a micro level, yes, the losses (especially the CMU game) are reminiscent of some bad MSU games of the past, but in a broader sense, at this point I don't see the beginnings of a tailspin.  Our defense isn't good enough to carry us to where we hoped to get to, but this is absolutely not a team that's going to finish 4-8. or even 5-7.

B5Q: Finally, who you got Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium?

TOC: Well, for one thing, you've got me; this will be my first visit to Camp Randall, and I'm excited about it.  As for the actual game: you can probably tell that I'm optimistic, at least if the weather's good.  Wisconsin matches up decently against us, because Tolzien looks good throwing the ball, and our secondary has clearly been smacked around the past two weeks.  Furthermore, your secondary might be good enough to stay with at least a couple of our talented wide receivers.  But I think that MSU plays like we've got a point to prove; I see this being a close game throughout, but I like us to take it 31-27, with Blair White scoring the deciding touchdown in the fourth quarter.

I include the weather caveat, because the forecast currently calls for rain.  If it's bad enough that we're forced to run the ball all the time, we're in trouble, unless John Clay fumbles 5 times this week.  Our running game has been very poor, due to a combination of bad offensive line play and inexperienced running backs.  We need to throw the ball to win.

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