Wisconsin had something to prove last season when they Beat No. 1 Ohio State. This week they play Goliath to Michigan State's David.
So this is what it is like to be the hunted. Kind of nice. People start mentioning you in the same breath as national championships and Heisman trophies and occasionally sportswriters toss in a wanton "unstoppable" while projecting your offense's success through the rest of the season. It's the place that every team in the country wants to be, and that's great, except for the unfortunate caveat that it's the place that every team in the country wants to be. See space is limited at the top, and the only way to break into this wondrous club is to displace one of its current members.
Wisconsin is playing a particularly touchy Michigan State team this week, the B1G's equivalent to the kid that hung out with your circle of friends only because he was insane and telling him to go away could mean finding your parakeet overdone in the microwave the next day. You don't want to piss off Sparty. What happens if you piss off Sparty? You get a week-long investigation into whether this is a bad thing.
The Spartans have clear BCS aspirations, but the football world at large seems reluctant to acknowledge that yet. After all, one good win doesn't fully negate the loss they took to Notre Dame earlier in the year. Sportswriters are wise folk, they need hard evidence before trusting the Spartans in that "elite" category. How convenient that the Badgers are strolling into town.
Unfortunately it's a script that fans of this blog should know all too well. Yup, a Top 5 team came into Madison about this time last year. No. 1 in fact. Gameday was there for the night game too. The Badgers were coming off a big win over rival Minnesota, during which we saw the first glimpses of the brilliant team that emerged over the second half of the season versus the sluggish version in the early-going. The Spartans are following the same script almost to a "T", with a duct-tape offensive line finally looking like a cohesive unit, at least enough to buy Kirk Cousins some time last week and spring Edwin Baker for 100-plus yards for the first time this season.
The offensive line was the biggest takeaway from MSU's win over Michigan. You already knew they had great skill players on offense and a (so far) ferocious defense. An offensive line relying on players switched over from the defensive line two-deep was supposed to be this team's Achilles heel. But the group dominated a Michigan front seven that, though probably much worse than their early season numbers had indicated, should have had enough talent to put up some resistance.
A suddenly functioning offense is the last thing the Badgers need in addition to a hate-powered defense playing on its home turf. Lucky for Wisconsin, they look a bit better now than Ohio State did last year, if for no other reason than Russell Wilson isn't a duck-throwing, gear-stealing tat freak (Depth Chart was awesome). But that doesn't mean the Badgers can, nor will rest easy. Wisconsin should know better than anyone the pressure they're up against in East Lansing. Whether they can handle playing the Goliath side in this story remains to be seen.
There's just one week left in the first round of the Davey O'Brien fan vote. Russell Wilson is just one spot past the cut. Be sure to vote early and often to make sure he stays there.
Michigan State's kamikaze defense could yield some big-play opportunities for the Badgers, off of play action as well as Wilson's scrambling ability.
Adam Rittenberg writes that Wilson seemingly struggled on the road while at NC State, though he does include this curious stat: "In 2010, Wilson threw seven of his 14 interceptions in six road games for NC State." Translate: "Half of Wilson's interceptions came in half of the games he played." Imagine that.
P.S. Here's the ESPN game breakdown.
Last week's run/pass breakdown via the Journal Sentinel.
Bret Bielema has a bone to pick with the Spartans.
Nick Toon attends his father's induction into the Jets' Ring Of Honor, also wants the ball more.
Michael Hunt talks Wisconsin-MSU.
Blog-y stuff from behind enemy lines: Beat the Badgers in three easy steps.
Wrapping up: Basketball-y stuff. Jordan Taylor's getting tons of love from the preseason award people.