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Wisconsin football: keys to victory against Michigan State

What do the Badgers need to do to win this crucial Big Ten matchup?

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers have rolled over their opponents in four of their five games this season but are now faced with another huge test in the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State has had a season best defined as up and down. At 3-2 (2-1 in the B1G) overall, the Spartans have handled their business against lesser teams, but struggled mightily in their contests with Arizona State and Ohio State. So, what do the Badgers need to do to make sure the Spartans struggle once again?

Lets take a look.

Sustain Drives

As mentioned above, the season has been up and down for the Spartans thus far. They’ve been good at times, and woefully bad at times. The same can be said for their offensive and defensive units. The defense has been great, and the offense has been bad. Coming into this week the Spartans rank towards the top in most defensive categories. They currently rank No. 7 in total defense which is highlighted by their No. 4 ranked rushing defense. One gap for the Spartans has been against the pass, but they still rank No. 37 in passing yards allowed.

The biggest struggle for this unit has been getting off the field on third down. The Spartans currently rank No. 47 in third down defense. That to me shows a glaring trend. If you have a top five run defense, you would have to expect to be better on third down. However, the Spartans haven’t been their best in that area of the game. Due to that, Wisconsin will have to keep drives alive to win this football game which will mean throwing the ball and converting some tough spots to keep the ball moving.

Additionally, to convert on third down you have to set yourself up on first and second down. The Badgers have struggled at times to keep the offense in front of the chains, and if they don’t clean that up against this front seven it could be a struggle for Jack Coan and company.

Pressure the Quarterback

Michigan State’s defense has been great, but Wisconsin’s has been even better. They rank in the top ten in each defense category, including the No. 1 in rushing and total defense. If there has been one area that shows a small dent in the armor its been the passing defense where the Badgers rank (GASP) only No. 8?!?! I know it’s grasping a bit, but so far that has been the weakest phase of the Wisconsin defense.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

In turn, the passing offense for Michigan State has been the strongest part of their offense. They rank No. 71 in total offense, and their No. 44 ranked passing offense has been their go to. What’s been even better though is their pass protection as they rank No. 9 in sacks allowed, giving up just 0.80 sacks per game. The game of Brian Lewerke’s may not be the greatest, but you can’t deny that he’s had time to stand in there and throw. Michigan State has given up a little more pressure than the stats let on as Ohio State had four sacks themselves, but overall the line has been pretty good in their other contests.

If Wisconsin wants to keep up their dominance on defense, they’ll have to get to the quarterback with Zack Baun and Chris Orr. Getting some pressure will make Lewerke move in the pocket, and hopefully make mistakes, something he has not done much of yet this year with only two interceptions.

Be loud and be physical

Michigan State and Wisconsin play that classic brand of smash mouth Big Ten Football which you hear so much about and it should be on full display this Saturday. Coach Chryst noted this in his Monday presser, saying that every time they go against a Mark Dantonio team they know they have to have their guys ready to play physical in all phases of the game.

That will be key, but so will the fans helping them get to that point. It’s probably not hard to get up for a huge Big Ten showdown, but it’s even easier when the crowd is rocking in your favor. The atmosphere was electric against Michigan, and that was an early kick. Badger fans have endured four early kicks, and now finally get an afternoon game. Please take advantage of it as you’re maybe only getting one more after this in the Camp.

Have your share of beverages, or don’t, do whatever you need to do, just be there on time and be loud. It’s going to be cold, but the best way to help combat that is screaming at the top of your lungs and jumping around. Home field advantage is a real thing in college football, so lets use it every chance we get.