If you thought things were tough for the Badgers, be grateful you’re not a Michigan State fan. It’s not been a good month. The Badgers enter East Lansing coming off their best win of the season with a 42-7 over Northwestern. Meanwhile, the Michigan State Spartans have just been embarrassed, much like the Badgers were, after a devastating loss to Ohio State.
Wisconsin has a chance to build on last week’s momentum. There's a new leader eager to prove he’s the permanent replacement for Chryst. Let’s check out what this week’s keys to victory look like.
Balance the attack...and have fun
Last week was just about as fun as I’ve seen this team have in weeks. Braelon Allen touchdown pass? (Chef’s kiss) More, please! Combine that with a fairly even attack of the run and passing game, 30 pass plays, and 38 rushes? Chef’s kiss again. A balanced offense with some flair ta’boot; this was the Bobby Engram we had been promised in the offseason. It was beautiful. I cried. Haha. I didn’t cry but it did bring me joy to see the Badger's offense running like a finely tuned machine.
That was an offense that could be dangerous, that was an offense that could cause problems for opposing defenses, that was an offense that could win games. But yesterday’s history and tomorrow is truly a mystery. Will they be able to bottle up that magic and let it loose in East Lansing? We can only hope. Mertz has the talent...I seen’t it! Michigan State has given up an average of 452 yards per game. Tomorrow should be no different. I’m ready to watch Chimere Dike jump off my screen again.
Braelon Allen should have another 100-yard game combined with support from the rest of the running backs. Minus Chez Mellusi, get well quick sir! It’ll be interesting to see if Engram decides to keep things fresh and mix up the offense once more. If they’re able to create early separation from MSU like the previous 4 opponents have, I can’t see why Engram wouldn’t cut them loose and let the boys have a little fun.
Keep Michigan State on the ground
Michigan State doesn’t have much going on offensively. Wisconsin’s defense is banged up but last week played a lights-out game vs Northwestern. Or at least a fairly good game until the final quarter. The Spartan offense isn’t producing crazy numbers but they have a wide variety of targets to whom their quarterback likes to distribute the ball to. I’m not foreseeing any big plays breaking out but if they’re able to keep the ball moving through the air their offense is going to stay in the game. The Spartans have gone 0-4 since playing power 5 opponents. But with every loss they’ve been forced to revert to a ground attack. When that happens the game is pretty much wrapped up.
Look...No one liked the way that things turned out between Wisconsin and Jalen Berger. It was painful and awkward. Arguably, it cost Wisconsin the game vs Penn State last year. But this is a new year. He’s running for a new team. I think even Berger would admit that things haven’t turned out as he envisioned following his exit from Madison. The Badger offense should have a field day if Michigan State raises the white flag and just starts running the ball to get the game over with. They’re averaging less than 100 yards rushing vs power 5 offenses. Berger himself isn’t even clearing more than 3 yards a carry and has yet to find the endzone. I don’t think he’ll get there this Saturday either.
Harness last week's energy
What was last week? Nobody really knows other than those on the Badgers roster and coaching staff. Heck, they might not even really know if what they accomplished is real. But it’s important to produce consistently. The entire Wisconsin Badger fan base is eager to see if the Leonard era’s start shows true promise. It certainly felt like the team was having fun. That might be the magic elixir...fun. The previous week has had its distractions. Players entering the portal and being dismissed isn’t usually anything that helps. We wish those players the best of luck in their future.
But let’s focus on what can be done in East Lansing. Shut down MSU’s passing attack, keep Berger’s TD drought active, and have the most fun on offense. Prove to Badger fans and the Big Ten that last week wasn’t a fluke. Let’em know that the Badgers are a team to be feared when they’re having fun.