It can’t keep getting worse for Michigan State, can it?
The Spartans look to pick up their first win since week two vs Akron. MSU is so far past a must win that they just need to have a close game. The student section has consistently been half empty after halftime these past few home games. Spartan fans just need something to cheer about.
Wisconsin is also having a down year, to the point they fired a very successful head coach in Paul Chryst. They are big believers in the interim head coach in Jim Leonhard. This is his chance to show the Badgers brass what they have in him, and that makes it a big game for Leonhard.
For Michigan State the stakes seem a bit lower. The season has already gone off the rails, but a win today could help fix things. At the very least it would give MSU a better chance to make a bowl game. Running back Jalen Berger transferred to the Spartans from Wisconsin, so this could be a revenge game for him. But Michigan State has struggled to get the run game going since their win over Akron.
Michigan State on Defense
Theoretically the Spartans match up well, because Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz isn’t necessarily known as being a great quarterback. But Mertz is coming off a career high 299 pass yards against Northwestern, and MSU has the 122nd rated passing defense out of 131 teams. If this is the new normal for Mertz then Michigan State may be in trouble.
In other good news for the Badgers, running back Braelon Allen has rushed for over 100 yards in 11 of his last 15 games. Meanwhile wide receiver Chimere Dike had a career day vs. Northwestern, catching ten passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll be a key focus of the Spartan secondary.
MSU on Offense
Receiver Jayden Reed finally seems to have gotten on track over the last two games, and he had a couple of nice catches against Ohio State. Payton Thorne struggled again last week, and he was eventually benched in the 4th quarter for Noah Kim. Kim was solid, but Thorne is expected to start this week.
Wisconsin’s keys to victory are to bottle up the Spartans run game on defense and take advantage of the leaky MSU secondary. Michigan State needs to find a running game. If they can, they’ll also open up their passing game and, crucially, keep Wisconsin’s offense off the field.
The game is at 4 p.m. today on Fox.