Written By: Case Conley
Two teams who are looking to turn their seasons around meet in East Lansing on Saturday. Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst last week and gave the team over to defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who led the team to a 42-7 win over Northwestern last weekend. The Spartans, in the midst of 4 losses in a row, are trying to get a homecoming win against the Badgers on Saturday. Wisconsin is a 7.5 favorite for the 4 pm start on Fox.
The Spartans are desperate for a victory after getting thumped last week by Ohio State. Offensively, it has been the offensive line that cannot hold its own. Peyton Thorne and the passing game looked pretty good when they had time and Jayden Reed made some of his patented big plays, but a lack of time and the abysmal running game makes the Spartans very one-dimensional at times. Defensively, it is painful to watch. Blown coverages missed assignments, and penalties just give opponents easy scoring chances. Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton still has one of the worst defenses in the nation and it is simply not getting any better. Punter Bryce Baringer has been the best in the country and has been massive for swinging field position, but with another missed extra point last weekend, there is still not a clear answer when it comes to field goals.
The Badgers have had a tumultuous last few weeks with the firing of Paul Chryst but a huge win last weekend against Northwestern in Evansville gives some confidence to this team. Graham Mertz has been very inconsistent in his career but coming off a big last week, he might have found his groove. The running attack led by Braelon Allen is a strong point in this offense. They are in the top 5 of the Big Ten in rushing yards and are coming off a 500-yard performance against Northwestern. The defense has carried the Badgers all season only giving up 19.5 points per game and having one of the stingiest rushing defenses in the nation.
This game comes down to the trenches and Wisconsin has the advantage on both sides of the ball. The Spartans will move the ball at times but overall the Badger defense should shut down the run and pressure Thorne a lot. Mertz will make enough plays against the terrible secondary and Michigan State will drop to 2-5.
Wisconsin 27, Michigan State 17
Written By: Case Conley – Michigan Sports Network Intern
Photo Courtesy of: Spartans Wire – USA Today