When: Saturday, September 24 – Noon ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
All-Time Series: MSU leads 30-22
Last Meeting: MSU won 16-13 (2012)
Line: MSU -5.5
The Badgers and Spartans are set to square off in East Lansing for the first time since 2011. Back then, Wisconsin was ranked No. 6 in the nation and had Russell Wilson at quarterback. The Spartans were ranked No. 16 and had Kirk Cousins. The ending of that game, a last-second victory by MSU on a Hail Mary throw from midfield, came to be known as “Rocket.” The Badgers are hoping to not have a repeat of the devastating defeat that they suffered in 2011.
The Badgers will be giving freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook his first career start on Saturday. Tyler O’ Connor, the Spartans senior quarterback, will be making his fourth.
The quarterbacks may be new, but both teams come into the game ranked very highly once again. The Badgers and the Spartans both undefeated, will rely on stout defenses and a ball-control offensive approach. Whichever team does the better job of establishing themselves on offense will have the upper hand in this game.
1 Burning Question: Can Alex Hornibrook Avoid Making Freshman Mistakes?
Hornibrook has received hefty praise from his teammates and coaches, but the reality of the situation is Hornibrook is a player who will be making his first career start on Saturday.
He is bound to make mistakes, the question is, can he avoid making the big mistakes such as costly interceptions or fumbling the ball away. The good news for Badgers fans is that Hornibrook stepped right in to a high pressure situation last week and shined. The bad news for Badgers fans is that Hornibrook is going up against a much tougher test in Michigan State’s defense.
Badgers coach Paul Chryst knows that he needs a quarterback whom he can trust to take care of the ball, and on Saturday, the Badgers redshirt freshman quarterback needs to be on top of his game if UW want to come away with a win.
2 Key Stats:
– 215.5. That’s the amount of yards that Michigan State averages running the ball after their first two games of the 2016 season. Mark Dantonio is a coach that likes to establish the run game. Wisconsin aced its first test of the season against LSU’s potent ground game and is allowing teams to rush for just 82.3 yards per game. UW will need to be stout against the run again this week if they want to slow down the Spartans rushing attack, which will feature more quality backs than Wisconsin has faced so far this season.
– 13.7. That’s the points per game average of Wisconsin Badgers opponents so far in 2016. Interestingly enough, 13.7 points allowed per game is the exact amount of points that the 2015 No. 1-ranked Wisconsin defense gave up per game. The loss of Dave Aranda has not yet been felt by the Badgers, and they will need the defense to lead them against a talented Spartans offense. Said offense is averaging 32.0 points per game, meaning someone is going to be disappointed come Saturday afternoon.
3 Key Players:
Demetrious Cox, Michigan State DB: The Senior defensive back has been a stand out early in the season for the Spartans, and Cox will look to have a big game against the Badgers and the freshman quarterback making his first career start. Michigan State has been suspect in the secondary at times, but Cox has been a consistent play-maker for the Spartans. Wisconsin would be smart to target receivers not being covered by this Spartan defensive back.
Malik McDowell, Michigan State DT: The Junior and former 5-star recruit is currently projected to be a first round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. McDowell can play all four spots along the defensive line for the Spartans, and is listed as a starter at defensive end, but will see most of his time at defensive tackle due to MSU’s lack of interior defensive lineman. McDowell will look to have a big game against the Wisconsin offensive front.
Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin QB: The freshman quarterback will look to go on the road and defeat a top ten ranked team in his first career start. It helps that Paul Chryst is his head coach. Look for Chryst to get the Wisconsin passing game involved early on to instill confidence in the young Badgers quarterback and because the Badgers may be severely depleted at running back.
4 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Michigan State 24-21
Dave: Michigan State 34-20
Phil H.: Michigan State 27-24
Phil R-R: Wisconsin 24-21
Zach: Wisconsin 23-20