Michigan St. vs. Wisconsin: Comprehensive B1G Title Game Preview

Michigan St. vs. Wisconsin: Comprehensive B1G Title Game Preview

Here we go- the inaugural Big Ten Championship game- a play-in game for the Rose Bowl. Something MSU has has been playing for and focusing on for awhile.

This year in East Lansing, it’s all about “P4RB” meaning “Prepare for Rose Bowl” for the Michigan State Spartans. It’s a slogan you’ll find displayed on t-shirts within the program. It originated during a presentation during a winter meeting. The presentation was made by Running Backs Coach Mike Salem’s brother Wade.

“At the end of his talk, he brought up a slide that said P4RB, and his point was as we go through our winter workouts, spring practices, summer workouts and training camp, we’re not just going out to practice, or run around. We’re doing it to prepare for a Rose Bowl. And that perspective has really helped to galvanize and strengthen our workouts,” said MSU QB Kirk Cousins at Media Day.

“And the focus is not on the Rose Bowl, the focus is on the preparation and the process. And making sure we’re doing what we can towards the things we can control,” he continued.

I'll be covering the B1G Title game Saturday night, as will my site's Badgers writer Nick Grays. He's a UW alum, and I started my MBA at Michigan St., before later completing it at Loyola, so it's just about alum vs. alum side by side in the press box. And we go extremely in-depth on this title game preview for you the reader.

I'll defer here to the second half and let Nick show you the game from the Badgers side, and his prediction. Then we'll get to my side telling you all about Michigan State, and you can see my prediction.


b1g championship


Saturday’s match-up between the #13 Michigan State Spartans and #15 Wisconsin Badgers is not only the rematch for one of college football’s most dramatic endings this season, it’s also the deciding factor in which team takes home the Big Ten Title and represents the conference in the Rose Bowl.

If the Badgers are to win, they will need to rely heavily on their high-octane offense led by Heisman contenders Russell Wilson and Montee Ball as well as the commonly overlooked offensive line.

WISC Analysis: Prior to the Badgers-Spartans meeting in late October, the Badgers were starting to be included in talk for the national championship game. However, true road games turned out to be a massive road-block for Wisconsin as the Badgers dropped back-to-back games at East Lansing and Columbus, both on heart-breaking long throws near the end of the game.

Since then, the Badgers have been on a mission to get back to that elite level while outscoring their last four opponents 177-54, including a 45-7 triumph over Penn State, which held the third ranked defense in the nation at the time.

Why the Badgers Could Win: Wisconsin’s offense is arguably the best in the nation. Powered by an unbelievable offensive line, QB Wilson and RB Ball find multiple ways to lead the Badgers down the field and score touchdowns. The Badgers also do a great job of not turning the ball over, something which will be key in beating the Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend.

Moreover, the Badgers defense has been criticized for their costly blown coverages, but overall, the unit has been fairly proficient at keeping the opponent’s points off the scoreboard (15.2 points per game).

Why the Badgers Could Lose: As the Badgers found out in their loss at East Lansing, the Spartans are a well-rounded team with a lot of balance. Particularly Michigan State’s defense who consistently stop the run and pass each week; making nightmarish game-planning for Wisconsin. Head Coach Bret Bielema touched upon the topic earlier this week.

“They’re obviously a very good defense. The thing that stands out to me defensively is they’ve got a couple key guys, really, at each tier. They’ve got a couple defensive linemen I think are exceptional football players, two linebackers that are very productive. They’ve got a couple safeties, a corner. So there’s really not a weakness in the group, and that allows them to play consistent,” said Bielema.

Synopsis: It all comes down to the what Wisconsin’s high-ranked offense can do against Michigan State’s high-ranked defense. Unlike their first meeting, I expect the game to start out slow and ultimately stay a low-scoring game. The Badgers like to score a lot of points at Camp Randall, but the neutral field should keep them in check with both team’s defenses playing inspired football. The game won’t end on a hail-mary, but a crucial fourth quarter drive.

Wisconsin 24 Michigan State 20

Who do you think will win the Big Ten Championship? Will there be a lot of points or not many at all? Let me know by commenting below!

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.




MSU Analysis: They’ll have the green jerseys on as the “home team,” but they’ll still be a 9.5 point underdog. Michigan State seems to do a good job getting to Indianapolis for big championship events, the college basketball team reached this same exact stadium for the 2010 Final Four. Of course, it didn’t end too well.

Michigan State has won 21 of its last 25, going 14-2 in Big Ten play during that span.

Not bad for a basketball school.

They have a defensive unit ranked No. 3 nationally in total defense, allowing 257.3 yards per game. Only two teams have topped 400 yards of total offense against defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s unit. Only the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide are better than State at stopping their opponents. Of course, those two SEC units will play for the national title in college football, and they’re loaded with NFL talent. MSU doesn’t have near as many next level guys, which is a testament to Narduzzi’s ability.

D Tackle Jerel Worthy is to the unit what Beyonce is/was to Destiny’s Child. He’s got probably the highest NFL draft stock of anyone in the Big Ten, and a bad-ass tattoo. (Which you can see and learn more about here) His stats aren’t as impressive as his game, and he’s not as tall/big as he’s listed. However, there’s a reason everyone game plans around him. The DL itself is insanely good, and Worthy is complemented inside by Kevin Pickelman and ends Kareem Rush and William Gholston.

State has play-makers in all three levels of their defense. Safety Trenton Robinson leads a very talented secondary that had a strong presence on the All-Big Ten teams selected Monday.


Why the Spartans Could Win: They’ve figured out the Badgers, as they’ve won the last two. Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham could be the best duo in school history, as they own most of the key records for their position in school history. Cunningham wasn’t the receiver who came in with all the hype -that was Mark Dell- but he has the reception record, and he’ll break Andre Rison’s receiving yards record in either this game or the bowl game.

“The coming week is the most important week of our careers because of all the work we’ve put in, we’re 60 minutes from a Rose Bowl. That’s what we talked about when I committed, when I signed my letter of intent, last year, this year, the start of the season, and we’re so close,” Cousins said at the Northwestern post-game media session.

Why the Spartans Could Lose: The Badgers are probably the better, more talented team. And there’s two main reasons State beat them in the first meeting:

1.) the fluky hail mary at the end.

2.) Wisconsin isn’t very good on the road. They’re phenomenal at home. How are they at a neutral site? I guess we’ll see.

I heard BTN’s Tim Doyle say “Russell Wilson and Montee Ball are the greatest QB-RB duo in college football history.” At first I thought “How is THIS GUY allowed on tv again?” Which I usually think every time he opens his mouth and dumbs the viewer down, but then I realized this was some more substantive than Doyle’s usual delusional conference player hyperbole. Wilson is on pace to break the passing efficiency mark, and Ball could break Barry Sanders’ season TD record. So you can make that case. Strength versus strength: offense versus defense in this one.

Synopsis: Maybe God and/or Jesus is getting sick of Russell Wilson dropping his name is every single interview he does, and intends to punish him by delivering a Rose Bowl to Michigan St. I can’t honestly say what BCS bowl match-ups an omnipotent diety would like to see. I do know that Michigan State feels slighted from last season, when they were the only one of the three 11-1 Big Ten teams to not get a BCS bid. And they were right about one team placed in the Capitol One Bowl deserving an at-large bid: the Alabama Crimson Tide, who showed State they didn’t belong there by CRUSHING them.

That said, MSU has additional motivation from being a big underdog, and they don’t like the disrespect. Pretty much every Rose Bowl projection you’ll see has Wisconsin taking on the Oregon Ducks, not the Spartans. Will that chip on the shoulder be enough emotion to carry them to a W? Football is an emotional game…but no. Close though. This game has that Mark Dantonio “trickeration” feel. Like they could win the game on a trick play with a cool name like “little giants” (Notre Dame) or “mouse trap” (Northwestern)

Prediction (Picks record 38-19): Wisconsin 28, Michigan State 27

Go here for our game preview focusing on the Wisconsin side

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.


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