MSU vs. Wisconsin preview: Build on momentum
The Detroit News' Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Wisconsin game at Spartan Stadium (noon, BTN/WJR).
Badgers to watch
Alex Hornibrook, QB: The redshirt freshman has yet to start, but after rallying Wisconsin last week against Georgia State, it looks like he’ll take over for fifth-year senior Bart Houston. The Badgers offense has struggled to score in two of its first three games and had two FGs last week before Hornibrook engineered TD drives in two of his first three series and finished 8-for-12 for 122 yards and a TD.
Corey Clement, RB: The senior’s availability is unknown because of an ankle injury, but there doesn’t seem to be much question the Badgers need their top rusher. Clement has carried 42 times for 197 yards but missed last week’s game. Fellow backs Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal also are questionable with injuries.
Vince Biegel, LB: The senior was a third-team all-Big Ten last season and entered 2016 on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi awards, and the Nagurski Trophy. The captain of the No. 2 rushing defense in the Big Ten — No. 1 overall — has started 31 of his 45 games, including the last 28 straight at outside linebacker. He is eighth in school history with 18.5 sacks and is tied for 13th in tackles for loss with 35.5.
Hello, old friend: The Spartans and Badgers have played their share of exciting games in recent years, but haven’t met since 2012. That game ended in a 16-13 win for Michigan State in overtime in Madison, less than a year after the Badgers broke the Spartans hearts in the inaugural Big Ten championship game.
Forget the past: Michigan State insists it doesn’t pay attention to those outside the program. What matters most in responding after a big game, making this matchup on the heels of the win at Notre Dame vital to Michigan State’s success heading into conference.
Detroit News predictions: MSU vs. Wisconsin
Building momentum: The Spartans and Badgers enter unbeaten, and a win Saturday for Michigan State would set it up well for the next few weeks with winnable conference games against Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland, along with a nonconference visit from BYU. It’s the type of schedule that likely could lead to an unbeaten showdown when Michigan arrives Oct. 29.
Rough road: Wisconsin has a marquee victory over LSU, but Saturday’s game is just the first of a six-week stretch of brutal games. Wisconsin follows Saturday’s game at Michigan, hosting Ohio State, at Iowa and hosting Nebraska.
Welcome back: It’s Hall of Fame week as the 2016 class is inducted and set to be honored. Former football players Eric Allen, Steve Juday and Mike Sadler enter the Hall of Fame, providing plenty of motivation for the current Spartans, especially those that were teammates with Sadler, who was killed over the summer in a car accident.
Facts and figures
■ Michigan State enters Saturday’s game with an impressive record against ranked teams. The Spartans have won 10 of their last 13 games against ranked teams, including six of the last seven. The one loss? Alabama in last season’s playoffs.
■ The last seven games between Michigan State and Wisconsin have been decided by a total of 34 points, the largest margin being the Spartans 34-24 win in 2010. The last three meetings have been decided in the final minutes, including Michigan State’s victory on the final play in 2011.
■ Wisconsin and Michigan State have combined to win the Big Ten championship five of the last six seasons, with each claiming three titles during that span. The Badgers and Spartans shared the 2010 championship.
■ Dating to last season, Wisconsin has held opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in seven of its last 10 games, going 7-0. The Badgers have held opponents to an average of 81.9 yards a game and 2.9 yards an attempt during that 10-game stretch.
■ Michigan State is 35-24-4 in Big Ten openers, including 6-3 under coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans are seeking back to back Big Ten titles for the second time in school history and the first time since 1965-66. Michigan State has won nine conference championships, including three under Dantonio (2010, 2013, 2015).