BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart nailed it Tuesday regarding Michigan State’s game against Wisconsin Saturday.
Can the defense slow down Wisconsin running back Montee Ball? The Spartans rank No. 1 in the Big Ten vs. the run (100.3 ypg). The Badgers are gaining momentum after a slow start, ranking No. 5 in the league in rushing (200.6 ypg). And Ball is No. 3 in rushing (122.8 ypg). MSU also must worry about James White, who has run for 124 and 175 in each of the last two games.
Michigan State football did a great job keeping Denard Robinson out of the end zone last weekend and it is fair to say that Ball isn’t as good as Robinson is as a rusher. Although the two have different running styles, the Spartans will benefit from having played against Robinson last weekend. Ball is not as fast as Shoelace, so the game will appear to be slower for the Spartans. What will be new to the defense is Ball’s ability to rush between the tackles. Ball is a powerful runner and he will fight for extra yardage when he carries the ball. It is imperative that the linebackers gang tackle him and keep him from busting off free yards that give Wisconsin additional first downs.
The Badgers are muddled at the quarterback position. Backup Joel Stave has taken over as head signal caller, replacing transfer QB Danny O’Brien. Stave has been admirable as a starter and he has helped the Badgers turn its season around after the team dropped two games earlier this season. However, I’d be lying to you if I said he was anything more than a game manager. He has great receivers to pass to, but he isn’t going to take the top off of the defense or demand respect from defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
Michigan State will travel to Camp Randall Stadium Saturday to play the Badgers at 3:30 p.m. ET.