October 20, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans offense huddles up during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Pregame reading: Michigan State football at Wisconsin

It goes without saying how important getting a win is for the Spartans Saturday. Here is an aggregated look the Michigan State vs. Wisconsin Badgers matchup with this week’s pregame reading…

Michigan State will need all the help it  can get Saturday stopping Wisconsin tailbacks James white and Montee Ball, despite having an elite rush defense.

Montee Ball and James White have combined to average 356.0 yards rushing in Wisconsin’s last two games and are the only Division I-A teammates to rush for 150-plus yards in the same game. But Sparty leads the Big Ten in rush defense.

Here is a look at Michigan State’s game against Wisconsin by the numbers:

10: The Spartans have started games extremely slowly – having scored a grand total of 10 first-quarter points in their last six games.

Defense, of course, has been another story.

1st: The Spartans are 1st in the Big Ten in Rushing Defense, Total Defense and Scoring Defense.

That defensive supremacy will certainly be challenged against Wisconsin – a team that has really found its offensive rhythm after its well-documented early-season problems.

804/801: Wisconsin has rushed for a combined 804 yards in the last two weeks. That is the most in the nation in that span. The Badgers had just 801 yards on the ground in their first six games this season combined.

Montee Ball has, of course, been a huge part of that – gaining 413 yards on the ground to go with 5 TDs in the wins over Purdue and Minnesota. His two fourth-quarter TDs against the Gophers last week allowed him to keep this remarkable streak alive.

17: Ball has tallied at least two touchdowns in his last 17 games against conference opponents.

The Big Ten Network did a great job previewing the game this week.

Why you should watch: Wisconsin looks for its fourth win in a row when Michigan State visits in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game. The team’s played an epic regular-season game last year in East Lansing, when Kirk Cousins hit Keith Nichol with a last-second, 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to pull out a 37-31 win. A win would be a boon to slumping Michigan State, which has lost two in a row and three of four.

Player on the spot: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State. He’s coming off his second-worst game of the year, running for just 68 yards on 26 carries vs. Michigan. The Spartans must get the junior established to take pressure off quarterback Andrew Maxwell and the struggling Michigan State aerial game.

Key matchup: Wisconsin offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive line. This is power on power, and strength on strength. The Badgers have just the No. 7 offense in the Big Ten (382.6 ypg), but the attack has come to life of late. Since being limited to 295 yards in a loss at Nebraska, Wisconsin has notched 427, 645 and 443 yards and scored 31, 38 and 39 points in three straight victories. Montee Ball has rushed for 541 yards in the last three games and is now No. 3 in the Big Ten in rushing. Michigan State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in total defense (277.1 ypg) and is No. 1 in scoring defense (15.3 ppg).

Key number: 19.6, points per game for Michigan State. That ranks 11th in the Big Ten and 107th in the nation.

Key note: Michigan State’s defense has only surrendered nine touchdowns this season (six passing, three rushing), which ties for the sixth-fewest allowed in the FBS.

Here is one of the most amazing stats I have ever read regarding Michigan State.

Michigan State’s ultimate rival is Michigan, so there’s something meaningful about the fact that, under coach Mark Dantonio, the Spartans are 5-0 in games following their highly emotional dustups with the Wolverines. Two of those wins came vs. UW (2008, ’11).

Tags: Football Michigan State Spartans Wisconsin Badgers

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