Michigan State vs Wisconsin: Final score predictions

Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Sparty, the Michigan State Spartans mascot celebrates in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. MSU won 36-28. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Sparty, the Michigan State Spartans mascot celebrates in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. MSU won 36-28. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday afternoon’s Michigan State vs Wisconsin game should be a must-see classic and here are our final score predictions.

Mark Dantonio is preparing for one of his biggest games against the Wisconsin Badgers yet. Saturday’s Michigan State vs Wisconsin game might have serious postseason and playoff implications, potentially previewing the conference title game in December.

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Both teams match up pretty well with strong defenses, solid ground games and first-year starting quarterbacks. It should be yet another in a long line of instant classic games between these two.

What does our staff believe the final score will be?

Connor Muldowney: Michigan State will figure out a way to bring consistent pressure on defense instead of letting up like it did against Notre Dame. The Spartans will blitz early and often against a young quarterback and Alex Hornibrook will be in for a long day. Expect Tyler O’Connor to have some success through the air while Michigan State’s offensive line dominates the trenches.

Prediction: Wisconsin 17, Michigan State 28 (1-1 on the season)

Michael Briggs: Michigan State and Wisconsin have treated football fans to some thrilling games in their past few meetings. This year’s edition, while a match-up of top-10 teams, will not be quite as close.

While I’m fully anticipating a physical battle between two talented squads, the Badgers just don’t have what it takes to beat Michigan State.

Wisconsin is sending out a first-time starter in QB Alex Hornibrook, a redshirt freshman whose claim to fame has been rescuing a Badgers offense that was stalling at home last week vs. Georgia State, a program founded all the way back in 2010.

Senior QB Bart Houston could see the field too, but he can’t be brimming with confidence after getting benched for a freshman mid-game vs. the Panthers. Sure, Wisconsin was without talented tailback Corey Clement  — who is questionable but should play against the Spartans — but after shutting down a QB of Deshone Kizer’s stature, I just don’t see MSU allowing Hornibrook and/or Houston to beat them. Keep the running game in check and Wisconsin’s offense will sputter.

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The Spartans offense, meanwhile, proved it can be far more than serviceable against Notre Dame. While the Irish secondary was very inexperienced due to injuries and suspensions, I don’t expect Tyler O’Connor to experience much trouble with the Badgers’ pass defense, either. Wisconsin’s 178.7 passing yards allowed per game average looks good on paper, but that was against an LSU team allergic to moving the ball, Akron and Georgia State, which actually threw for 269 yards.

While he isn’t Connor Cook or Kirk Cousins, O’Connor has proved to be efficient through two games and has a handful of solid pass-catchers at his disposal. Michigan State’s running game will lead the way, but I don’t expect the Spartans to be one-dimensional.

This one will be close until the early third quarter — then it’s bye, bye Bucky.

Prediction: Wisconsin 10, Michigan State 24 (2-0 on the season)

Andrew Erdman: We know what the Spartans are going to do on offense: run, run, run and run some more, passing only when necessary. LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes will both have over 15 rush attempts. The defense will need to stay aggressive for all 60 minutes and shut down the running game for the Badgers. If the Spartans can jump on the Badgers early, I don’t think Wisconsin will have the offensive fire power to come back from a big deficit.

Prediction: Wisconsin 13, Michigan State 31 (1-1 on the season)

Stephen Robb: I’m excited that this rivalry is starting back up again. Some of the most thrilling games in the Big Ten the last 5-6 years have been the MSU vs Wisconsin matchups.

However, this game will not be close. Wisconsin did upset No. 5 LSU. However, LSU is a team that was clearly over-ranked. Wisconsin could just load the box every snap to slow down Leonard Fournette.

Wisconsin plays smart football, however, it will face a difficult challenge in the Spartans. Wisconsin will load the box and expect MSU to beat them through the air, which is exactly what the Spartans will do. Look for Tyler O’Connor to have his first 300-yard passing day.

It will take a few series for either team to get on the board as they feel each other out. O’Connor will be the most complete quarterback on the field Saturday. MSU will have a 100-yard rusher, but those yards will be hard fought because Wisconsin will sell out on the run.

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Big plays for O’Connor will be-a-plenty with play action. Donnie Corley will have another big game. It’ll only be a 10-point game because Wisconsin will get a late touchdown. MSU defense will have a field day with the Badgers’ freshman QB.  Great win for Sparty.

Prediction: Wisconsin 17, Michigan State 27 (1-1 on the season)

Daniel Gottschalk: How good is Wisconsin? Wisconsin earned its top-10 ranking by squeaking by then-No. 5 LSU. The Tigers, however, have not been all that impressive in their other games, beating Mississippi State by only three points, a team that lost its first game of the season to South Alabama.

Last week, the Badgers had a scare from FCS Georgia State, trailing by four late in the fourth quarter before rallying to win 23-17. Michigan State has a slight edge in the ground game, especially considering Badgers’ running back Corey Clement is banged up and may not play.

Wisconsin is also in the midst of a QB battle thanks to the offensive struggles against Georgia State. Redshirt freshman QB Alex Hornibrook has been reported to be the new starter for this Saturday, a secret he may have let out of the bag after confirming to reporters he would be starting, then backing off that statement after speaking with a Wisconsin official.

If Hornibrook is the new starter, I think a hostile road environment in Spartan Stadium will provide too tough for the inexperienced signal caller, and Michigan State will limit the Badgers rushing attack, picking  up where they left off after holding Notre Dame to 57 rushing yards.

Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Michigan State 28 (2-0 on the season)