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Big Ten Championship Game Preview: Michigan State vs Wisconsin

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When these two teams locked horns earlier this year in October it turned out to be one of the better games of the year. Wisconsin jumped out to an early 14-2 lead only to give way as Sparty led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. In the second half, it seemed like the Badgers really figured out Michigan State. Before the final drive of the game, Michigan State had six drvies in the second half and went three and out on four of those, went six and out in another and had a TD drive. Wisconsin on the other hand scored three times in the same six drives. With just over four minutes left in the game, Russell Wilson led the Badgers on an 87 yard TD drive and tied up the game at 31-31. The problem? They left a minute and a half on the clock.

Kirk Cousins then led the Spartans on their second longest drive of the half and flung a 44 yard Hail Mary as time expired. If you don’t remember what happened, then click here. It was an improbable catch by Sparty and a dagger to the season of the Wisconsin Badgers. The game was played pretty evenly but it was ended when a prayer was answered and Wisconsin finally had a blemish on their record.

Since that point in time, Michigan State has gone 4-1. The loss came in a let-down game against Nebraska directly after the win over Wisconsin. The four wins were against less than impressive company although both Iowa and Northwestern will go bowling this year. Wisconsin also lost their very next game and it was again on a last minute 40 yard TD by the opposition. Since that point Wisconsin has dominated their opponents with it’s most impressive victory coming just last week as it mauled Penn State 45-7.

Now these two meet in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game with a Rose Bowl birth on the line. Wisconsin comes in as a rather hefty ten point favorite. Will this game pick up where the second half of the last game took off with Wisconsin having figured out Michigan State or will Sparty be able to put themselves in a position to win and then finish the drill like they did last time?

Here’s our predictions:

Jay: I guess I’m making the boring pick and going with Wisconsin in the rematch.  I’ve been high on Michigan State since the preseason, and despite the flukey nature of their win over the Badgers, I think they’re good enough to win this game straight up.  But Montee Ball and Russell Wilson are playing too well down the stretch.  I don’t think they’ll be denied a second time.  And maybe I’m just really big into the concept of redemption right now.

Kevin: Wisconsin is playing some of the best football right now in the Nation and I think they are the best two loss team in the country (well, maybe just maybe that’s USC but Wisky is close). I think Wisconsin started to figure Michigan State out late in their first encounter and I think that’s going to continue in this one. Both teams have had their down spots this year but I have to believe that Russell Wilson and Montee Ball will be good enough to carry the Badgers to victory given their thirst to avenge Michigan State’s crazy last second victory over them the last time the two teams played. Prediction: Wisconsin 31 Michigan State 23

Pete: Indianapolis is the site of the inaugural Big 10 championship game in a rematch between Wisconsin and Michigan State. That game was decided by a Kirk Cousins TD pass of 44 yard to Keith Nichol as time expired. It was Wisconsin’s first road game and first loss of the season. The Badgers went on to lose in similar fashion to Ohio State the following week in Columbus. The Spartans have losses to Notre Dame and Nebraska. Their season has been hot and cold though and their luck may be in short supply. Montee Ball is vying for the Heisman trophy and Wisconsin wants a shot at Rose Bowl redemption. Wisconsin wins a very physical battle, 31-24.

Ross: If only the Big Ten had adopted the Pac 12′s rules (best team in the conference hosts the title game), Michigan State would be sitting pretty.  They finished 7-1, the best conference record in the Big Ten, and they beat the Badgers in East Lansing earlier this season.  In fact, all season long the Badgers have been a different team away from home than in the friendly confines of Camp Randall — their lowest offensive outputs (and, not coincidentally, their two losses) both came in away trips.  Will the neutral site of Indianapolis be more like a home game for the Badgers (where they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the country) or an away game (where they’ve looked like a good, but far from great squad)?  Good question, but I’m leaning towards the former.  Sparty beat them earlier this season, but that was with the benefit of a wacky hail mary touchdown in the final seconds and homefield advantage.  Take away those two things and I’ll side with the Badgers, who have the two best offensive players in the league (QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball) and a burning desire to avenge that earlier loss. THE PICK: Wisconsin 38, Michigan State 24

 

If you want more Championship Week action then check out our previews of: Clemson/Virginia Tech and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State

Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section and founder of College Football Zealots

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