Big Ten Showdown
Behind its best defensive effort of the season last week, Wisconsin was able to extend the nation's longest winning streak as well as its recent dominance of Big Ten opponents.
The ninth-ranked Badgers look to build on that performance and continue both runs when they host unbeaten Michigan State on Saturday.
For the second straight week, Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) needed a second-half comeback as it posted a 17-13 home victory over Iowa last Saturday. P.J. Hill had a go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Taylor Mehlhaff kicked a 40-yard field goal in the final two minutes as the Badgers won their 13th consecutive game overall and eight straight Big Ten matchup.
"We got out of the non-conference schedule, but the Big Ten season is a whole different season, so we had to step it up," defensive back Allen Langford said. "We played with a lot more confidence and swagger and had a good day."
Langford and the defense finally held an opponent below 300 yards, limiting Iowa to 228 - 59 rushing - for the fewest yards allowed since the Badgers gave up 216 in a 41-9 win over Northwestern last Oct. 7.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Wisconsin -7.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 45 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Wisconsin -7.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Wisconsin - which boasted the nation's sixth-best defense last year by allowing 253.1 yards per game - will need to be just as tough against Michigan State (4-0, 0-0), which is averaging 416.5 yards a game, including 200.8 rushing.
"We were really disappointed with ourselves after the Citadel game, so we went out there and practiced hard," Langford said of the 377 yards allowed to the Bulldogs in a 45-31 win on Sept. 15. "We had a real good week of practice and it showed (Saturday). We went out there and played hard and swarmed the ball."
Hill finished with 113 yards - his third straight 100-yard game - on 29 rushes to go along with his TD, while Tyler Donovan completed 12 of 23 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Donovan, who has compiled a career-high 761 yards, will oppose the conference's third-best pass defense in Michigan State, which is surrendering 170.0 yards a contest.
With last Saturday's victory, the Badgers moved within four wins of matching the school-record 17-game streak set from Nov. 10, 1900-Oct. 25, 1902. This 13-game run began after Wisconsin fell 27-13 to Big Ten foe Michigan last Sept. 23, and the Badgers have since won a program-best eight consecutive conference games.
Wisconsin, which tied the Wolverines for second place in the conference last season, hasn't won the Big Ten title since 1999. Michigan State, meanwhile, finished 1-7 in conference play last year and has won just three of its last 16 Big Ten games.
"Every week is an opportunity for you to go out and show what you do," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "And as you have more and more success, the stakes get higher and higher.
"As we have more and more wins in this program, people expect more and more things. That's human nature. But as a head coach, and as a group of players, what we focus on is Michigan State."
The Spartans, under first-year coach Mark Dantonio, are off to their first 4-0 start since 2005 after a dominant 31-14 road victory over lowly Notre Dame last Saturday.
Javon Ringer had a season-high 144 yards on 26 carries, and Jehuu Caulcrick picked up 83 on 20 attempts. Both will now face a Wisconsin run defense that has surrendered just 96.8 yards per game this season.
The Spartans, who last won five straight from Sept. 20-Oct. 18, 2003, are seeking their best start since opening 6-0 in 1999. Michigan State, though, hasn't won back-to-back road games since Sept. 17-24, 2005.
"We've learned the hard way really. The last few years to start out 4-0 and 3-0 then to have it crumble from there so we are going to stay humble through the victories," said quarterback Brian Hoyer, who completed 11 of 24 passes for 135 yards and a career-high four touchdowns against the Irish. "Coach Dantonio always says we will judge this team at the end of the season and not right now."
Michigan State routed Wisconsin 49-14 in East Lansing in the teams' last meeting on Nov. 13, 2004. The Spartans will be making their first trip to Camp Randall Stadium since a 56-21 Badgers victory on Nov. 15, 2003.
Wisconsin has won 10 straight at home since losing 20-10 to Iowa on Nov. 12, 2005 - the team's only defeat in 22 home games since the start of the 2004 season.
by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us
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