Getting set to host Wisconsin, Michigan State football fans are expecting the worst. But I’m here to show why that won’t happen.
It’s been four weeks — four long weeks — since Michigan State football won a game.
The Spartans began the season 2-0 after beating Western Michigan and Akron by a combined score of 87-13 and all seemed right in the world.
And then the Washington game happened.
What seemed like minor, correctable issues against the Huskies snowballed into bigger concerns such as the offensive line, the defense, and the run game. Payton Thorne looked good against Washington but hasn’t looked nearly as solid since.
A beatdown at home against Minnesota, a game that got away at Maryland, and an expected shellacking at home versus Ohio State have rounded out the four-game skid.
None of these games (outside of Maryland) have felt all that close.
But something has to change. Michigan State has to get back into the win column eventually, right? So why not on Saturday against a beatable Wisconsin team that fired its head coach two weeks ago? Graham Mertz and that offense — outside of Braelon Allen — don’t strike fear into anyone, so why can’t the defense finally show some life?
It can. And I believe it will.
Michigan State is going to end its losing skid against Wisconsin on Saturday, and here’s why I believe that.
1. Wisconsin hasn’t gotten much pressure on opposing QBs
Thorne admitted earlier this week that he hasn’t been healthy pretty much all year. He has been playing at less than 100 percent and while that’s no excuse for what we’ve seen, it makes sense because he’s looked off.
Is he going to be 100 percent for this game? We don’t really know, but one thing he shouldn’t have to worry a ton about is pressure. Wisconsin is tied for 91st nationally in sacks with 10 and they get even less pressure on quarterbacks than Michigan State does. If Thorne can sit back in a clean pocket, he may be able to sling the rock again.
2. Jayden Reed got his swagger back
This kind of plays off the Thorne being able to sit back in a clean pocket reason. Jayden Reed got his swagger back against Ohio State and when he’s catching everything that’s thrown his way like he did a week ago, he’s borderline unstoppable.
Wisconsin allows over 200 passing yards per game and that means there are yards to be had. Reed should remain hot against the Badgers.
3. Jalen Berger revenge game
Do I think a running back will be the difference in this one? Not necessarily, but there’s something to be said about a guy who was dismissed from a team being able to prove himself against his former team.
Berger is going to finally look like the back we saw in the first two games and maybe even flirt with 100 yards against the Badgers who let him walk a year ago.
4. Graham Mertz has been bad vs. Power 5 teams not named Northwestern
Against Power Five teams not named Northwestern this year, Graham Mertz has 527 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions. He’s also completing under 58 percent of his passes in those games. He’s been bad against Power Five competition — not counting Northwestern because it can’t beat Group of Five teams.
Wisconsin isn’t going to beat teams with the passing game — or at least it hasn’t yet.
5. Field position battle
If this game comes down to punting and field position, Michigan State is going to win because, well, it has the best punter in the nation in Bryce Baringer. It’s as simple as that.
Bonus: Homecoming crowd
This crowd is hungry for a win and that home-field advantage on homecoming weekend is going to play into the Spartans’ favor. Spartan Stadium will be (surprisingly) rocking.
Michigan State is going to shock everyone and beat Wisconsin.
We must speak this into existence.