By Adam Hoge-
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) Here are three areas where I think tonight’s game between Wisconsin and Michigan State will be decided:
Michigan State’s defensive line vs. Wisconsin’s offensive line. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Spartans beat up Wisconsin’s big uglies, despite defensive end William Gholston missing the game due to suspension. Gholston will play tonight and the Badgers will likely be without stud center Peter Konz, who is recovering from a dislocated ankle. With Konz out, Travis Frederick has moved to center with Ryan Groy playing left guard. Groy’s play has been underwhelming and the Spartans can take advantage. If Russell Wilson has time to operate, however, it will be very hard to beat the Badgers.
Special teams. Wisconsin’s special teams unit has been horrible all year long, especially in kick coverage. Michigan State won the first meeting in large part because they blocked a field goal and blocked a punt that they returned for a touchdown. Last year, Keshawn Martin’s punt return for a touchdown changed the game in Sparty’s favor. For Wisconsin, it will be about not making big mistakes on special teams. For Michigan State, it will be about making a huge special teams play, but their offense alone, probably isn’t enough.
3rd down. Michigan State is not a good third down team, converting just 39 percent of their third down chances this season. But against the Badgers, the Spartans converted 8-of-16 third downs including all three on their final game winning drive. It was a similar story in last year’s game as the Badgers couldn’t get Michigan State off the field in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin knows it needs to get stops on third down to win the game.
You can find my official prediction for the game here. Get all of our Big Ten Championship Game coverage here and follow me on Twitter (@AdamHogeCBS) for live updates/analysis during the game tonight.