It just might be time to start taking No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) seriously as a Big Ten threat. Feel free to throw the Badgers in your late September College Football Playoff conversation if you are so inclined, but the Badgers made mincemeat of No.8 Michigan State (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) and may have put the Big Ten on notice with some very challenging games still to come in the next month. Wisconsin picked up their second win against a top 10 opponent with a 30-6 victory at Michigan State.
Wisconsin put this game away in the third quarter. After taking a 13-6 lead into halftime, the Badgers defense made a big play to open the scoring in the second half. Michigan State running back LJ Scott had the ball pop out of his hands on a run up the middle, and free safety Leo Musso managed to pick up the loose ball and make his way down the left side of the field, shove aside Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor attempting to make a tackle, and get some blockers to make his way to the end zone for a wild touchdown. The score seemed to deflate the Spartans just a little more than they already had been against the Badgers defense. Wisconsin took advantage of a special teams mistake when a punt snap went above the punter and the ball was downed at the five-yard line. One play later, Corey Clement ran in for a knockout blow of a touchdown, putting the Badgers up 30-6.
O’Connor was picked off by the Badgers defense three times in the game, and he completed just 18 of 38 pass attempts. Scott managed to pick up just 61 rushing yards on the ground for the Spartans. Michigan State may have to go back to the drawing board with its offense.
Wisconsin opened the year with a win against LSU, who was then ranked in the preseason top 10. Maybe LSU was overhyped (LSU was definitely overhyped), but take nothing away from what the Badgers have managed to do, even if this is a step-back year for Michigan State. Few teams have accumulated two quality wins the way Wisconsin has four weeks into the season. The only team that may have done better is Alabama, although the Crimson Tide’s win against now 1-3 USC looks far less sexy than it could have. Does this make Wisconsin the team to beat in the Big Ten? No. Not at this point, with Michigan and Ohio State still looming. But the Badgers are most certainly worthy of praise for what they have accomplished in September.
Next up for Wisconsin is a return trip to the state of Michigan to play the Wolverines. Michigan hosts Penn State today, looking to keep an undefeated start to the season in play. Wisconsin will be Michigan’s toughest opponent to date when the two meet next week in Michigan Stadium. Wisconsin will get a much-needed bye week after that but it gets no easier once they return to action. Wisconsin hosts Ohio State, visits Iowa and then hosts Nebraska in October.
Michigan State will hit the road next week to continue Big Ten play. The Spartans head to Bloomington to take on Indiana. Michigan State’s next home game will be no easy one either, with BYU heading in for a non-conference battle.