By

The 6-4 Badgers, riding a month-long drought, come into this
weekend’s game in desperate need of a win. If the Badgers have any
hope of reaching a decent bowl game this year, they need a win this
weekend in the friendly confines of Camp Randall against a tough
Spartans team.

After two consecutive losses to Michigan and Ohio State the No.
24-ranked Spartans also come to Camp Randall this weekend on a
losing streak. And, like the Badgers, they are trying to pick up a
key win against a struggling opponent in hopes of keeping their
lofty bowl goals alive.

Here are this week’s five keys to victory:

 

Tackling

Anyone watching the game last week was dumbfounded by the poor
tackling of the Badgers. The defense regularly missed tackles and
took bad angles allowing the vaunted Gopher rushing attack to run
roughshod over the Badgers for 336 yards and four touchdowns. The
secondary did no better, missing many key tackles in the run game
as well as making poor open field tackles in the passing
game–allowing the Gopher receivers to pick up big yards after the
catch.

While the Spartans are not the rushing team the Gophers are,
their passing attack is much more lethal. It is key for the
defensive secondary to wrap the receivers up and not allow them to
gain extra yardage after the catch.

 

Brandon Williams

With the depletion of the secondary becoming more evident,
Williams has seen a steady increase in his playing time in the
nickel defense. The Spartans come into the game this week leading
the Big Ten in passing yards per game and completion percentage.
The Badgers will be counting on the secondary to hold up under a
lot of pressure this week and make the Spartans beat them on the
ground.

Coach Barry Alvarez needs to be mindful of the number of plays
Williams is in on defense this week. Williams is a key part of the
passing game and the return game, and he is having a breakout year.
Should the Badgers become too dependent on him on the defensive
side of the ball, it could negatively affect the rest of his game
— something the team absolutely cannot afford.

 

Offensive line

Jim Sorgi owes some thanks to his offensive line this week.
During Sorgi’s career day against the Gophers last weekend, the
offensive line put together its best pass blocking day of the year
allowing only one sack for a loss of one yard. In the nine games
prior to last weekend the line had given up 27 sacks for a loss of
151 yards.

The O-line needs to be solid in all facets of the game. They
need to help re-establish a running game that has been somewhat
anemic over the last three games as well as prove that last week’s
performance was no fluke.

 

Run the ball

In order for the Badgers to be successful this weekend they must
establish the run. In the four Badger losses this year the team is
averaging only 101 yards per game. In the team’s six wins they are
averaging 220 yards per game. While the team’s ability to pass the
ball is also crucial, the Badgers need to establish the run early.
If the Badgers are able to force the Spartan defense, which allows
only 109 yards per game on the ground, into bringing up an eighth
defender to stop the run, Sorgi and company should be able to
exploit the man coverage with the play-action passing game.

 

Protect the Ball

Michigan State head coach John L. Smith has infused his team
with a desire to cause turnovers. The Spartans defense has already
caused 26 turnovers; while the Badgers have already given it up 18
times. The Badgers have had trouble holding onto the ball all year,
as evidenced by their -3 turnover ratio. Running backs Dwayne Smith
and Booker Stanley need to protect the ball going into the heart of
the Spartans’ “D” and not try to do too much. On the other hand,
Jim Sorgi needs to be wary of the gambling Spartan secondary. The
Badgers need to take what the defense gives them and not force any
plays unless absolutely necessary.