[media-credit name=’Derek Montgomery’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]1) Stay focused on this week: With a deceptively weak record (3-3 Big Ten, 4-5 overall), Michigan State may look a bit feeble, but in reality it’s a very dangerous football team. The Spartans possess a potent offense that effectively utilizes a multi-back running attack in addition to senior quarterback Damon Dowdell’s combination of speed and accuracy. Michigan State rushing ranks second in the Big Ten on the ground and boasts four players that have rushed for over 400 yards this season. Iowa will no doubt be on some player’s minds, but — as head coach Barry Alvarez and defensive coordinator Bret Bielema have been stressing all year — taking one game at a time is the only path to victory. In addition, the Badgers shouldn’t worry about running up the score or making the victory look convincing or flashy for the BCS. The only thing the Badgers can control is how they play week in and week out, not the polls and not the BCS.
2) Win the fourth quarter: Two weeks ago, Michigan State squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to Michigan and last week they allowed Ohio State to score the last 15 points of the game. As a result, even if the Badgers find themselves in a hole going into the final period, they need only look at the Spartans past two games for inspiration. If the Badgers find themselves protecting a lead going into the fourth, however, they need to make sure they do not fall prey to the Spartan curse and give up a lead.
3) Don’t let up with Stanton out: With Drew Stanton at quarterback, Michigan State had a signal caller that was extremely adept at throwing the ball, but, more importantly, running the ball (Stanton still leads the Spartans with 534 rushing yards even though he has not played in two games this season). With Stanton likely out for his second-straight start, Dowdell will again play under center. Dowdell’s not Stanton, but he brings a similar look to the team. Stopping a scrambling quarterback has been something of a problem for the Badgers this year. The Badgers need to focus on stopping the experienced senior, who knows how to efficiently move the ball down the field.
4) Keep running: The UW offense has always been based on the run. This week should be no different, as the Spartan rushing defense appears vulnerable. Last week, Michigan State gave up 162 rushing yards to an Ohio State squad that ranks near the bottom for rushing in the Big Ten. The week before, against Michigan, the Spartans defense yielded 224 yards to Wolverine freshman Michael Hart. As a result, senior Anthony Davis should be ready to carry a heavy workload Saturday. If Davis is able to steamroll through the Spartan defense, sophomore quarterback John Stocco, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, will have an ideal opportunity to stretch out Michigan State’s defense through the air.
5) Let ‘Raz be ‘Raz: Newly named Lombardi Award finalist Erasmus James, who Alvarez called a “more physical [player] than Simeon Rice ever was or probably is today,” will need to establish his presence early and often. Everyone noted James’s every movement during the game last week versus the Gophers. This is despite the fact he participated in only five plays. If he is able to effectively pressure Dowdell, the senior quarterback will be forced to make decisions quicker than usual, something which usually leads to turnovers. His constant presence will also allow fellow line mates Jonathan Welsh, Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson to face single blocking for much of the game.