A tough road test begins a difficult Big Ten schedule for the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Wisconsin Badgers begin one of the most brutal stretches a Big Ten schedule has ever seen when they travel to East Lansing, MI to face one of the favorites of the East division the Michigan State Spartans. Wisconsin will do it with redshirt freshman under center and a banged up running back team.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook will make his first ever start as a Badger, and it just so happens to be in a pressure-packed, hostile environment. Hornibrook looked good against Georgia State in a relief appearance, coming in for Bart Houston and throwing for 122 yards and one touchdown and an interceptions. Wisconsin would come from behind to snatch a victory away from upset minded Georgia State. Hornibrook must play well and give this Badgers offense a spark it desperately needs. Injuries have riddled this group as of late, starting with running backs Corey Clement (ankle) and Taiwan Deal (leg) who are both questionable. Left guard Micah Kapoi is also questionable due to a leg injury.
The biggest injury news comes from kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who will miss the game against the Spartans due to a back injury. Gaglianone has hit 7-of-8 field goals this season, including one from 41 yards out last Saturday to seal the deal for Wisconsin. Senior Andrew Endicott, who has been Wisconsin’s kickoff specialist for the past three years, will replace Gaglianone Saturday. Endicott however has not attempted a field goal since high school.
Wisconsin’s defense also needs to play better than what it did against Georgia State. The Badgers allowed 302 yards of total offense, 269 of which was through the air. They didn’t force any turnovers and allowed the Panthers to hold the ball for over 22 minutes, above their average of 17 coming into the game. Linebacker T.J. Edwards led the team with 11 tackles while T.J. Watt had the lone sack for the Badgers on the afternoon.
While the Badgers defense is ranked 14th in total defense, Michigan State is not far behind. The Spartans are 29th in the country, allowing just 313.5 yards per game and just five touchdowns. Expect to see Michigan State to bring the heat early and often, especially with Hornibrook making his first career start.
The Spartans offense was clicking last Saturday night in a tough road test at Notre Dame. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor threw for 241 yards, two touchdowns and one interceptions. The rushing duo of Gerald Holmes and LJ Scott racked up 198 yards on the ground and found the end zone three times. Donnie Corley hauled in four receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown, and Beaver Dam, WI native R.J. Shelton had a team-high eight receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.
These two teams met for the very first Big Ten Championship back in 2011 which saw Wisconsin come away with a 42-39 victory in an absolute thriller. In fact, the conference championship has featured at least the Badgers or the Spartans in it since its inception.