Wisconsin-Michigan St. Preview

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio expects to return two weeks

after a mild heart attack, but his 24th-ranked Spartans may have a

hard time delivering their coach a stress-free victory

Saturday.

Against No. 11 Wisconsin, Dantonio would take any kind of

win.

Both the Spartans and Badgers hope to turn unbeaten starts into

Big Ten success as they begin conference play in East Lansing,

where Michigan State seeks its first 5-0 start in 11 years.

The 54-year-old Dantonio had surgery Sept. 19 to put a stent in

a blocked blood vessel leading to the heart, one day after leading

the Spartans (4-0) to a dramatic 34-31 overtime victory over Notre

Dame.

Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell took over coaching duties

for last Saturday’s 45-7 win over Northern Colorado, but Dantonio

hopes to coach from a box above the field this weekend.

“I’m going to ease back into this much like anybody would after

any injury,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “I’m going to listen to our

doctors, but I am going to ease back into this and do something

daily with our football team.”

Dantonio saw plenty of good things from his team watching last

weekend’s blowout from home. Quarterback Kirk Cousins went 16 of 20

for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and freshman Le’Veon Bell carried

11 times for 92 yards and three TDs.

Linebacker Greg Jones was named Big Ten co-defensive player of

the week after grabbing two interceptions and forcing a fumble

against the overmatched Bears.

“Every game is hopefully a stepping stone to bigger and better

things,” running back Edwin Baker said. “We need to do everything

well against (Big Ten opponents) – run the ball, pass the ball,

everything.”

Baker and Bell have combined for 845 yards and 12 touchdowns on

the ground, but the Badgers (4-0) may have an even more menacing

tandem of backs.

While junior John Clay notched his 10th consecutive game with at

least 100 yards and a touchdown during a 70-3 win over Austin Peay

last Saturday, freshman James White was even better, carrying 11

times for 145 yards and four scores.

Quarterback Scott Tolzien was also sharp against the lowly

Governors, going 15 of 17 for 217 yards and three TDs, but the

Badgers are prepared for much tougher challenges.

“We were talking about that on the sidelines,” White said. “Clay

and (senior running back) Zach Brown were telling me that it’s a

lot different when Big Ten play comes. These guys are bigger,

faster, stronger, things like that. They’re out to win the Big Ten

championship just like we are.”

This is the seventh straight year that Wisconsin has entered

conference play unbeaten, but things haven’t always gone as well in

the Big Ten.

The Badgers are 13-11 in Big Ten games over the last three

years, including 4-8 on the road. They blew an 11-point

fourth-quarter lead and lost 25-24 at Michigan State on Nov. 1,

2008.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is hopeful things will be different

this time around.

“I really do believe this group, especially the 70 guys that’ll

hop on the plane with us, they really do believe in what we do,”

Bielema said. “There is no wandering eyes, there’s no `Here we go

again,’ it’s just `OK, let’s just do what we do.”

Michigan State has its own history to overcome. The Spartans

were coached by Nick Saban when they last began 5-0 in 1999, and

they’ve lost 14 of 15 against ranked opponents dating back to

2005.

Dantonio doesn’t want to be the center of attention leading up

to the game.

“I think it’s very, very important that we focus on Wisconsin –

that the focus go from Mark Dantonio and that night to Wisconsin

and what we have to get done this weekend,” Dantonio said.

Stopping the run may be the most important task for Michigan

State. Clay, who ranks fifth nationally in rushing, has run for at

least 100 yards in both of his previous games against the

Spartans.

Tolzien, however, threw for four touchdowns in a 38-30 home win

last year over Michigan State, and he may have injured wide

receivers Nick Toon and David Gilreath back in the lineup. Tight

end Lance Kendricks has been Tolzien’s favorite target the last two

games, totaling 13 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns.