EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Welcome to Sparta.
No. 24 Michigan State (4-0) hosts No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0) in about an hour at what should be an electric Spartan Stadium. This one will be good, folks.
You probably already know the big pregame news: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio won't be here as he had to be readmitted to the hospital after doctors discovered a blood clot in his leg during a routine post-op exam. Michigan State undoubtedly will use Dantonio's continued absence as motivation -- AD Mark Hollis has already started the campaign -- but players also were looking forward to having their coach back in the stadium.
The intangibles still favor Michigan State, as the crowd will be pumped up for a team the Spartans beat two years ago in a wild game that featured a fourth-quarter implosion from Bret Bielema and the Badgers. Bielema and his crew must keep their composure today, and since the 2008 game, they've done a nice job of limiting penalties.
As many of you know, I've been waiting all week for this matchup for several reasons. These are two very similar and evenly matched teams: great running backs, smart and efficient quarterbacks, talent at receiver and tight end, some individual standouts (Greg Jones, J.J. Watt) on defense but also some question marks on that side of the ball. Special teams is an area Michigan State could exploit with Keshawn Martin.
Aside from Dantonio's situation, the health news on both sides is good. Wisconsin gets receivers Nick Toon and David Gilreath back, and Michigan State starting linebacker Eric Gordon also is fine after getting nicked up against Notre Dame.
It's still gloomy and overcast here, and light rain is possible.
Should be a great one, and I'll have plenty more throughout the afternoon and evening.