- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for the Big Ten championship game being a defense-driven contest.
Both offenses are moving the football very well so far tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium. A Michigan State turnover has allowed Wisconsin to take a 21-7 lead against the Spartans.
Some notes from the first quarter:
Much like in East Lansing on Oct. 22, Wisconsin opened the game with an impressive touchdown drive. The Badgers marched 71 yards in nine plays behind Montee Ball's running, play-action passes and excellent blocking from the offensive line. They went 80 yards in 11 plays in the previous contest against Michigan State.
Ball is making a major statement so far tonight that he deserves serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy and other national awards. The Badgers junior already has 105 rush yards and two touchdowns -- moving him three shy of Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 -- on 13 carries. Michigan State entered the game ranked 11th nationally in rush defense, allowing only 102.5 yards per game. It's about time Ball started to get noticed outside the Big Ten footprint.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is showing off his creativity so far. In addition to the steady diet of well-designed runs, Wisconsin set up its second touchdown on a halfback pass from Ball to quarterback Russell Wilson, who caught the ball in stride for a 32-yard gain. The Badgers have had Michigan State's defense off balance from the start.
You have to like the way Michigan State came out to establish the run first. The Spartans ran five times on a six-play, 59-yard scoring drive and once again were effective running from the shotgun formation, which they featured often down the stretch. The power-speed combination of Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker seems to be clicking.
Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins also looks sharp so far, completing his first three pass attempts.