Monday, November 28, 2011
Big Ten race update: Week 14
By Adam Rittenberg
The road to Indianapolis is complete, and it all comes down to one game: Michigan State versus Wisconsin.
Wisconsin's 45-7 victory against Penn State on Saturday gave the Badgers a share of the Leaders division title and the tiebreaker they needed to reach the inaugural Big Ten championship game. The 15th-ranked Badgers will take on No. 13 Michigan State on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Spartans secured the outright Legends division championship Saturday with a 31-17 win at Northwestern. Mark Dantonio's team is the only Big Ten squad with just one loss in league play.
The championship game marks a rematch of the epic Oct. 22 contest at Spartan Stadium, which Michigan State won 37-31 on a Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol as time expired. The game featured several big swings, as Wisconsin scored the first 14 points, Michigan State scored the next 23 and then Wisconsin rallied late before Michigan State won on the Hail Mary. Wisconsin outgained Michigan State 433 to 399 yards, but the Spartans had the edge in turnover margin and converted 8 of 16 third-down attempts.
Both teams enter the game on four-game win streaks after sweeping through November. Michigan State boasts the nation's No. 3 defense, while Wisconsin's defense ranks No. 7 nationally. Led by quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball, Wisconsin has the more impressive offensive numbers -- ranking fourth nationally in scoring, 10th in rushing and 12th in total offense -- but Michigan State averaged 38.5 points during November.
"I do think the two best teams in the conference are playing for the championship," Dantonio said. "We've proven that on the field."
Much more to come on the title game throughout the week.