Can Michigan State seize the moment?
In 2010, Michigan State reeled off eight wins in a row to start the season despite dealing with a full plate of distractions, none more serious than head coach Mark Dantonio's health issues.
The Spartans traveled to Iowa City on the final Saturday of October trying to move to 9-0 for the first time since winning a share of the national title in 1966.
But Sparty, quite frankly, was blitzed by Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes from the opening kick.
Iowa led 30-0 at halftime, and MSU managed just 6 points the entire game in a 37-6 thrashing to knock the Spartans out of the national championship race.
"Sometimes you get caught up in the glamour of everything," defensive tackle Jerel Worthy said after the game. "Everybody's patting you on the back for being the No. 5 team in country, and sometimes it can get to you. We have to refocus and we'll be ready next week."
The Spartans looked even more lost in their Capital One Bowl defeat to Alabama on New Year's Day when they found themselves down 42-0 after three quarters en route to a 49-7 defeat. It was the most lopsided Capital One Bowl in the game's history.
ICONCan Jerel Worthy and the Spartans slow down Russell Wilson and the Badgers?
But with back-to-back wins over Ohio State and Michigan the last two weeks, Michigan State is positioned to show the nation that it's not the same team that couldn't handle the Hawkeyes and Crimson Tide last season. Dantonio's squad has an opportunity to prove that it has learned from its setback to Notre Dame in South Bend earlier this season, when the offense could never get in sync.
Are the Spartans up to the task?
Defensively, MSU is playing some of the best football in the nation. The Spartans have racked up 16 sacks in the last two games against the Buckeyes and Wolverines, and the unit ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense. Ohio State managed just 178 yards in its loss to MSU while Denard Robinson and Co. recorded just 250 yards total.
But the Badgers present MSU's most difficult test yet because of their balanced and powerful offense orchestrated by coordinator Paul Chryst.
Not only can Wisconsin pound the rock with Montee Ball and James White, but quarterback Russell Wilson is dangerous on the run as well. Wilson not only is capable of beating teams with his arm, but he's productive with his legs, particularly when rolling out off of play-action. Can the Spartans pressure Wilson and outplay that rugged offensive line while not allowing the former N.C. State signal-caller to beat them on the perimeter? And will the front seven hold up for an entire game against that Badgers rushing attack?
On Saturday night in East Lansing, Dantonio's team will have the home crowd on its side. But will the jitters be prevalent -- the same ones that seemed to overwhelm the Spartans in their biggest contests last season?
Michigan State is a solid football program with talented players. But too often the Spartans have underachieved in the Big Ten. It's about time MSU starts consistently believing in itself.
There's no better time than this weekend under the lights at Spartan Stadium, with the supposed best team in the Big Ten arriving in town.
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