This Saturday, the Badgers will make their first visit to Spartan Stadium in East Lansing since Oct. 22, 2011. Since many things are fairly predictable, I will go out on the limb and assume as the week moves along, various media outlets will show the final play of that game about 100,000 times. Or more.
Yes, this is a reference to the Kirk Cousins Hail Mary that resulted in Michigan State’s dramatic 37-31 victory over Russell Wilson and the Badgers. It was Wisconsin’s first loss of the season.
As Badgers fans, you can either turn away, or you could throw something at your TV or iPad.
Better yet, you might opt to re-live another long pass. Technically, it isn’t a Hail Mary, but it is perhaps the most important pass play in the history of Wisconsin football.
Wilson to Duckworth.
It might be the most entertaining football game I’ve witnessed in person or watching on TV. The first Big Ten Championship Game. A crazy, back-and-forth affair between the Badgers and the Spartans. Trailing late in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin had a fourth-and-6 at the MSU 43 yard line. Convert, and the Badgers could stay alive. Come up short, and they might not get the ball back.
On this play, Wilson hooked up with Jeff Duckworth for a game-saving 36-yard connection. One play later, Montee Ball bolted in from 7 yards away. It was the difference as the Badgers held on to beat Sparty, 42-39, clinching Wisconsin’s second of three straight conference titles.
Much like the two school’s basketball programs, the Wisconsin and Michigan State football teams have played in several thrilling games. Each side has landed its share of gut punches.
In fact, when they last met in 2012, it was the Spartans who had a happy flight home after defeating the Badgers in overtime, 16-13.
You can break it down any number of ways, but it is worth noting that the last seven meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of just 4.9 points. There was the 37-34 Wisconsin victory in 2007. One year later, Michigan State rallied past the Badgers, 25-24.
Of course, not every game is close. Last weekend Lee Evans was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame. It brought back a number of memories, not the least of which was an individual performance for the ages at MSU’s expense in 2003. On a mid-November afternoon, Evans torched State with 10 catches for 258 yards and five touchdowns.
You could say Evans had a great season that day.
One year later, the Badgers flew to town with a 9-0 record. They returned home 9-1 after the Spartans turned a close game into a 49-14 rout.
Yes, both sides have given — and taken — some hard shots.
That is what two highly-successful teams do. Wisconsin and Michigan State are a pair of programs that have earned the right to play on big stages. As the Big Ten season opens, this matchup is the league’s spotlight game.
It is not the first time we have said that before a UW-MSU tussle — it just has been a few years since they have met.
This week, they will meet again. The series has provided some terrific theatre. We look forward to seeing how the next chapter unfolds.
My prediction of the game: Badgers 24, Spartans 21.