Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/20/11
MADISON, Wis. A war of words can only be described as such when the combatants from two opposing sides sling barbs at each other. In the growing rivalry between Michigan State and Wisconsin's football teams, however, the trash talking this season has been entirely one-sided in the Spartans' corner. Make that trash tweeting, too. Wisconsin travels to face Michigan State on Saturday at Spartan Stadium in a game that is shaping up to be one of the biggest Big Ten matchups of the season. The Badgers (6-0, 2-0) are ranked sixth in the BCS standings, while the Spartans (5-1, 2-0) entered the initial poll at No. 16. Kickoff is set for 7:06 p.m. CDT. The game itself offers plenty of intriguing story lines to stand on its own merit, including the recent one-game suspension of Michigan State defensive end William Gholston. The sideshow of Spartan sneers only adds to the interest. The first jab from Michigan State directed at Wisconsin came in the form of a tweet back in June from Spartans defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. It occurred just after quarterback Russell Wilson made his plans known to transfer from North Carolina State to Wisconsin. Worthy gave Wilson a less than enthusiastic welcome to the Big Ten. Tweeted Worthy: "This guys on espn think that russell wilson gona change something at wisconsin. It still don't matter cause they gotta come in spartan stadium. Homecoming he will see how the big ten gets down" If the pot was stirred from Worthy's tweet, it whipped with even more fury last week. Following Michigan State's 28-14 victory against in-state rival Michigan, Spartans safety Isaiah Lewis stoked the Badgers' flame, saying his teammates would be barreling toward Wilson on Saturday with an intent to cause harm. "Wisconsin should know we're coming," Lewis told reporters after the game. "They have a good offense, and that quarterback. But they should just know our defense is coming. And just like any other team, if they're throwing the ball up, our DBs are going to get it, our linebackers are going to go get it and our linemen are getting after the quarterback. And they're going to hurt him." Badgers players and coaches have said all the right things this week in the buildup to the game. If there is a war of words to be had, the Badgers are biting their lips. "Of course we noticed it," Wisconsin free safety Aaron Henry said. "But we couldn't care too much about that. At the end of the day, the game is played on the field and in between the lines, not in the newspapers. "All of us, yeah we heard it. If anything, it gave us a little more motivation. It's kind of like adding kerosene to a fire a little bit. I'm sure guys were already pumped. And guys are even more pumped to go out there and play." Motivation was already high on the list for Badgers players, given what transpired between the two teams a year ago. Last season, Michigan State handed Wisconsin its only Big Ten loss, 34-24, at Spartan Stadium. Wisconsin finished the season 11-2, its only other defeat coming against TCU in the Rose Bowl. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 20 of 29 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns in that game. His one-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Cunningham on fourth-down with 2:43 remaining sealed the contest, helping to keep Wisconsin from winning its first game in East Lansing since 2002. This season, Cousins, a senior, has completed 114 of 173 passes (65.9 percent) for 1,317 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Wilson doesn't pass as much in Wisconsin's offense, but his statistics are better across the board. He has completed 95 of 128 passes (74.2 percent) for 1,557 yards with 14 touchdowns and just one interception. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema downplayed the notion of revenge being on players' minds, although it's hard to believe, given last year's result and the ensuing digs uttered by Spartans players. "I would think it's more along the lines of guys that didn't play well want to go out and prove something," Bielema said. "The way we try to wire our kids is, Now go prove that you're better. Anybody that played a certain way last year, let's go show what we can do better.'" Wisconsin leads the country in scoring offense, at 50.2 points per game, behind the strong play of Wilson, who has crept into the conversation as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Michigan State ranks fourth in scoring defense, at 10.8 points per game, although that figure came with Gholston on the field. The Big Ten on Thursday suspended Gholston a starter at defensive end the first six games for the Wisconsin game, a result of his throwing a punch at a Michigan player in the third quarter last Saturday. Gholston has 20 total tackles, with seven coming for a loss. Even before the suspension, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio recognized the difficult task his team faced in stopping Wisconsin's vaunted offense. "This will be probably our biggest challenge in terms of how we play against what I would call a conventional, power football team," Dantonio said during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday. "The challenges continue to mount. We need to prove ourselves again defensively." If the Spartans execute as Dantonio hopes, they'll retain bragging rights and trash-talking rights for another year.
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