Wisconsin finally gets a shot at Michigan State in Camp Randall on Saturday and while the game may not have the same meaning the last few have, it doesn't mean the Badgers aren't going to relish the chance to take on the Spartans at home for a change. However, when they do fans can probably expect a little bit of the unexpected on both sides of the ball.
After all the last few games have been about as crazy as any in recent college football history, right?
"Not good on the heart, but great environment," head coach Bret Bielema said about the series as of late. "I don't know how many times I heard last year, if you don't care who won those games, they're really fun games to watch. From that standpoint, they're fun."
"It really gets down to always you got a couple of key plays offensively that go for scores, and a huge factor, special teams has been a factor, really positively or negatively for us in every game. Playing Michigan State, you've got to be on the unexpected, whether it be fake opportunities in the special teams arena or blocks on their punts. So really got to be on top of our toes in every aspect."
Wisconsin hasn't taken on Michigan State at home since 2009 and the chance to get them back at home also brings the inevitable comparisons of these two schools and while the names, faces, and records may have changed there are quite a bit of similarities between these two schools that are seemingly heading in opposite directions.
Michigan State was not supposed to skip a beat offensively after the departure of star quarterback Kirk Cousins because they had another star in the making behind him in Andrew Maxwell. Instead they've found a combination of bad play by Maxwell, offensive line issues, and bad play by wide receivers stalling out their offense.
But, don't let their early season struggles fool you as they've also been getting better despite the results as of late.
"It's something that I think our defensive coaches really, really can get a grasp on is that Bell is doing as much as he can, but in those games when they weren't really catching the ball well at wide receiver, they were able to focus and take away Bell," said Bielema. "But now those receivers are coming along. Statistically, it may not show up as good, but they've gotten better, and they've lost some very tough games."
Wisconsin has dealt with many of the same issues, but unlike the Spartans they've been able to work through them by making a second transition at quarterback and change up how they are playing on the offensive line. Those changes have reengergized an offense that was sputtering and is now one of the better in the Big Ten.
It's also led the Badgers to try a newer look offensively that could lead the Spartans to also expect the unexpected as well, we know it as the "Barge" formation. The one where James White and Montee Ball are in the same backfield without a quarterback in front of them.
That system is also a work in progress for Wisconsin. "It was kind of a work in progress because we've been losing offensive linemen, and we didn't want to rep it on Saturday with that guy in the spot," Bielema said about the formation. "We worked it during the course of the week."
It's also a formation that is completely up to offensive coordinator Matt Canada to handle in growing it into a part of the offense or keeping it a novelty.
No matter what, with the close history between these two teams and both teams' prowess on the defensive side of the ball expecting something unexpected shouldn't be a stretch as Madison preps for the coming Halloween festivities that night.