CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: Wisconsin ready to let pads do the talking

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Bret Bielema practices hate.

Before a big game like this week's against Michigan State, Wisconsin's coach will give his scout-team defense permission to say anything -- "within reason" -- across the line to the offense.

"We have fun with it. We kind of embrace it," Bielema said this week. "We don't run from it. We give the defensive scout team the liberty to kind of say whatever they want and push guys."

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If that boils over on the practice field, well, it's just part of game prep. A year ago before the Arizona State game, someone forgot to tell All-American guard John Moffitt about what was coming. Scout-team linebacker Marcus Trotter then said something about Moffitt's "ancestry," according to Bielema.

"Moffitt snapped," Bielema recalled, "and went over to [Trotter] and was ready to beat the snot out of him. We said, 'Hey, hey, we told him to do this.' ... Unfortunately, the only way to have that is to practice it and rep it."

By now, you should be getting the vibe for Wisconsin-Michigan State. The Spartans are coming off an unapologetic butt-whipping of Michigan and Denard Robinson. And they're not about to stop there if you believe the tweets and comments of certain Michigan State players.

"Wisconsin should know we're coming," safety Isaiah Lewis told ESPN.com.

Lewis then went to say the defense is going after Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, "and they're going to hurt him."

This tweet was attributed to Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy back in the summer.

"[On] Homecoming he [Wilson] will see how the big ten gets down."

Why the bravado? For one, Wilson is the difference in Wisconsin being the Big Ten favorite and No. 6 in this week's BCS standings. Another thing: Michigan State doesn't take spit off anybody.

Suddenly the Spartans have a very Raideresque look about them. It is a perception that the program is trying to play down. There were 13 penalties last week against Michigan, five personal fouls. Defensive end William Gholston had two of them. Gholston was suspended Thursday for the Wisconsin game.

"It's the emotion of the game," he said following the Michigan game.

It's also the evolution of a nasty defense. The strangest thing was the Wolverines basically sat there and took it.

"You have to play this game a little bit angry," Michigan State's Mark Dantonio said.

Bielema said: "I hit Russell up on Sunday. 'Buddy, now, these guys -- they play hard. This is big boy football.'"

Wilson has calmly evaluated the situation like he always does. This will be his first regular-season game on the road against a ranked team since 2009. He has beaten one ranked team in a true road game in his career (North Carolina, 2008).

To be fair, those are the only two such games Wilson has played. Blame a lack of big-game experience on playing in the ACC at North Carolina State. Now on to big boy football. It's safe to say the atmosphere at Spartan Stadium is going to be a bit more intense than Chapel Hill.

"I like Michigan State's approach," Bielema said. "When I was a defensive coordinator, the one thing you can do is mentally or physically challenge a quarterback. That obviously is what they're doing on film. Some of them are even saying it in the paper."

When did a midseason Wisconsin-Michigan State game turn into Miami-Notre Dame? Some it has to do with the Fightin' Narduzzis. Some of it has to do with this being a possible Big Ten Championship Game preview. A lot of it has to do with a free-agent quarterback parachuting into the Big Ten for a season, and possibly leaving it with a ring.

Wilson doesn't figure to be rattled. He is 7-2 as a starter against ranked teams. The performance in the much-hyped Big Ten opener against Nebraska was a masterpiece.

"Russell doesn't get overly rattled by anything I've seen," Bielema said.

With tweets chirping and his own fans incredibly hopeful, how does Russell Wilson keep himself from buying into Russellmania?

"I visualize a lot," he said. "When I'm preparing during the week, I envision myself playing in that stadium -- where the clock is, the first down marker. ...

"I've basically played five games during the week in my mind."

But what happens when visualization meets the reality of the fearsome Fightin' Narduzzis?

"We'll do our talking," Bielema said, "with our pads." Pregame: Wisconsin-Michigan State

Scouting the Nation

Excuse my French, but unless you have a specific football question, WWL could give a (bleep) ...

Upsets, please: They are why Johnny Knoxville is employed. They are why an unfortunate eye gouge isn't the worst thing ever to happen in MMA. They are why NASCAR driver/goobers fight each other after races.

Because we'll watch failure. Upsets are college football's version of slowing down to see a wreck on the highway. They hold a prurient interest for us. They are the lifeblood of sports viewing. We like chaos and confusion. It is human nature to delight in the misfortune of others. If that puts a few bucks in your pocket in Vegas, even better.

Unfortunately, there haven't been many upsets of note this season. Here are five reasons why this Saturday could turn 2011 upside down.

Auburn at LSU: The game is being played in daylight, which apparently has some folks riled. That creates the possibility there will be more LSU fans sober, longer. In some strange way, that also might keep Auburn in the game longer.

LSU is already missing its leading rusher (Spencer Ware) and its best defensive player (Tyrann Mathieu). Both are suspended. Auburn's defense hasn't been terrible, particularly the D-line made up of all sophomores.

Any upset pick, though, is ultimately based on Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley being a savior. He can't be a slight upgrade over Barrett Trotter. He can't be just good. The redshirt sophomore, who replaced Trotter in the second half last week against Florida, must be a difference maker. Pregame: Auburn-LSU

Wisconsin at Michigan State: Last week Kirk Cousins talked about being able to walk the streets of Michigan "for life" after beating the Wolverines. If the Spartans pull this one off, Cousins and the Spartans deserve a limo ride all the way to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.

North Carolina at Clemson: There is something inside all of us that believes Clemson still has the ability to blow a tire at 70 mph once each season.

Is North Carolina that nail in the road? While awaiting NCAA sentencing, the Tar Heels are a surprising 5-2. If they can make this game one-dimensional ... well, OK, they still might lose. Carolina's run defense is allowing 3.1 yards per rush. That's bad news for Clemson's Andre Ellington (212 yards vs. Maryland). But the Tigers still have those two other guys. What are their names? Oh yeah, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins.

Does it bother anyone other than WWL that Clemson struggled last week against Maryland? Just sayin'. Pregame: UNC-Clemson

Washington at Stanford: So juicy with upset possibilities that you'll need a bib. U-Dub's Keith Price is better than Jake Locker, and Jake Locker is in the NFL. Price has 21 touchdown passes (one behind national leader Robert Griffin III). The offense led by the Huskies quarterback has scored at least 30 in each game.

That tells me that Washington can win a shootout. Pregame: Washington-Stanford

Oklahoma State at Missouri: This is the potential BCS pie in the face. While a lot of us are assuming two national semifinals (LSU-Alabama, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State), the Cowboys are fairly new to this sort of thing.

Meanwhile, Missouri, 3-3, is playing with Monopoly money. This can't be a 10-2 season and is trending more to 7-5. What the heck, blitz the hell out of Brandon Weeden. He's only slightly worse on the road (70.7 percent) than at home (75 percent) and has thrown only two picks in 140 attempts away from Stillwater.

A Missouri win gets Wisconsin in the national title picture. Pregame: OSU-Mizzou

The ravages of probation?: For the first time in AP poll history, Southern California is not ranked with a record of 5-1.

Whether that's a sign of things to come matters less than being able to ask Notre Dame, "Who's your daddy?" again. The Irish snapped a Trojan eight-game winning streak in the series last season.

"We're glad to be a part of their history," USC's Lane Kiffin said. Pregame: Notre Dame-USC

Secondary a primary concern: Three times in the past four games, opposing quarterbacks have set their school's passing record against Texas A&M. In succession, they are Weeden, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Baylor's Robert Griffin. Understandably, A&M is dead last in pass defense, giving up more than 360 yards per game heading to Iowa State.

It's a wonder the Aggies can concentrate at all. In the past month and a half, A&M has made a rocky transition to the SEC, blown consecutive halftime leads of 17 and 18 points -- and never dropped out of the Top 25.

That's the kind of love an SEC team would get.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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