Wisconsin Preview

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema hasn't been the most popular guy in Madison in the last month. Four straight Big Ten losses will do that.
On Saturday fans surrounded Bielema's car at a light and pounded on it -- but in a good way. Wisconsin had just beaten Illinois, 27-17, at Camp Randall Stadium for its first conference win of the season.
"I was glad it was after this game than the last one," Bielema joked Monday. "I kind of drove away thinking what might have happened if it wasn't a victory ... there was so much negative energy out there."
For now, at least, everything is right again in Madison. Bielema himself was smiling as he faced reporters at his weekly press conference Monday, offering a story about how as a child he used to air-conduct the opening theme of the now-defunct television series "Falcon Crest."
But it's back to business this Saturday. The Badgers (4-4, 4-1 Big Ten) face No. 22 Michigan State in East Lansing. The last time the Badgers faced the Spartans on their turf was 2004, when Michigan State hammered them 49-14.
Wisconsin goes into this game without star Travis Beckum, who suffered a season-ending broken leg against Illinois. The senior tight end finished his Wisconsin career with 159 receptions for 2,149 yards, good for third in both categories.
Beckum skipped the NFL draft to return for his senior year. He should be able to run again by late January, Bielema said, giving him a chance to participate in NFL tryouts.
That leaves the Badgers with back-up tight ends Garrett Graham, Jake Byrne and Lance Kendricks. Bielema said he's comfortable with them, noting they got snaps earlier this year when Beckum was out with a hamstring injury.
And junior quarterback Dustin Sherer, who took over the starting job after Bielema benched senior Allan Evridge, is improving, Bielema added. Sherer threw for two touchdowns and ran for another against Illinois.
But Michigan State is no patsy.
Senior running back Javon Ringer leads the Big Ten in rushing yards, all-purpose yards and scoring. Senior safety Otis Wiley is tied for the conference lead in interceptions with four and is second in punt return yards.
The Spartans also like to hog the ball. They lead the Big Ten in time of possession, averaging about 32 minutes per contest on offense.

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