We hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner and are ready for one final installment of staff predictions for the 2012 season. While you may have disagreed with opinions at times, hopefully you found this to be an entertaining Friday segment that made you think about the upcoming game. With all that said, it is time to hear our writers’ picks one more time as the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2) are set to host the Wisconsin Badgers (7-4, 4-3) in what is sure to be an emotional Senior Day at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State 23 Wisconsin 17
This Wisconsin team is nowhere near the level of the past two Badgers teams that stormed through the Big Ten and reached the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are only 2-2 on the road with the wins coming against poor Purdue and Indiana squads. Despite a somewhat struggling offense and unstable quarterback situation, Bret Bielema’s squad has played well on defense, only allowing 17.4 points per game in Big Ten play and holding a high-powered Ohio State offense to 21 points last week.
This game will be more low-scoring than many think. I expect both offenses to sputter early on with few big plays in the first quarter. The obvious key for the Nittany Lions will be to contain stud running back Montee Ball. Completely shutting down the senior with 78 career touchdowns is next to impossible, but the Badgers are extremely one-dimensional. They have not thrown for more than 200 yards since early October, and this will help the defense, even with the absence of Michael Mauti, to neutralize Ball. The Badgers will have a slim lead going into halftime, but Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson take over in the third quarter to put the Blue and White in front. The defense will make a few key stands late including a huge sack from Gerald Hodges to get the Nittany Lions to 8-4, capping off a season that mostly exceeded expectations.
Penn State 24 Wisconsin 20
This should be an emotional game for the Nittany Lions, with so many players that have helped define what being a Penn Stater truly means playing in their final game. It’s hard to imagine Matt McGloin or Michael Mauti’s Penn State career being over in only a day.
I’m not one to pick games based on emotion, and I’m not going to do that here. Penn State is the better team. Wisconsin’s quarterback situation is a mess. If the Penn State defense can keep Montee Ball in check to about 20-25 carries (in other words, not 39 like Ohio State last week) they should be okay.
An 8-4 finish for the Nittany Lions is better than most people expected, and something that this incredible group of seniors can hang their hat on. If they execute, the better team will win tomorrow.
Penn State 31 Wisconsin 24
This is Penn State’s bowl game. It’s the last game of the year. It’s Senior Day,and Michael Mauti has probably played his last game as a Nittany Lion after going down with a knee injury last week. I hate when analysts like Skip Bayless argue that one team wants a win more than the other, but that is going to be the case tomorrow.
Penn State will struggle with Montee Ball, especially without Mauti but will contain him just enough to let Matt McGloin and the offense pull off the win. Matt McGloin throws for 2 touchdowns in his last game, with at least one going to Allen Robinson. Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich each run one in for a score. Kicken’ Sam Ficken will put a respectably long field goal in for good measure.
Let’s go State.
Penn State 28 Wisconsin 27
As many people can attest to, the last game played as a senior, be it high school or college, is by far the most memorable. It is the last chance a majority of the athletes will get to step on a field and play at a competitive level ever again. Senior Day is special, luckily this class has the chance to close out their Penn State careers in the best stadium in the country, in front of the best fans in the country.
I cannot even begin to understand what this season has meant to them. How they were robbed of one last post-season run, how they have had all their previous wins unjustly stolen from them, and how some of their great friends got up and left because they wanted championships. Luckily, for those who have stayed, they have not only showed incredible integrity, but they have displayed the Penn State ideal of Success with Honor, even in the darkest times.
Maybe it is because it’s Thanksgiving time, but I truly cannot begin to thank this class for stepping up and being leaders this year. Although I doubt many of them will see this, the seniors have meant more to me than any Michael Robinson, Larry Johnson, Daryll Clark, or Dan Connor led team.
Thank you Gerald Hodges for the hits. Thank you John Urschel for being the link between academics and athletics. Thank you Stephon Morris for the constant lockdowns in the secondary. Thank you Shane McGregor for being a leader and voice off the field. Thank you Michael Zordich for your leadership and the 2010 Temple game. And of course, thank you Michael Mauti for everything you have done. For being the voice and face of this team, for the leadership, for the incredible and underrated statistics, and for making me believe that this team, was THE team. I wish you could have one last game more than anything, but regardless, I know you will still lead the team on Saturday in more ways than one.
It is the seniors’ last game against a very good, but inconsistent, Wisconsin team lead by the incredible Montee Ball. The linebackers will have to step up and shut him down. Overall, everyone has to play an incredible game. These seniors deserve one last win for everything that has happened and everything they have persevered through. They will get it inside an emotional Beaver Stadium.
Penn State 28 Wisconsin 21
Obviously, this is going to be an emotionally charged game. The Nittany Lions are going to need to keep their emotions in check and stay focused.
Defensively, Penn State is going to have to contain Montee Ball. The Badgers senior running back is a wrecking ball with 78 career touchdowns. Be prepared to watch him make history on Saturday by breaking the NCAA career touchdown record, a remarkable feat for a guy who has only started two years. Losing Mike Mauti is heartbreaking emotionally and hurts the defense, but it is not as big a deal as everyone thinks. Mauti’s replacement Mike Hull is the next big Penn State linebacker and is more than capable of filling in.
Remember when we were a contestant in the Danny O’Brien sweepstakes? Yeah, I would say we ended up winning that. O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin from Maryland, started, sucked and is now on the bench while Matt McGloin is arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Look for the Lions to steadily feed Zach Zwinak the ball and McGloin to connect with Allen Robinson a couple of times.
Penn State 20 Wisconsin 19
This is not your Wisconsin team of the past few seasons. The Badgers have fallen from the upper echelon of the conference and returned to their rightful place in mediocrity.
Wisky has not won a game this season against a traditionally powerful Big Ten team this season, such as Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State. They also needed to squeak out a win against Northern Iowa.
For the Nittany Lions, this game will be emotionally charged. This will be the last time seniors put on the Blue and White. Since this is the home game, Linebacker U will have the edge from its fans.