Penn State-Wisconsin Preview
Penn State heads to Madison, WI, on Saturday for, as the cliche goes, all the marbles. The winner of the Nittany Lions-Badgers match-up will head to the Big Ten Championship game. The loser will be relegated to playing in a bowl game that lacks in prestige and importance. In a season filled with pressure-packed situations, Penn State will face one more in the regular season finale.
Team: Wisconsin Badgers
Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Bret Bielema (58-18 in six seasons)
Series History: Wisconsin leads 8-6
Players to watch for: QB Russell Wilson, RB Montee Ball, WR Nick Toon, LB Mike Taylor
Prediction: Wisconsin wins 30-17
The Nittany Lions have a chance to make the Big Ten Championship, but it will require beating a tough Wisconsin squad. The Badgers are ranked fifth nationally on offense and seventh on defense, meaning Penn State will face a tough test on both sides of the ball.
Wilson is the latest in a long line of running quarterbacks the Nittany Lions have faced. To go along with 2506 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns, Wilson has 289 rushing yards on 59 attempts. He has stayed away from the mistakes as well, having thrown only three interceptions this season.
As if Penn State did not have enough to worry about in Wilson, Ball is a dynamic runner who is having a great season. Ball has 1466 rushing yards at 6.6 yards per carry. He has 25 touchdowns this season, heading the nation’s 10th-best rushing attack.
Wisconsin will be a tough team to contain for the Penn State defense as well. The Badgers are averaging nearly 45 points per game and have been held under 30 points just twice this season. Penn State will probably need to reach the 30-point plateau in order to beat Wisconsin.
Last week, the Nittany Lions unveiled a new-look wildcat offense. Wide receivers Curtis Drake and Bill Belton used the wildcat to great effect in the first half against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes figured it out in the second half. Penn State hopes to utilize the wildcat against Wisconsin, but it remains to be seen how successful it will be.
About a month ago, Penn State may have had a chance against Wisconsin. However, the Badgers have rebounded well after losing two-straight games in the middle of the season. At Camp Randall, the Badgers are undefeated this season and should be too much for the Nittany Lions to handle.
Prediction: Penn State will keep the score close for a half, but Wisconsin will break away in the second half to win 30-17, earning a spot in the first Big Ten Championship game.