Anytime the Wisconsin Badgers lose a couple of games at Camp Randall, it’s probably not a very good year. This year is one of those years and yet they still have a chance to turn it around with a win in next week’s Big Ten Championship.
Before they embark to Indianapolis, they travel to Happy Valley to take on a surprising Penn State team on an emotional day for their senior class. Even though it could be the toughest environment the Badgers play in all year, they need this game to avoid stumbling into the BIG Game.
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2) Analysis: Hollywood should come-a-calling for the job first year head coach Bill O’Brien has done with the bruised and battered Penn State program. The offensively-minded O’Brien has done wonders with QB Matt McGloin and WR Allen Robinson who are re-writing the school’s record books. In a 45-22 win over Indiana, McGloin threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns, stretching his school-record total to 45 career touchdowns. On the season, Robinson has 73 catches for 983 yards and 11 touchdowns.
This year has been all about a team coming into it’s new identity and moving on from the past discretion. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still use hard-nosed defense to win games. Penn State has been particularly strong against the run, giving up only 125.73 yards a game (23rd in nation). They’ll look to keep this in tact without their star linebacker Michael Mauti who suffered a left knee injury in last week’s win. Mauti is a Big Ten defensive player of the year candidate and one of the senior leaders on this team.
Wisconsin Badgers (7-4, 4-3) Analysis: With UW, it’s really all about running back Montee Ball. The mantra “This Fall Belongs to Ball,” is the absolute truth even if it didn’t work for the Heisman. Ball is coming off a 191 yard/one touchdown performance against a good Ohio State run defense and is one more score away from becoming the NCAA all-time touchdown leader. Wisconsin has cycled through three quarterbacks for various reasons this year and have ended up with Curt Phillips. In order for Phillips to make that next step, he and the coaching staff need to find ways to get wide receiver Jared Abbrederis the ball.
It appears the defense will be without linebacker Chris Borland for another week. In the 24-17 overtime loss to the Buckeyes, they put forth quite arguably their best performance of the season while shutting down the dynamic Braxton Miller. They rank 11th nationally in total defense at 302.91 yards per game and keep opponents off the scoreboard while allowing a paltry 17.55 points per game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20 Penn State 17
As you can see with my 10-1 record, I’ve had a lot of success picking the Badgers games this season, but this was by far the toughest pick of the year for me. I think the Nittany Lions will be jacked up for Senior Day and I feel the Badgers can and will get up for this game after their Senior Day was ruined. It will be an emotionally charged game that will come down to the very end. Ball will break the touchdown record and the Badgers defense will be the reason behind Wisconsin’s biggest win of the year.
TV Coverage: ESPN2 at 2:30 PM CT with Mark Jones (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analyst) and Jessica Mendoza on the sidelines.
Betting Lines: Penn State favored by 2.5 points and over/under set at 45 points.
2012 Record straight up: 10-1
2012 Record against the spread: 5-5
2012 Record in over/under: 8-2
What do you think will result from the Badgers and Nittany Lions meeting this weekend? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Montee Ball (zimbio.com)
Matt McGloin (ydr.com)