Wisconsin (7-4) at Penn State (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 24, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beaver Stadium (106,572) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: ABC. Home Record: Wisconsin 5-2, PSU 4-2. Away Record: Wisconsin 2-2, PSU 3-2. Neutral Record: Wisconsin 0-0, PSU 0-0. Conference Record: Wisconsin 4-3, PSU 5-2. Series Record: Wisconsin leads, 9-2.
GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers and Penn State Nittany Lions are set to close out the 2012 regular season, as the two square off in a Big Ten Conference clash at Beaver Stadium.
Wisconsin sits behind Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten's Leaders Division, but with those two schools ineligible for postseason play, the Badgers will represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Indianapolis. Still, with losses in two of their last three outings, the Badgers would like to head into that tilt on a positive note by notching a win this weekend. Their last outing resulted in a 21-14 overtime setback to the undefeated Buckeyes.
Penn State has split its last four contests, most recently earning a 45-22 victory over Indiana. Due to NCAA sanctions, the Nittany Lions will end their season on Saturday despite overcoming quite a bit of adversity to notch seven wins under first-year coach Bill O'Brien. The Penn State faithful figure to pack Beaver Stadium, where the team has won four of its last five outings.
Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 9-2, although that includes four vacated wins by PSU.
Wisconsin star running back Montee Ball had a bittersweet performance in last week's loss to Ohio State. On the positive side, Ball ran for 191 yards and his seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the 78th of his career, tying the NCAA record. However, he also lost a fumble on what would have been a game-tying (and record-breaking) touchdown with 2:46 remaining in regulation when he leaped over the goal line and had the ball stripped. Fortunately for Ball, the offense got it back and Curt Phillips hit Jacob Pederson for a five- yard TD to tie the game with eight seconds left. However, Ball did not get much help from his supporting cast on UW's overtime possession, which ultimately cost the team the game. At times throughout the season, the Badgers have relied a bit too heavily on Ball, who has touched the ball on nearly 40 percent of the team's offensive possessions. James White (680 yards, 7.0 ypc) has provided a potent complement in the backfield, but the Badgers are down to their third-string quarterback, and the passing game has suffered.
Wisconsin's defense limited the Buckeyes to just 236 yards, and they crossed midfield only one time in the second half. After Ball fumbled late in the fourth quarter, the defense forced a quick three-and-out to get the ball back to the offense with time on the clock and favorable field position. Although they weren't able to get another stop in overtime, holding the Buckeyes to two scores in regulation is an accomplishment in and of itself. On the season, Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten in both scoring defense (17.6 ppg) and total defense (302.9 ypg). Senior linebacker Mike Taylor is fifth in the Big Ten with 104 tackles (53 solo), including 12 for loss. Devin Smith has three of the team's six interceptions on the season, while Chris Borland has three fumble recoveries.
The Badgers defensive unit will no doubt be tested against a Penn State squad that just racked up a season-high 546 yards of total offense in the win over Indiana. Matt McGloin continued his stellar senior campaign, completing 22- of-32 passes for a season-high 395 yards and four TDs. His 3,066 passing yards and 251 completions both stand as school records for a single season, while McGloin is PSU's career leader in touchdown passes (45) and 200-yard passing games (17). McGloin is also one TD pass shy of tying Daryll Clark's single- season school record and currently leads the conference in passing yards, completions and passing TDs (23). Three of his four touchdowns last week went to star wideout Allen Robinson, who is now the school's single-season receptions record holder (73) and is just 107 yards shy of Bobby Engram's single-season mark of 1,084 yards. Robinson's 11 touchdown catches are second to Engram's 13 from 1993. Wisconsin can ill-afford to forget about the running game, as Zach Zwinak is coming off a 135-yard, one-touchdown rushing performance.
Scoring early against PSU's defense has proven a difficult task, as the unit has led the country in first-quarter defense for much of the season. The Nittany Lions have allowed only six first-quarter points all season, and they have outscored opponents 185-49 in the first half of games. The defense pitched another first-quarter shutout against IU, and that provided plenty of a cushion for McGloin and the offense. Still, there are some adjustments to be made after IU quarterback Cameron Coffman piled up 454 yards and two TDs through the air. However, Coffman needed 59 attempts to do so, and he was also intercepted twice and sacked five times. PSU linebacker Gerald Hodges led the charge with a game-high 12 tackles, also notching one of the team's interceptions. Mike Hull was close behind with 11 stops and a sack. Standout linebacker Michael Mauti's college career is over as he suffered a knee injury last week.
This game pits two of the top defenses in the Big Ten against one another, and both squads also boast some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. If the Nittany Lions are up to the task of limiting Ball's damage, they have a chance to end the season on a positive note.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 27, Wisconsin 23
11/21 11:30:46 ET