2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 13 - Penn State at Wisconsin
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Nov. 26 at Wisconsin 45 … Penn State 7
CFN Analysis: The offensive line owned the game. Penn State’s run defense was playing at a high level, but the patchwork Badger front five dominated throughout. Wisconsin blasted away and did whatever it wanted offensively. … Montee Ball deserves to be in the Heisman picture, but he’s not. He rolled for 156 yards and four scores, averaging 6.2 yards per carry against the nation’s No. 8 defense. … It was a total defensive effort that gave up one big pass play on a breakdown, but that was it. Chris Borland and Mike Taylor combined for only 13 tackles, but they were always around the ball. … Wisconsin wanted its shot at a rematch with Michigan State, but forget about the Hail Mary; the lines have to play far better than they did in East Lansing.
Penn State just got whipped. It’s been a long few weeks, but this was simply a case of the Badgers being better and more physical on both sides of the line. The Nittany Lions didn’t have the firepower to keep up. … Penn State needed better quarterback play. Matt McGloin didn’t make any big plays down the field after the early touchdown pass, and when the ground game wasn’t working, he wasn’t able to pick up the slack. … The offense only held on to the ball for 21:43 and got 44 of the 119 passing yards on the one early touchdown pass. The best play, a long dash from Stephon Green, was called back on a penalty. This wasn’t Penn State’s day in any way. The team didn’t play up to its capabilities, but Wisconsin had a lot to do with that.
(AP) MADISON, Wis. -- Reeling after back-to-back losses took them out of the national championship picture a month ago, running back Montee Ball and No. 15 Wisconsin have rallied for a spot in the Big Ten title game and a shot at the Rose Bowl.
And as Ball makes a run at the NCAA's single-season touchdown record, the Badgers just might be grooming a late-blooming Heisman Trophy contender.
Ball scored four more touchdowns and Wisconsin routed No. 20 Penn State 45-7 on Saturday. With the win, Wisconsin will play Big Ten Legends division winner Michigan State in Indianapolis next Saturday.
"We had a group of men in our room that we knew would take one day at a time to get to where we wanted to be," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "They started on a process to get through the last four weeks. Bottom line: We won a trophy today to earn a way to Indianapolis and can't wait to get there."
Wisconsin went into the season promoting quarterback Russell Wilson for the Heisman, but recently added a push for Ball. Ball has scored 34 touchdowns this season for the Badgers (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten), the second-most in a single season in NCAA history. Barry Sanders holds the record, scoring 39 for Oklahoma State in 11 games in the 1988 season.
Can Ball break it?
"Whatever the offensive line wants," Ball said. "If they want me to get there, then I'll get there. But I'm really looking forward to that, it's an entire offensive achievement, it's going to be a great feeling if I do break it."
He finished with 156 yards on 25 carries.
The Nittany Lions (9-3, 6-2) came into the game hoping to salvage something from a season dwarfed by scandal. They took an early 7-0 lead but quickly unraveled, falling behind 28-7 by halftime.
Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley was frustrated by turnovers and poor tackling -- but insists that his team deserves to go to a bowl game despite a scandal that has tainted the entire program.
"They didn't have anything to do with it," Bradley said. "They weren't involved in any way. And I think they deserve an opportunity to play in a bowl."
The Nittany Lions came into Saturday's game still reeling in the wake of child sex abuse charges against former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky, which led to turmoil on campus and the end of coach Joe Paterno's reign at the school.
For now, Bradley is giving his players the week off.
"I think a week away from everybody won't hurt us," Bradley said.
Although anything that happens on a football field pales in comparison to the allegations against Sandusky, Nittany Lions players caught in the middle of it all still hoped to rally the team for a shot at the Rose Bowl. They won at Ohio State last week, giving them a chance going into Saturday's game.
But after taking an early lead, the Nittany Lions just gave too many chances to the Badgers' high-octane offense led by Ball and Wilson.
Wisconsin was again without starting center Peter Konz, but it didn't seem to matter. Wilson threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, flustering the Nittany Lions' defense by slipping away from tackling attempts all afternoon.
"We've been facing quarterbacks like that all year," Penn State defensive back Drew Astorino said. "But he's obviously phenomenal at what he does. When we didn't have good coverage, he'd complete a pass."
Wilson has thrown a touchdown pass in 36 straight games, tying the NCAA record held by former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell -- who is now a backup for the Green Bay Packers.
The Nittany Lions started strong, taking an 7-0 lead on a pair of big mistakes by the Badgers.
Wisconsin had Penn State stopped, but a Wisconsin player ran into Nittany Lions punter Anthony Fera to give up a first down on a penalty. Four plays later, Matt McGloin found Curtis Drake wide open -- no Badgers defensive back was within 10 yards -- near the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown.
The Badgers answered with a heavy dose of Ball on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jared Abbrederis.
McGloin then threw an interception to Wisconsin safety Shelton Johnson, giving the ball back to the Badgers near midfield. Wilson marched Wisconsin into the red zone, Ball scored a 1-yard touchdown and Wisconsin took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Wilson then left Nittany Lions defenders grasping at air on a drive late in the second quarter. With the Badgers facing third-and-7, Wilson slipped away from pressure and ran for a first down. Later in the drive, Wilson broke a handful of tackles on a 19-yard scramble to give Wisconsin first-and-goal at the 5. Ball scored a 2-yard touchdown two plays later, and Wisconsin took a 21-7 lead.
Penn State then fumbled a kickoff and Wilson drove the Badgers again, finishing with a 4-yard touchdown to Nick Toon.
Toon was wearing jersey No. 87 in tribute to his father, former Badgers and New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon.
Penn State running back Silas Redd fumbled early in the third quarter and the Badgers recovered near midfield.
Wilson marched the Badgers into the red zone, Ball scored his third touchdown of the day from 9 yards out and Wisconsin led 35-7.
Ball added an 18-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Penn State (9-2) at Wisconsin (9-2) Nov. 26, 3:30, ESPN/ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … After all the ugliness and all the controversy, can Penn State really rally under the most difficult of circumstances and win the Big Ten title? If it can come up with a victory in Camp Randall, it’ll get its shot.
The team is just one win away from finishing off as improbable and surreal a set of games any team has ever had to play, but this is going to be the team’s toughest test since facing Alabama back in September.
The Nebraska showdown was about getting past the initial shock, and the Ohio State battle was about rallying around the adversity on the road. This game, though, is simply about trying to play for the Big Ten title, and while the team can’t separate itself from the school’s horrors, considering most of the coaches are still in place, it really is all about football this Saturday in a fight against a great Wisconsin team, a tough Badger crowd, and the hopes of the Big Ten bigwigs, who aren’t all that fired up about possibly having its showcase game upstaged by the Nittany Lion disaster train.
So many things are up in the air right now for Penn State a school, much less the football program, that life could be very, very different in a few months. So for now, before going back to the stuff that really matters, Nittany Lion fans need to try to enjoy the football moment, because it could be the last big one for a long, long time.
There might be a bowl game, but there’s going to be a groundswell of support to keep the team at home considering bowl sponsors are going to run away screaming from putting a corporate logo on anything Penn State right now.
Wisconsin has football demons to slay, and it can make up for the Hail Mary loss in East Lansing with a win and a rematch with Michigan State next week. The Badgers dominated Purdue and Minnesota after losing two straight, and they got past a dangerous game at Illinois, but after getting the breaks needed to control their own destiny, the season would be a complete and utter failure if they didn’t take care of business this week.
In normal circumstances this would be the beginning of a huge rivalry in the Leaders division, but there aren’t normal circumstances. For this week, it’s simply the most important game in the new Big Ten era with the winner getting a chance to make history.
Why Penn State Might Win: The Penn State offensive line has been blasting away over the last few weeks, and the Wisconsin defensive front has to prove it can hold up. The Wisconsin run defense has been solid, but it had problems with Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and it couldn’t handle the speed and quickness of Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Dan Herron. There’s a chance Penn State could outWisconsin, Wisconsin, and get the running game going from the start with the 1-2 punch of Silas Redd and a rejuvenated Stephfon Green trading turns. Redd has been beaten up and hurting with a shoulder problem, but he ran for 63 yard on just eight carries last week. Green has carried the load lately, and he’s been running very hard and extremely effectively.
The Nittany Lion pass defense has been stellar, leading the nation Big Ten and ranking fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The secondary is only allowing 160 yards per game, helped by a pass rush that’s coming up with pressure on a consistent basis. Penn State hasn’t given up more than one touchdown pass a game yet this year while allowing more than 200 yards just twice – winning both games. UW’s Russell Wilson could be in for more pressure than he’s faced all year.
Why Wisconsin Might Win: Penn State can’t score. Getting production out of the least efficient passing attack in the Big Ten has been like pulling teeth, and while the ground game has been effective, it’s not leading the way to enough points to hang with a team as explosive as Wisconsin. The offense has scored more than 23 points just once against BCS teams – hanging up 34 on Northwestern – while the Badgers are putting up 45 points per game showing off deadly efficient offensive balance. It shouldn’t take too much to put the game away, and if Wisconsin can get off to a hot start and feed off the emotion of the moment, Penn State will have to take some chances.
Wisconsin isn’t going to give Penn State the breaks it’ll need. Wilson isn’t throwing picks and Montee Ball and the backs don’t put the ball on the ground. The Badgers have lost just two turnovers in the last four games and have given the ball away just seen times on the season. Penn State is 0-2 this year when failing to force a turnover, and it’ll needs to come up with at least three to have any shot of keeping up the pace.
What To Watch Out For: It’s a bad time to be messing around with the offensive line, but Wisconsin is getting creative to find the right fit up front. Peter Konz is the nation’s best center, but he’s hurting with an ankle injury and there’s been a major shift going on, including in the middle of the Illinois game, to find someone who can be consistent in the middle. Ryan Groy air-mailed a key shotgun snap to Russell Wilson, and then guard Travis Frederick stepped into the role. Meanwhile, left tackle Ricky Wagner got knocked out for a bit with a knee injury causing even more shuffling. Even after all the drama, the line was great in the second half against Illinois. This week, the front five will have to be fully jelled from the start.
Stephfon Green has broken through at just the right time. Out early this year with legal problems, and then losing his workload to Redd, he has carried the Nittany Lion offense at times over the two weeks with two touchdown runs against both Nebraska and Ohio State with 71 yards against the Huskers and 93 against the Buckeyes. The 5-10, 198-pound speedster came back from a broken leg suffered in the Rose Bowl loss to USC a few years ago and has regained most of his speed, but he hasn’t been able to break out until now.
What Will Happen: Wisconsin doesn’t lose closeout games at home. Last year it blasted Northwestern 70-23 to get to the Rose Bowl, and it hasn’t lose a home finale since Barry Alvarez’s last game in 2005. In 1998 the Badgers ripped up Penn State 24-3 to earn a trip to Pasadena, and 13 years later it’ll do the same thing to get to Indianapolis with the combination of Wilson and Ball working efficiently and effectively to keep the Nittany Lion defense guessing. Penn State won’t have the offense to keep up.
CFN Prediction: Wisconsin 31 … Penn State 14
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Wisconsin -14.5 O/U: 49
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