2011 Penn State Football
Penn State @ Wisconsin Badgers Football Preview
The Penn State Nittany Lions needed to wrap up their division before this game. They can thank the Illinois Fighting Illini for forcing them into a precarious pigskin position.
The Nittany Lions and the Wisconsin Badgers will meet Saturday in Madison to decide the Big Ten Leaders Division. The winner will clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, and will face Legends Division champ Michigan State.
Penn State, a program brought to its knees over the past two weeks by one of the worst scandals in college sports history, still has a chance to have a successful finish on the field. Penn State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) outmuscled Ohio State last Saturday in Columbus, 20-14. Stephfon Green ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Lions’ attack. The Penn State defense shut out the Buckeyes in the second half. With the win, its first since the firing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, Penn State ended Ohio State’s six-year conference championship streak.
However, as sweet as the win at Ohio State was for the PSU crew, the larger fact remains that week 12 was an unsuccessful one for the Nittany Nation. Penn State needed Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2) to lose and fall two games back in the division standings, thereby clinching the Leaders title for the Blue and White. However, the Badgers came from behind to win 28-17 at Illinois last week, regrouping to steal a game in which they were flatly disinterested for the first 25 minutes of competition. After falling behind 14-0 in the early going, the Badgers came back thanks to three touchdowns by running back Montee Ball, whose 30 touchdowns is a Big Ten single-season record. Ball ran for 224 yards in the win and has piled up 1,466 yards on the season. Ball has seven 100-yard games in 2011. He is the fifth player in FBS history to score 30 touchdowns in a season.
Yet, as well as Ball played against Illinois, the rest of the Badgers were somnambulant for the entire first half. Illinois’ punter dropped a good snap on his own 2-yard line, allowing Wisconsin to score a cheap, gift-wrapped touchdown. Illinois then came unglued in the second half, coughing up four more turnovers to give Wisconsin a wide, yawning path to a come-from-behind victory. When Wisconsin – a terrible road team in 2011 – found a way to win in Champaign, Ilinois, Penn State lost its dream of clinching the Leaders Division before this trip t o Madison. Wisconsin is an excellent team at home, meaning that Penn State is faced with an almost impossible task this weekend.
The Badgers’ offense may not quite be at full strength, as starting center Peter Konz will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Ryan Groy started last week, but botched two snaps in the third quarter and was replaced. Left guard Travis Frederick will start at center on Saturday. Nevertheless, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has been virtually unstoppable at home. The Badgers are in position to flourish – and wrest away a division flag – inside the confines of Camp Randall Stadium.
Penn State’s two-quarterback rotation has ended; Matt McGloin is now the starter. The Lions also used a Wildcat package for the first time last week at Ohio State. The new wrinkle took the Buckeyes by surprise, yielding 114 yards on 10 plays. However, a few wrinkles won’t cut it against Wisconsin. Penn State will have to play its best game of the year – by a considerable margin – just to have a chance on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
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