This could be a blowout, particularly if Penn State can strike early and make Wisconsin chase. More likely, it’ll be another slow start by the Nittany Lion offense while the defense is slow to shut down the Badgers, hoping Penn State can keep it close at half and try to steal the game in the second half.
Penn State 31, Wisconsin 16
Wisconsin is the best team Penn State will face since squaring off against Iowa nearly a month ago. Against Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan State, Penn State came out flat in the first half and relied on their usual second half adjustments to put away inferior competition. Wisconsin is not inferior competition. It will take a complete game from the Lions to handle the tenacious defense of the Badgers, as well as the ground-you-into-dust run game Wisconsin likes to employ. Our offensive line is patchwork, and I'm not expecting Brandon Mahon back. The Badgers have the best defensive line we've seen since Ohio State. Saquon Barkley is going to have to dance like made to get any positive yardage.
Despite all that, I like our chances in this game. Their offense is reliant on the run, and their quarterback situation is shaky at best. In a match up of our defense vs. their offense, I'll take our defense to bottle up their run game, and let their underwhelming pass game flounder. In a match up of our offense vs. their defense, I believe they'll have to sell out to stop either the run or the pass. One way or another, our offense will make them pay. Penn State wins a close one, and awaits their fate on Sunday.
Penn State 24, Wisconsin 20
Wisconsin's defense is scary, as is Jazz Peavy on the jet sweep (Something that Penn State has struggled with in a few games this season). Corey Clement has been a steady performer for the Badgers, and he could present problems up front.
Having said that, I think Penn State's offense is running all on cylinders (at least in quarters 3 and 4), and Curtis Cothran in particular has played his tail off since returning from his four game suspension. LBU and McSorley, not Barkley, carry Penn State to a hard-fought win. Expect Tyler Davis to figure in the final outcome.
Penn State 27, Wisconsin 24
I don't care that Wisconsin has a top defense, Penn State's got strength in the LB corps and on the defensive line. Wisconsin doesn't have the QB weapon that we have in McSorley, who's on fire right now. Wisconsin doesn't have the running back and receiver corps like we have in Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki. Corey Clement? We can shut him down. We shut down THE Ohio State University football team, which, according to the "experts" is a team that is better than Wisconsin and better than us. Numbers and rankings don't mean anything. We weren't supposed to beat OSU, either, or go 10-2. This team has had to be grittier and more patient than the rest for a long time, and that stands for something. It's going to be a close battle but we've got this.
Penn State 27, Wisconsin 20
To date, Penn State has faced:
The #58 defense according to S&P+ rankings (26 offensive points scored)
The #61 defense (39)
The #9 defense (34)
The #1 defense (10)
The #28 defense (29)
The #85 defense (38)
The #5 defense (17)
The #108 defense (62)
The #13 defense (41)
The #37 defense (38)
The #73 defense (39)
The #48 defense (45)
We're about to face the #3 defense in the country on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are not foreign to facing tough defenses this season, but realistically speaking, only four on that list come close to what they're about to see. In those four performances, you had one game where they couldn't get anything done, one game where they could do no wrong, and two games where they moved the ball in the way you'd expect against a defense of that caliber. You also have the precarious split. The worst performance of the season on offense came before the proverbial light switch went on, while the best performance came after.
What does all this rambling mean? Not much, really. It means one of three things will happen. Most likely, Penn State will perform somewhere in the middle, closer to their performance against the #9 defense and the #5 defense. Penn State could also revert to their pre-light switch days, and perform well below average on offense, facing a defense right in between #1 and #5. Third, they could perform like they have for most of the season, and blow the game open on big plays, like they did against the #13 defense. I'm going with the latter.
Penn State 56, Wisconsin 17
"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves."
Penn State 45, Wisconsin 17
All Trace McSorley does is win: too much moxie, too much grittiness, and too much heart.
Penn State 34, Wisconsin 20
Make no mistake: This will be PSU’s stiffest challenge since Ohio State. Corey Clement and the Wisconsin ground game will do their damndest to try and eat up clock and eventually tire out the PSU defense in hopes of being able to run all over them in the fourth quarter. The Badgers’ defense is also stingy enough to be able to stop the run without having to stack the box, thanks to a solid secondary that has racked up a B1G-leading 21 interceptions.
That being said, I have faith in Brent Pry having his guys prepared to contain Clement and Co. on the ground and to make life difficult for whoever lines up under center for Wisconsin. I also have faith in Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, and whichever one of our tall, athletic, receivers Trace throws the ball to. It will be quite painstaking at times, but the explosive plays (for which the Lions rank 10th in the latest S&P+ rankings) and ability to flip the field (PSU ranks 6th in field position in the latest S&P+ rankings) via Blake Gillikin’s leg will be the real difference-makers in this one.
Penn State 23, Wisconsin 17
I'm expecting an awesome game with lots of great defense, toughness, face smashing, and a handful of big plays, in a tight, back-and-forth contest that leaves fans breathless.
Or, one team could blow out the other. Anything's possible with two fairly young squads. But McSorley's ability to avoid pressure and extend / create big plays with his feet is the difference maker for me. The miracle season continues.
PSU Some, Wisconsin Something Less
PREDICTION: Neither PSU nor Wisconsin were supposed to be in Indy this year--but it's a mark of the two Big Ten coaches of the year that the squads made it this far. Penn State has been a tale of two teams, with the second half of the year's team playing some of the best football in the nation, and above all the belief they can beat anybody. Wisconsin is a very good team (especially on defense) but the IT factor, and Joe Moorhead and Brent Pry, give this one to the Lions. Penn State 20, Wisconsin 13.
PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Saquon Barkley. He's had an underwhelming couple of weeks as defenses have been keying on him, to the benefit of the passing offense. But as the newly-annointed B1G Offensive Player of the Year, he has something to prove going up against an elite defense.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF… this is the lowest scoring game by the PSU offense since September.
This is going to be a tough match-up, but by now I’ve learned not to doubt this Penn State team. While Wisconsin’s incredibly tough defense will likely neutralize Penn State’s explosive offense, the Nittany Lions have proven to be strong in all three areas of the game during their eight-game winning streak. This could be the difference in the game on Saturday that helps earn Penn State an unlikely Big Ten crown.
Penn State is an incredibly young team, and teams with their make-up can oftentimes get caught up in the gravity of the moment that come with such a huge game. But Penn State’s focus and resolve have been unflappable during the past eight games, and I don’t see that changing on Saturday, even when you consider the enormity of this contest.
Trace McSorley gets the job done by tossing for 215 yards and two touchdowns, which go to Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki. Gesicki also comes up with a big catch late in the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning field goal by first-team All-Big Ten honoree Tyler Davis. The defense seals the deal in the closing moments thanks in large part by negative hits by Curtis Cothran and Evan Schwan, and a huge fourth down pass deflection by John Reid.
Let’s make it happen, Lions!
Penn State 23 , Wisconsin 20