Badgers Gameday Preview: Wisconsin vs. Penn State

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There's been chatter abound about how this game is meaningless to the Badgers, but try telling that to a coach who's pushing for a trophy game against the Nittany Lions and recruits against them heavily every season. Oh, and there's this little record Montee Ball is looking to break and all… 

Pretty sure this game has meaning for the Badgers, but just what must happen for Wisconsin to avoid a 7-5 finish to it's regular season? Let's explore the matchup with the Nittany Lions of Penn State shall we?

Who: Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3 B1G) at Penn State (7-4, 5-2 B1G)
Where: Beaver Stadium – University Park, PA (106,572)
Series Record: Wisconsin leads 9-6
Last Meeting: 2011 (45-7 Wisconsin Win at home)
Pregame Show: MTB presents - Wisconsin SoundOFF LIVE! at The Vault in De Pere, WI (127 N. Broadway)

Statistical Breakdown:

Category Wisconsin NCAA Rank B1G Rank   Penn State NCAA Rank B1G Rank
Scoring Offense 28.1 67th 7th   29.6 56th 6th
Total Offense 383.3 83rd 8th   422.5 48th 4th
Rushing Offense 217.6 17th 4th   142.2 83rd 8th
Passing Offense 165.6 110th 12th   280.3 34th 2nd
Scoring Defense 17.6 14th 2nd   18.9 22nd 4th
Total Defense 302.9 11th 2nd   353.8 30th 6th
Rushing Defense 106.6 9th 1st   125.7 23rd 5th
Passing Defense 196.3 25th 5th   228.1 52nd 9th

How Wisconsin Wins: Against a Penn State defense that will be playing with a lot of emotion Wisconsin needs a balanced attack to win this game. Montee Ball needs to get the all-time TD record to himself early on and keep on pounding the rock. Additionally the Badgers need to work on establishing a potent passing attack and I'm looking at Jacob Pederson as being a huge part of the game, especially with no Michael Mauti in this one for PSU. Curt Phillips was accurate late against the Buckeyes last weekend and if he can build off of that in the passing game we could be looking at an offense that is as close to full throttle as possible. If they can't be a balanced offense I don't see how Wisconsin wins this game.

As for defensively? Wisconsin needs to help their offense by winning the field position battle and that means stalling out the Penn State offense deep in their own territory. Penn State is averaging only 33.8 yards a punt (net) which is dead last in the Big Ten and 110th nationally. If they can help their offense out by getting short fields all day long it will be to their advantage. Additionally they need to play well on 3rd downs, something they've done well with all season. However, last week they couldn't get off the field at key times and it cost them. 

How Penn State Wins: They need to be creative in how they attack the Badgers defensive secondary. Devin Smith and Dez Southward are playing the best football they've played all season long and if they continue at that level it's hard to see the McGloin to Robinson connection working. Penn State wins if they can effectively use the tight ends in the passing game. Matt Lehman has 22 catches on the season and is averaging over 12 yards a catch as well as having 3TD's on the year. If they can find him room against a guy like Mike Taylor it could be a matchup advantage and a way to open up the game against the Badgers. 

Defensively they've got to find a way to contain what's been an explosive running attack by the Badgers. In Big Ten play the Badgers have been averaging over 260 yards rushing. If they can hold Bucky under 200 yards rushing that's a win for the Nittany Lions defense and it could be a win for the Nittany Lions period.

Notes: 

- Wisconsin may be without star LB Chris Borland once again this week as he rests his ailing hamstring & RT Rob Havenstein could also be out with a sprained knee – it's something to keep an eye on in this one.

- Under Bielema the Badgers have never lost back-to-back games in the month of November.

- Following a loss this season the Badgers are 3-0 and they are 7-2 all-time in that situation under Bret Bielema.

- The Badgers defense has allowed only 5 rushes to go for more than 10 yards all season long (122 rushing attempts by opponents this season).

- Not only is Ball going for the all-time TD record today, but he's looking to become the 1st player in a BCS conference to average 150 or more yards for a season in back-to-back years since 2004 (1996 in the Big Ten). 

- Allen Robinson needs just 107 yards today to break the all-time single season receiving yards record at Penn State. He already owns the receptions record with 73. 

- The Nittany Lion defense is stingy as hell in the 1st quarter, only allowing 6 points all season and didn't give up points until a field goal by Purdue on Nov. 3rd

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Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy has been covering college football for nearly half a decade and is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com. He's also a featured columnist covering college football for Bleacher Report.

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