Posted by Adam Jacobi
PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: Wisconsin's feeling generous. Penn State is scoring a hair under 21 points a game, good enough for 11th place in the Big Ten. 21 points is, of course, not going to beat Wisconsin; the Badgers scored 28 points against Illinois last week, and even that was a season low. So if Penn State's going to stay in this one, it's going to need put points up early and often. And yet, this is a Matt McGloin-led offense we're talking about, so the Nittany Lions are going to need some help. Wisconsin's defense hasn't given up more than 17 points in any of its nine wins, but that number jumps to 35 ppg in the two losses. So if the Badger defense can be coerced into allowing several successful touchdown drives, we might be looking at a shot for the Nittany Lions to walk into Camp Randall and steal a victory. If Wisconsin plays a strong game on defense and takes care of the ball, though, this might be a long day.
WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: Montee Ball stays Montee Ball. Heisman voters are starting to realize what Wisconsin and its opposing defensive coordinators have known all year: Russell Wilson is a very good quarterback, but it's Ball who's the real focal point of this offense. Ball now has a commanding lead among all non-QBs in most total touchdowns with 30 on the season, and he just showed off his durability by racking up 38 carries for 224 yards at Illinois (who has the Big Ten's second-best rushing defense) last week. Penn State's going to need to shut down Ball without committing so completely to the task that Russell Wilson can throw with ease. Wilson can demolish pretty much defense if it has eight men in the box all watching Ball's every move at the snap.
X-FACTOR: The almighty turnover will likely loom large here. Penn State basically can't afford to give away the ball deep in Badger territory; points are going to be hard enough to come by without wasted drives. Similarly, it would behoove both teams not to give the other a short field with a turnover deep in their own territory; those can swing a game all by themselves. So while an armpunt with no return isn't exactly the end of the world here, a fumbled kick return or a red zone interception might be enough of an opening for Wisconsin to make this one a blowout -- or Penn State to make it a game.
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