Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:40 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A look at the matchup that could determine the TicketCity Bowl
Penn State's RBs, led by Silas Redd, vs. Houston's LBs, led by Marcus McGraw
Penn State's starting quarterback for the TicketCity Bowl is Rob Bolden, which is to say Penn State's passing game will be in a world of hurt. As such, there's no question that interim head coach Tom Bradley is going to have to get the most out of his rushing attack if Penn State's going to be able to dictate any aspect of the game.
Sophomore Silas Redd, who has rushed for 99 yards per game in 2011, is Penn State's unquestioned workhorse at tailback, but the Nittany Lions can go four deep at tailback without much dropoff. Speedy senior Stephfon Green has had the biggest workload in relief of Redd, but sophomore Curtis Dukes and senior Brandon Beachum have combined for 75 carries and 371 yards of their own on the year. In addition, fullbacks Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey have been been effective in short-yardage situations, though PSU has been so bad on offense all year that neither fullback has more than 15 catches on the year.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, rush defense has been the biggest point of concern all year, and it's not hard to see why. In Southern Miss' season-ending 49-26 win over Houston, the Golden Eagles rushed for 207 yards... and of the five times Houston gave up at least 34 pounts, USM's rushing total was the lowest allowed by the Cougars. Altogether, in those five games, Houston gave up over 260 yards per game on the ground, which dwarfs the 170+ Houston gives up on the whole. LB Marcus McGraw is a tackling machine, ranking in the Top 20 nationally, but good defenses get that way because of group effort, not just superstars, and Houston's going to need a big day from its defensive unit as a whole.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:34 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
WISCONSIN WON. Penn State's vaunted defense was no match for Montee Ball and the Wisconsin rushing game, and the Badgers rolled to a 45-7 victory to clinch the Leaders Division title and an invitation to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, and made significant progress toward the NCAA record for most total touchdowns in a season; the record set by Barry Sanders is 39, and Ball now has 34 with two games left to play.
WHY WISCONSIN WON: The Badgers obviously have a high-powered offense, one that doesn't make many mistakes, so it was going to be crucial for Penn State's defense to force Wisconsin into punts and turnovers, while the Penn State offense was going to have to limit its own mistakes and focus on ball control and long drives. That clearly didn't happen. Penn State turned the ball over four times while Wisconsin only lost one fumble late in garbage time, and Wisconsin scored 24 points off turnovers as it cruised to victory.
WHEN WISCONSIN WON: Penn State had forced punts on two of the first four Badger possessions (three, actually, if we're counting the punt in the second drive; Penn State committed a penalty on the play and Wisconsin turned the drive into a touchdown), and Wisconsin's lead was a somewhat precarious 14-7, when a Penn State punt pinned Wisconsin back at its own 17 midway through the second quarter. Wisconsin answered with a scintillating touchdown drive marked by two long Russell Wilson scrambles to push the lead to 21-7, and when fullback Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff and gave Wisconsin the ball 31 yards away from the end zone with two minutes left in the half, it wasn't too difficult to figure out how this game was going to end.
WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Just as expected at the beginning of the season, Wisconsin will represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship. Of course, the route there has been a little different than expected, and the Badgers' ranking at No. 15 is beneath the standards set by the program and its preseason No. 9 status. But there's some redemption to be had here, at the very least, and if Wisconsin exacts its revenge on Michigan State in the Big Ten title game then shines in the bowl game, it's reasonable to think the Badgers could still climb back into the Top 10.
WHAT PENN STATE LOST: For the first time since Week 6, Penn State is not the front-runner for the Leaders Division title. Unfortunately, the season is also now over, so Penn State is hereby thrown to the mercy of bowl selection committees having lost two of its last three. Obviously these are less than ideal circumstances for Penn State off the field, and if those circumstances are going to have any effect on Penn State's bowl bid, it's going to be a negative effect. So we'll see what all that means for the Penn State postseason, and whether the PSU athletic department even feels like going through the process in the first place.