The up and down Penn State 2012 season comes to a close at home against Wisconsin on Senior Day. For the seniors who chose to stick around, this will be their chance to play in front of the supportive Beaver Stadium crowd one last time.
In order to finish the year with an impressive 8-4 record, there are five keys that the Nittany Lions will need to follow.
Wisconsin presents a difficult test for the Lions. The Badgers enter the game with a record of 7-4 and will be representing the Leaders Divison in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game. Ohio State, the Leaders Division winner, is ineligible to play in the championship game.
The following slides highlight five keys to the game for the Nittany Lions.
Quarterback Matt McGloin made the most of the coaching change this year at Penn State. Head coach Bill O'Brien brought his pro-style passing attack to the Nittany Lions and it proved to be a perfect fit for McGloin.
The top passer in the Big Ten will look to finish his great season on a high note at home against the tough Wisconsin defense. The Badgers rank second in the conference in total defense, allowing just 302.9 yards a game.
McGloin has thrown for 3,071 yards and 23 touchdowns on the year. Few could have expected a season like this from him after splitting time with Rob Bolden last season.
In order for Penn State to finish the year victorious, McGloin is going to have to have a solid game, and that includes minimizing turnovers.
Penn State enters the game against Wisconsin ranking near the bottom of the conference in rushing. The Nittany Lions are averaging just over 142 yards a game.
Unfortunately for Penn State, running the ball won't be easy. The Badgers are the top run defense in the league, giving up just over 106 yards per contest.
As difficult as it could be, establishing the run against the Badgers will be critical to Penn State winning the game. If the Nittany Lions can get the ground game going, it will open up the field for quarterback Matt McGloin to make plays in the passing game.
The Lions have turned to sophomore Zach Zwinak as the starting running back over the last few weeks. Zwinak, who was a backup fullback to start the year, has been a big surprise for the Lions. He has rushed for 821 yards and five touchdowns.
Fullback Michael Zordich has also proved to be effective when used as a primary rusher. The senior has scored four rushing touchdowns on the year.
Zwinak and Zordich need to get on track early and wear down the Wisconsin defense for the Lions to have a shot at winning.
Allen Robinson is coming off a monster game in Week 12 against the Indiana Hoosiers. Robinson caught 10 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The touchdowns were his first since Week 8 at Iowa.
He now has 73 catches, 983 yards and 11 touchdowns. Robinson owns the Penn State record for single-season receptions.
The sophomore will be called upon to make plays against the Wisconsin defense in Week 13. The Badgers rank fifth in the Big Ten Conference in pass defense.
The Penn State air attack has really flourished in 2012 and that will need to continue in Week 13. To get a win in the final game against the Badgers, the Lions will likely need a big game from Robinson.
There's no question that senior linebacker Michael Mauti has been the vocal and emotional leader on the Penn State defense. Unfortunately for the Lions, Mauti suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 12 against Indiana.
Fellow senior Gerald Hodges, a fine linebacker in his own right, must take control of the defense against Wisconsin.
Hodges led the Nittany Lions with 12 tackles and an interception against the Hoosiers. He now leads the team with 102 tackles on the year.
With Mauti's absence, the defense will look to Hodges to inspire and be the main communicator in Week 13 versus the Badgers.
The Badgers enter the game with the fourth best rushing offense in the Big Ten, averaging 217.6 yards per game, led by senior running back Montee Ball. When these two teams met last year, Ball had a monster game, rushing for 156 yards and four touchdowns.
Wisconsin has struggled to pass the ball this year, gaining just over 165 yards a game. That's the worst average in the entire conference. However, the Badgers boast the best rush attack in the conference, led by Ball. The senior leads the conference with 1,417 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Penn State needs to focus on stopping Ball and make the Badgers try to beat them through the air.