The Penn State Nittany Lions will need to knock off Big Ten Leaders division rival Wisconsin next Saturday in Happy Valley to cap off what would have to be considered a phenomenal season by any standards.
A program that has been rocked by scandal and sanctions over the past year, Penn State has beautifully navigated a tricky situation that has included the loss of scholarships, a postseason ban, star players leaving and a challenging Big Ten schedule.
It's safe to say the Nittany Lions can build a lot of momentum for 2013 with a year-ending win over the defending Big Ten champions on the final weekend of November.
Here we break down the biggest keys for Penn State in its season finale versus Wisconsin.
Ride the Arm of Matt McGloin
Penn State senior quarterback Matt McGloin has been sensational in his final season with the Nittany Lions, throwing for 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions through his first 10 games.
McGloin is also completing more than 60 percent of his passes, which gives his squad an advantage going up against Wisconsin's 33rd-ranked secondary. The Badgers have allowed close to two passing touchdowns per week and have only six interceptions.
With McGloin growing more confident by the week, Bill O'Brien will want to give his senior signal-caller plenty of shots to beat the Badgers' secondary. And when he does, you can bet McGloin will deliver.
Keep the Badgers Out of the End Zone
Sure, keeping the opposition off the board is an obvious key to success for any team. But if you take a look at how Penn State has won this fall, clearly its best performances have been made possible thanks to its 20th-ranked scoring defense.
O'Brien's team is allowing fewer than 19 points per game and surrendered just 13 per game in its first six wins.
If Penn State's front seven can contain Montee Ball and hold Wisconsin's offense to field goals rather than touchdowns, the Lions will be in position to upend the reigning conference champions at Beaver Stadium on November 24, even if their offense struggles.
Pound Zach Zwinak
Sophomore running back Zach Zwinak has rushed for 100 or more yards in five of the last eight games for Penn State and is averaging an impressive five yards per carry.
Zwinak had just two yards on three carries through the first three games of the season, but has since become a dominant force for the Nittany Lions, combining with Matt McGloin to form a dynamic offensive duo.
If the Lions can pound Zwinak at the Badgers for four quarters on Saturday, then they should be able to control the pace of the game and keep Wisconsin's offense on the sideline.
As long as Penn State has balance on offense and plays a bend-but-don't-break style of defense against the Badgers, it'll cap off a remarkable 8-4 season with an 8-2 finish and unbelievable 6-2 conference record.
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