What could have been an exciting season finale with championship implications will be just another Penn State (7-4, 5-2) vs. Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) Big Ten matchup in Week 13. NCAA's postseason ban on the Nittany Lions prevents them from heading to the Big Ten Championship game regardless if they defeat the Badgers or not.
They also have no hopes of winning the Leaders Division outright due to the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes having that on lock.
Still, there's something for each of these teams to play for other than tangible rewards. Wisconsin is looking for a win against a top Big Ten team to prove it belongs in the Big Ten Championship Game. On the other hand, Penn State was obliterated against the Badgers last season by a 45-7 mark.
Wisconsin went to the Big Ten Championship as a result of knocking off the Nittany Lions.
So, yeah, there's some added motivation for each team this week.
When: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Penn.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via Covers)
Over/Under: 45, Spread: Penn State (-2.5)
Wisconsin has played every team it's faced this season close and isn't scoring a ton of points. Their offense lacks explosiveness and they've had to keep opposing offenses in check to stand a chance this year.
Injury Report via USA Today (as of 11/19/2012)
LB Chris Borland, Hamstring, Questionable
QB Joel Stave, Shoulder, Out for season
DL Jesse Hayes, Leg, Out for season
LB Cody Byers, Concussion, Out for season
LB Michael Mauti, Knee, Out, according to Ben Jones of StateCollege.com (via Twitter)
S Malcom Willis, Knee, Questionable
T Curtis Dukes, Concussion, Questionable
G Mark Arcidiacono, Foot, Questionable
TE Kyle Carter, Wrist, Out for season
LB Nyeem Wartman, Knee, Out indefinitely
This game could have been an important one as Penn State sits at 5-2 in Big Ten play while the visiting Badgers are 4-3. A win for either team would send them to take on Nebraska as representatives of the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship game.
However, Penn State's postseason ban eliminates the possibility of that story line. Win or lose, the Badgers will be meeting the Cornhuskers in that game.
Penn State Player to Watch: Matt McGloin, QB
Last year, McGloin struggled heavily against the Badgers, failing to throw for over 100 yards in the game. Luckily for the Nittany Lions McGloin is having the best season of his college career. He's nearly doubled all of his stats from last season and has surpassed the 3,000-yard mark after last week.
If the Nittany Lions hope to win it's going to be on the strong arm of McGloin and the team's passing game. Wisconsin isn't susceptible to the pass but they're definitely not as strong defending it as they are at stopping opposing running backs.
Wisconsin Player to Watch: Montee Ball, RB
Montee Ball had four touchdowns and over 120 yards against the Nittany Lions last season. Last week against the Ohio State Buckeyes, the powerful back tied Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) for the all-time major college record for career touchdowns (78).
Penn State hasn't been porous against the run this season, but are giving up 125 yards per contest to opposing teams. With linebacker Michael Mauti out, the Nittany Lions will struggle a little bit but do have other good players in their front-seven that may be able to limit Ball, as best as they can.
It might not be another four-touchdown performance for the senior Badgers' running back. He only needs one, though, to break the record.
Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Penn State 20
This Big Ten matchup is going to be a grinder. The loss of Michael Mauti on defense for the Nittany Lions will hurt their ability to slow down Montee Ball. Last year, Ball ran for four touchdowns and 125 yards to lead the rout. Wisconsin is going to control the pace of the game, as they normally do, by playing stingy defense and pounding the rock.
However, Matt McGloin is much improved from last season and will keep his team in it with his arm. A late Penn State drive will fall short of the end zone and the Badgers will escape with some momentum heading into the Big Ten Championship game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Dec. 1.