Penn State-Wisconsin: An In-Depth Look at the Nittany Lions' Rushing Attack
Ask a college football fan this week to say the first two words that come to mind when you say the word "Saturday," and surely they will either say, "Oklahoma-Texas" or "LSU-Florida."
Those may be the two "biggest" games this week, but let's take a look at Evan Royster and Stephon Green—two running backs who could have the biggest impact on a game in which the difference between winning the Big Ten and a shot at the BCS Title Game, or dropping to a fifth-place tie in the Big Ten, could hinge on their performance in this week's prime-time match-up against Wisconsin at Madison.
Penn State's Total Yardage This Season: 2,998 yards.
Passing: 1,458 yards.
Rushing: 1,540 yards.
Don't worry; I've done the math for you. Rushing yards account for about 51 percent of Penn State's total yardage this season.
Evan Royster: 84 carries, 659 yards.
Stephon Green: 53 carries, 368 yards.
Once again, I've taken the liberty to do the math. 1,027 yards of those 1,540 yards have come from these two running backs. That's 67 percent.
That means that when all is said and done, out of Penn State's ninth-ranked offense, these two players account for 34 percent of it by themselves.
That's pretty impressive, and it is a big reason the Nittany Lions are off to a 6-0 start. Of course, due credit also must go to a senior-laden offensive line, which can easily be argued as the best in the Big Ten, if not the country, and a key reason behind Royster and Green's success.
So it is quite obvious then, that if Wisconsin wants to stop Penn State's explosive offense, the Badgers must focus on this dangerous backfield duo. Now Wisconsin has a very good and battle-tested defense, and playing at home should energize them.
But for stopping the rushing attack, they are ranked 47th in the country. Not bad at all.
After all, last week Chris Wells only racked up 168 yards and a TD. Of course that "only" is a sarcastic one, considering Youngstown State held to him to 111, and Minnesota 106. So we can say that a rush defense in the top 50 percent is decent, but capable of being broken.
However to avoid that break, it all starts up front with that defensive line. If they hope to have any success slowing things down, they must get penetration into the backfield. Blitz, right?
Blitzing to stop the run will open the pass, especially against this experienced Penn State O-Line, which Clark and a receiving corps that is getting Jordan Norwood back will definitely exploit, especially with Williams on the outside, and Butler over the middle.
Also, bringing the blitz will set off the third leg of that Penn State rushing attack, Daryll Clark, who will make plays with his legs.
So then the Badgers should stuff eight or nine players in the box?
This will surely at least slow down the run, and force Daryll Clark to do something he has never done before. Go on the road against a good team in a hostile environment, and rely on the passing game.
The best way to stop this Penn State running game will be to let defensive backs Brinkley and Goin and the rest of the Wisconsin secondary keep Penn State honest, by stopping the run.
The Badgers really like to use their linebackers on the blitz, but they must remain disciplined in order to stop this rushing game.
Otherwise, here's what I expect:
Royster: 24 carries, 173 yards, TD
Green: 12 carries, 78 yards, TD
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