For a few short hours on Saturday, Penn State can focus on something other than the scandal that is ripping their campus and football program apart.
The stakes for this game are huge—win and you head to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game next weekend in Indianapolis.
For the Lions there is another story here. If they win the Big Ten they will play in the Rose Bowl. Outside of that, though, no bowl game is going to be excited about hosting the Nittany Lions and dealing with the media attention that that will entail. That means that despite being a nine-win team that typically travels well, Penn State will be relegated to a truly obscure bowl if they lose.
That’s the least of the program’s problems, of course, but it should be motivation for the players.
Penn State at Wisconsin Betting Storylines
I will fully admit I was skeptical when Russell Wilson chose Wisconsin. He’s obviously a talented player, but I wasn’t sure that he would fit in at Wisconsin—one of the most conservative programs in the country.
I was wrong.
Wilson is on the verge of putting together the most efficient season in NCAA history and he has been a real force for the team. It hasn’t been perfect—the team has lost at least one more game than they wanted to— but he has been the class of the quarterback field in the Big Ten this year.
Wilson is dangerous on his feet as well and that should work well for him here. Penn State has faced two mobile quarterbacks the last three weeks in Nathan Scheelhause of Illinois and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, and those two have averaged 94 yards on the ground.
Part of why Wilson has been able to be so effective is because Montee Ball has been so dangerous on the ground. He has 1,466 yards rushing and, incredibly, 30 touchdowns. He and Wilson are a great one-two punch that really tests opposing defenses.
If any defense is going to be up to the challenge of dealing with what Wisconsin can throw at them it is Penn State’s. The Nittany Lions rank third in the country in points allowed at just 13 per game, and are eighth in yards allowed.
The leader of the group is senior defensive tackle Devon Still. He’s quietly having a phenomenal year and will certainly be a factor here.
While the Nittany Lions are more than capable defensively, their issues here are going to be on offense. For much of the season they were unwilling or unable to decide whether Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin was their best choice as starting quarterback. Both have played a lot and both are likely to play here as well, though McGloin should get the starting nod.
The sad truth is that neither one is a great option and both are going to be challenged to score points in the face of what the Badgers are going to be able to throw at them. It’s a big concern.
The only bright side of it all is that this team has somehow managed to win nine games and get themselves into this position while playing these guys all season. In other words, it’s not as bad of a situation as the stats might suggest.
The pressure is going to be on the legs of Penn State running backs Silas Redd and Stephfon Green. They averaged just about seven yards per carry last week against Ohio State en route to 163 combined yards, so they are in good form and will be ready to attack—and hopefully keep up with Montee Ball—this week.
Penn State at Wisconsin Betting Odds and Trends
The lines opened with Penn State a massive underdog. Wisconsin was favored by as much as 18.5 right from the start, but that fell quickly and now 14.5 is the widely available number. It seems reasonably stable there, though it could possibly go a little lower still.
The total opened at 49 and has been stable in early action.
Penn State is just 3-9-1 ATS in their last 13 games overall. Wisconsin is a solid 15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 at home. Penn State has gone ‘under’ the total in nine of their last 11 games. Wisconsin has gone ‘over’ in 12 of their last 16 games played on turf.
College Football Predictions: Penn State at Wisconsin Preview
Wisconsin is the better overall team but the value here is with Penn State. This spread is simply too large—bigger than the average number of points they give up each week.
This defense is impressive and will find ways to confound the Badgers. Penn State should find a way to add a few points on their side and that will just make it harder for the Badgers to win by more than two touchdowns.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.