Wisconsin Football: Grading the Badgers' Win over Penn State

Sean LansingContributor INovember 28, 2011

Wisconsin Football: Grading the Badgers' Win over Penn State

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    Just like that, Wisconsin gets a shot at redemption against Michigan State. 

    By beating Penn State 45-7 on Saturday to wrap up their regular season, the Badgers clinched the Big Ten Leaders Division and with it a spot in the inaugural conference championship game against Legends Division winner Michigan State. 

    Wisconsin was firing on all cylinders against the Nittany Lions, and they have a lot of momentum heading into next week's showdown. 

    Click through the slideshow to see how the Badgers beat the Lions. 

Quarterbacks: A

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    Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson ended his career at Camp Randall the same way he started it: Accurate, efficient and with a win. 

    The senior completed 19 of his 29 passes for 186 yards and two scores.

    Badger Nation will undoubtedly miss Wilson, who has proven to be a great quarterback and an even better leader. 

Running Backs: A+

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    Montee Ball proved once again on Saturday that he is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender, rushing for 156 yards and four more scores.

    Ball's 34 touchdowns this season rank second on the all-time list behind only Barry Sanders' 39 scores for Oklahoma State in 1988. 

Wide Receivers: A

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    Another solid day for Jared Abbrederis, Nick Toon and Russell Wilson's targets against the Nittany Lions. 

    Abbrederis caught seven balls for 93 yards and a touchdown, and Toon—who was wearing No. 87 in honor of his father, Badger legend Al Toon—had five catches for 42 yards and a score. 

Offensive Line: B+

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    The offensive line struggled with continuity issues last week against Illinois, but they held up nicely on Saturday against Penn State despite giving up a pair of sacks.

    Wilson had time to throw for the most part, and Montee Ball and company ripped off 264 yards on the ground.  

Defensive Line: B

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    Although the defensive line gave up over 100 yards on the ground and didn't register a sack on Saturday, they were part of an effort from the Badgers' defense that allowed just seven Penn State points. 

    If Wisconsin is going to win their rematch with Michigan State next weekend, they are going to need to get more pressure on Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Linebackers: B+

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    It was a pretty quiet day from the duo of Chris Borland and Mike Taylor—just 13 tackles between the two—but this unit helped anchor a solid performance from the Badgers’ defense.

    All in all, just another day for the Badgers’ usually stellar and underrated linebacking corps. 

Secondary: B+

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    It was déjà vu all over again for the Badgers' secondary on a deep heave to the end zone that resulted in an early score for the Nittany Lions. 

    After the blown coverage, however, Wisconsin's last line of defense settled in, and the Penn State passing game was largely non-existent. 

Special Teams: C+

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    Aside from a roughing the kicker penalty on James White that gave Penn State a first down, the Badgers' special teams didn't make any glaring mistakes on Saturday.

    Still, they are giving up too much yardage on returns, and this unit is the team's clear weak spot. 

Coaching: A+

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    When the Badgers lost back-to-back games to Michigan State and Ohio State earlier this season, the team could have folded and settled for a six or seven-win season.

    Instead, Bret Bielema and the coaching staff kept their team focused, culminating with a blowout win over Penn State Saturday that earned the Badgers a trip to the Big Ten title game. 

    Kudos to Bielema and his staff for not letting their team give up on the season. 

Intangibles: A+

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    The Badgers got what they wanted after suffering crippling losses to the Spartans and the Buckeyes during consecutive weeks in late October: A rematch with Michigan State and a chance to return to Pasadena. 

    If Wisconsin can beat Michigan State next weekend and return to the Rose Bowl, it will be a remarkable turnaround for a team that seemed dead in the water just over a month ago.