It’s hard to believe, but the Wisconsin Badgers (9-2, 6-1) have reached the final game of the regular season. For the most part it’s been a nice ride with a couple of bumps in the road, but to continue on the road they’re on they must take care of the Penn State Nittany Lions (6-5, 3-4) on Saturday.
With Penn State being banned from any post season play, they will treat this as their “bowl” game, meaning they have nothing to lose and are looking to upset the Badgers and stop them from gaining a BCS berth.
The Nittany Lions are led by their true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg who has exceeded most people’s expectations. Hackenberg hasn’t played great but has done enough in games to get this team victories. The freshman has thrown for 2,616 yards and 16 touchdowns, but has been picked off 10 times. Senior running back Zach Zwinak is also someone the Badgers defense will need to shut done early. Zwinak has been together a nice little season, rushing for 874 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Penn State’s defense has been ok, but will need to stop the Badgers rushing attack which I don’t see happening. The Nittany Lions have allowed an average of 146 yards per game on the ground, something Wisconsin running backs James White and Melvin Gordon could both do by themselves. Penn State has yet to face a rushing attack like this and I think they learn very quickly just why White and Gordon are two of the best in the nation at their position.
The Badgers defense has played under the shadows of the rushing attack most of the season, but lately has come to light. In the past three conference games they have yet to allow an offensive touchdowns. They have only allowed 13.4 points per game this season, fifth best in the nation. Chris Borland is one of the best linebackers in the country, even though he was left off as a Butkus Award finalist. It’s going to be very hard for this Penn State offense to get anything going against such a tough Badgers defense.
What this game will come down to is Hackenberg will have to be near perfect in this game to give Penn State any chance of winning. The Nittany Lions defense will also have to play absolutely perfect as well shutting down the two-headed rushing attack. It’s no easy feat and even the best defenses have had difficulty doing so. White has rushed for 1,281 yards and 13 touchdowns. Gordon has rushed for a team-high 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns. And don’t forget about wide receiver Jared Abbrederis either. He’s not only a threat catching the ball down the field, but he’s also dangerous running the ball on those jet sweeps the Badgers love to run.
Not only does it mark the end of the season but also the Badgers get to finish at home at Camp Randall Stadium which means it will be Senior Day as well. Penn State will be coming in looking for the huge upset. I don’t see that happening. Badgers go on to win, and win big, and will find themselves being eligible for an at-large BCS bid.
Wisconsin Badgers-48 Penn State Nittany Lions-20