Matchup: No. 20 Penn State (6-3) vs. Wisconsin (6-3)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday November 10th, 2018 at 12:00pm EST
Penn State Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Last week did not go well for Penn State last week against Michigan. The Nittany Lions left the Big House with an embarrassing 42-7 loss and there weren’t really any positives to take from it. Michigan is simply a better team than Penn State is right now and that showed on Saturday. The offense failed to get going against the best defense in the country and Trace McSorley did not look 100% healthy after suffering a knee injury in the Iowa game. He completed just five passes for 83 yards and failed to rush for a positive yard total. In the end, the offense scored just seven points and they came near the end of the game with Tommy Stevens in at quarterback. The Nittany Lions now return home to Beaver Stadium to try and shake off the loss sporting a 6-3 record. Their opponent is another 6-3 team in Wisconsin who has also dealt with similar disappointment after high preseason expectations.
If the Wisconsin defense has a strength it is their passing defense. They are currently ranked in a tie with Alabama for 30th in the nation for the least passing yards allowed per game. They are averaging just 193.3 passing yards allowed per game. Although still rather strong, their rushing defense is not as good as their passing defense. This may be the best way for the Penn State offense to attack. They rank 62nd in the country in rushing yards allowed as they are averaging just under 160 rushing yards allowed per game. Look for Miles Sanders and the rushing attack to be busy on Saturday. Overall, Wisconsin is ranked 35th in the country in total defense so this will still be a tough matchup especially if McSorley’s knee is still ailing.
Wisconsin has had some trouble getting to the quarterback but TJ Edwards is a still player to watch in that department. The linebacker leads the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks although he only has three of the team total of 11 sacks. Edwards is an all-around good defensive player as he is also second on the team in total tackles and serves as one of the defense’s vocal leaders on the field. Alongside Edwards is the team leader in total tackles, Ryan Connelly. The linebacker is also a steady force and leader for the Wisconsin defense. In the secondary, it is hard to miss safety Scott Nelson. The redshirt freshman has come on strong this season with an interception and five passes defended. Keep an eye on his status for this week’s game, he is listed as questionable after missing the last two games with a knee injury.
Penn State Defense vs. Wisconsin Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
A game that was highly anticipated in the preseason has much different implications than many would have thought in August. As both teams come limping into Happy Valley, Penn State and Wisconsin will both look to end their seasons on a few high notes this Saturday. Let’s see what the Penn State defense will be facing this week.
The QB position is up in the air for the Badgers as experienced starter Alex Hornibrook has dealt with concussion symptoms over the last two weeks. He missed the Northwestern loss and had to leave the game early during the Rutgers victory. Filling in for Hornibrook was sophomore Jack Coan. Coan has filled in nicely for Hornibrook going 25 of 38 in relief of Hornibrook over the last two games. However, neither signal caller is a major threat for the Penn State defense.
The big threat for the Badger offense is RB Jonathan Taylor. The sophomore tailback is having another huge season as he leads the country in rushing with almost 1,400 yards and getting his yards at 6.6 yards per carry. Taylor is definitely one of the best backs in the country and should be the focal point in Brent Pry’s game plan. If the Lions can slow down Taylor, the Lions have a great shot of winning.
On the receiving end, the Badgers have a variety of pass catchers, who despite some struggles from the quarterbacks, that can be impact players. Following a recent history of great Badger tight ends, Jake Ferguson leads the team in receptions in 2018. Receiver A. J. Taylor has 24 catches, good for second on the team behind Ferguson, and averages over 17 yards per catch. With so much focus likely to be on Taylor, the Badgers need either of these guys to make a big play in order for Wisconsin to come out with the victory.
The matchup to watch this week is the defensive line of Penn State against the Badger offensive line. The Penn State line played well last week, despite the final score looking ugly. They kept the Nittany Lions in the game through three quarters until a pick six, another interception that put the defense deep into their own territory, and overall fatigue from being on the field for so long caught up to them. With every starter on the line coming back next year, this will be a great test to see how great this unit could be the rest of the season and more so how dominant they can be in 2019.
The Wisconsin offensive line is impressive again as both Beau Benzschawel and David Edwards were both named Preseason First Team All Americans by USA Today. Look for this line to wear down the defense if Taylor can keep moving the sticks when he has the ball.
Brandon Musso: (8-1)
Penn State is coming off an embarrassing loss to Michigan that all but wiped out their chances at even a New Year’s Six bowl game. This is a team that is down on themselves after what is turning out to be a rather disappointing season. After the fallout from the Ohio State loss, it’s hard to predict a bounce back victory for the Nittany Lions. However, Wisconsin is dealing with their fair share of injuries on both offense and defense leaving the door open for Penn State. If McSorley is healthy enough to be mobile, I think Penn State gets the job done and sneaks out a win.
Penn State 28 Wisconsin 24
Kraigen Rasalla: (6-3)
This figures to be a low scoring matchup with both QBs banged up and the weather getting a bit cooler for this game. The Penn State offense needs to have longer possessions to avoid the Badger O Line and Jonathan Taylor wearing down the defense. If Penn State could do that, I think they pull out a victory and set themselves up for a nice finish to the season.
Penn State 21 Wisconsin 16