The Big Ten’s Biggest Match-up: #20 Penn State vs. #15 Wisconsin

Montee Ball leads the charge for the 15th ranked Wisconsin Badgers against #20 Penn State.

With plenty of drama surrounding Penn State University over the last month, the 20th ranked Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) will be happy to focus attention back on the football field as they head to Camp Randall on Saturday to take on the 15th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten). In a critical battle to determine the second entrant to the Big Ten title game against Michigan State this season, this match-up between one of the nation’s elite defensive units and one of the most potent offensive threats figures to be one of the best match-ups slated for the final week of regular season NCAA Football play, and it’s certainly a game well worth checking out on the betting lines at one of the best sports betting websites reviewed right here.

Though Wisconsin and Penn State have built great teams this year around contrasting football philosophies, both sides have distinct advantages that could give them the upper hand in this pivotal meeting between elite squads. While Penn State has no doubt been affected by the abuse scandal that saw the firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno play out in ugly form, the Nittany Lions continue to do what they do best; win gritty games with a defense-first approach. Ranking 3rd in the nation allowing just 13 points per game to opposing offenses, Penn State has only allowed 20 points in a game twice this year, with the only two losses coming in a close 17-14 game against then #19 Nebraska a week after JoePa’s dismissal, and in a tough battle with then #3 Alabama at home in Happy Valley. Coming off a solid yet not impressive win at Ohio State last week, Penn State is looking to finish strong despite a tumultuous season off the field, and will turn to its defense, led by stand-out defensive tackle Devon Still (likely Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year), to try and contain the prolific offense of the Badgers led by quarterback Russell Wilson. Ranked second in the Big Ten in interceptions (14), allowing just 160 yards/game through the air and 127.4 yards/game on the ground, there’s no doubt that the game plan for Penn State will hedge with their efforts on defense. They’ve certainly had success with that theory in the past two outings against Wisconsin, winning two consecutive games by a total score of 86-14, including a 48-7 rout in Madison back in 2008.

While Penn State has shown a history of success against Wisconsin recently, this is certainly not the same Wisconsin team of a few years back, and behind the nation’s 5th ranked scoring offense (44.8 points/game), the Badgers come into this match-up against Penn State matched up as a definite favorite to win at home where they’ve gone 15 straight games without a loss. Though Wisconsin suffered a tough two-week streak of back-to-back losses that put them out of national title contention, coming off three straight wins with a chance to lock a place in the Big Ten title game means that the Badgers have plenty to play for in today’s game, especially in front of 95,000+ screaming Wisconsin fans. It’s all been about the play of the Badgers’ top offensive producers, QB Russell Wilson (2506 yards, 26 TDs to 3 INTs, %73.6 completion rate), and running back Montee Ball (223 carries, 1466 yards, 25 TDs), who have accounted for 51 of the 56 touchdowns scored by Wisconsin this season, and their ability to continue scoring will be essential towards a Badgers win today. Keep in mind that Wisconsin’s receivers will also factor big into this game, as Nick Toon (47 catches, 746 yards, 8 TDs) and Jared Abbrederis (41 catches, 656 yards, 5 TDs), which will certainly make for tough defensive assignments for Penn State, especially if they’re forced to be on the field for the majority of the game. Wisconsin most certainly has the advantage on the offensive side of the ball, but it will be key to see whether or not they can utilize that offense against a Penn State team that plays shutdown D much in the same way Michigan State does (one of the two teams Wisconsin lost to this season).

Penn State’s offense rarely comes into much discussion, as the Matt McGloin offense has been little more than an afterthought when compared to the elite defense the Nittany Lions have been known for throughout history. However, there is a lot of focus on offense in today’s match-up against a high-scoring Badgers team, and the attention lies mainly with the running back tandem of Silas Redd (218 carries, 1122 yards, 7 TDs) and Stepfon Green (43 carries, 199 yards), the latter of whom has been increasingly introduced to ease the workload on the sophomore Redd. Generating 4 TDs     and 164 yards in two games, Green will be an essential addition to the Penn State offensive plan, if they are to stand any chance at keeping pace with Wisconsin’s ever-present ability to score. A big question for Penn State however will be the contributions made by quarterback Matt McGloin today, who at a sub %55 completion rate with a 7:4 TD to INT ratio and no running game could be an area of concern if the game stretches out the scoring. However, if Penn State can find success in the ground game between their two featured backs, and keep moving the football to limit the Wisconsin offense’s time on the field, the Nittany Lions could find a way to pull off an upset road win and squeeze into the Big Ten title game set for next week.

Betting Lines for Penn State vs. Wisconsin at

Wisconsin comes into today’s match-up on home turf as a big favorite to win, with -700 odds on the money line at the Intertops Sportsbook. Against the Spread, the Badgers give up 15.5 points to the Nittany Lions, which confirms bookmakers’ confidence in a Wisconsin victory considering that Penn State gives up only 13 points to opposing offenses per game. The elite defensive presence of Penn State comes through on the over/under however, with just 49 points as the margin to shoot for, however that number could come into quick debate especially with the Badgers known for scoring big at home, and looking for redemption against Penn State after a few years without a win against them. For Penn State backers in this game, you could cash in big taking an upset bid with +500 odds on the money line, and -110 odds to cover 15.5 points, however as we saw in yesterday’s match-up with #1 LSU vs. #3 Arkansas, even what could look to be a tight game early can end up with a spread-busting second half that favors the more dominant team in the match-up.

Our Pick to Win:

Though Penn State has overcome some recent adversity, Wisconsin looks to be in a better spot in today’s match-up, at home in front of a wild Camp Randall crowd, with two of the best offensive weapons in College Football hitting the field. While Penn State should show its defensive prowess early, limiting the first half score, Wisconsin’s offense may prove to have just too many weapons to cover at once, especially if Penn State is forced to keep its defense on the field due to lack of offense on their side. While Wisconsin is not known for defense this season (quietly they are 7th in the country allowing only 15.9 points/game), they’ll step up in this critical match-up to be the difference maker in the game, and may capitalize on a few Penn State mistakes on offense to help put the control firmly in the Badgers hands. We’re going for a 17 point Badger victory in today’s game, with a final tally of Wisconsin 34, Penn State 17.

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