Penn State (10-2, 7-2) vs Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2)
When: Saturday, December 3rd 2016
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: FOX
In a game that could mean nothing to the National playoff picture, the Penn State Nittany Lions and Wisconsin Badgers will battle for the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Badgers sit at #6 in the latest polls right behind idle Michigan, who the Badgers lost to this season. Both Wisconsin and Penn State would need probably Clemson or Washington to lose this weekend or both, in order to move up into the top four. Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook is questionable after suffering a concussion in the first half of last week’s win over Minnesota, but backup Bart Houston guided the Badgers to comeback win over Minnesota last week 31-17. No matter who’s under center, Wisconsin will try and attack the Penn State defense with Corey Clement (1,140 yards, 13 TDs), who has run for 100 yards five times during the Badgers’ season-ending six-game winning streak (657 yards, eight TDs). Hornibrook has completed 58.1% of his passes for 1,243 yards and eight TDs, while throwing seven interceptions. Houston is 69-of-108 for 912 yards with five TDs and three interceptions. The defense is led by outside linebacker T.J. Watt (9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss) and safety Sojourn Shelton (16 passes defensed, four interceptions). Wisconsin leads the FBS in interceptions (21), while ranking third in scoring defense (13.7), rushing yards allowed (100.8), third-down conversion rate (26.6 percent) and seventh in total defense (292 yards per game). This will be the sixth top-10 team that Wisconsin will face this season at the time of the meeting (3-2).
Penn State seems to have an advantage over Wisconsin as far as making the final four, with a win over #2 Ohio State, but the Lions lost by 39 to Michigan in their fourth game. Since then, Penn State has reeled off eight straight victories, including that win over the Buckeyes and averaged 40 points in that stretch. Star running back Saquon Barkley (1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns) sprained his ankle in the second half of last week’s 45-12 rout of Michigan State, but has been upgraded to probable for Saturday. Penn State has one of the best Big Ten passing attacks led by Trace McSorley (Big Ten-best 150.9 passer rating and FBS-best 16.2 yards per completion), but will go up against one of the best overall defenses in the country. McSorley threw for career highs of 376 yards and four TDs last week and has completed 56.3% of his passes for 2,976 yards, 21 TDs, and five interceptions, with just two of those picks during the winning streak. Junior Curtis Godwin is McSorley’s favorite target with 47 receptions for 762 yards and nine touchdowns, but Mike Gesicki set a Penn state record for tight ends with 44 catches, and DeAndre Tompkins, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall round out the conference’s best set of receivers. Linebackers Brandon Bell (18 tackles against the Spartans) and Jason Cabinda lead a defense that has moved up to 20th in total defense (346.8) and hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the last two games.
This is still a great matchup despite not having Michigan or Ohio State in it. These two teams surprisingly have not played in three years due to the Big Ten’s rotation schedule. I don’t see Wisconsin having much luck on offense in this one except maybe on the ground with Clement. Wisconsin has a terrific defense, but the Lions have a bunch of playmakers on offense and McSorley loves to throw deep. Penn State is second in the nation in 2nd half scoring and tops in the fourth quarter. I think that will be the difference in this one.
Pick: Penn State +3