Date/Time - Saturday, November 24 at 2:30 p.m. CT
Stadium –Beaver Stadium (106,572/Grass)
Television –ABC/ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Brock Huard and Jessica Mendoza)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Sirius 123, XM 195
Series – Wisconsin leads 9-6 (Series tied 3-3 in State College)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 45-7, on November 26, 2011 in Madison
Last week's Badger Nation game coverage
Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage
Wisconsin and Penn State have split their last eight meetings, dating back to 2002.
Bret Bielema is 2-2 against the Nittany Lions since becoming the Badgers' head coach in 2006, but seeks its first win at Beaver Stadium since 2003. Bret Bielema is 0-1 against PSU in Happy Valley, with UW falling, 38-7, in 2007.
There has been nothing close about the teams' last three meetings, with an average margin of victory of 36.7 points. Penn State scored 38-7 (2007) and 48-7 (2008) wins over the Badgers before UW claimed a 45-7 win last season.
Saturday's game will mark just the fourth time in 16 all-time meetings that neither the Badgers or Nittany Lions are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
The Badgers have four Pennsylvania natives on their roster: redshirt freshman S Michael Caputo (Imperial), junior TE Brock DeCicco (Jefferson Hills), freshman DT Arthur Goldberg (Mount Lebanon) and freshman CB Reggie Mitchell (Pittsburgh).
Senior RB Montee Ball needs one touchdown to break the NCAA career record of 78, which he matched with a TD vs. Ohio State last week. Ball has scored 14 TDs in his last seven games. In matching the record, Ball made UW the home of the NCAA's all-time leading rusher (1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne) and its all-time leading scorer.
After allowing an average of 15.3 points in its last six Big Ten games, Wisconsin ranks 13th nationally in scoring defense at 17.5 points per game. The Badgers also rank 11th in total defense, allowing 302.9 yards per game, and have held each of their last six opponents under 300 total yards.
Wisconsin's senior class owns a 39-12 (.765) record over the last four seasons and is the second-winningest class in UW history. A win Saturday would tie the 2007 class' school record of 40 victories in a four-year span (40-11, .784).
Since the start of the 2009 season, Wisconsin is 7-2 following a loss. That includes a 3-0 record this season.
Of the 122 rushing attempts by UW opponents over the last four games, only five runs have gone for more than 10 yards. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten, allowing opponents an average of 3.4 yards per carry on the ground.
Wisconsin is 23-7 in games played after Nov. 1 under seventh-year head coach Bret Bielema, including a 20-3 mark in regular-season games and a 17-3 record in Big Ten games.
Wisconsin's opponents have attempted an average of 33.9 passes per game in 2012, the fourth-most passes a Big Ten team has faced this season. Still, the Badgers rank third in the conference in opponents' completion percentage at 55.0 yards per attempt at 5.8 (Nebraska's defense leads the league at 45.5 percent and 5.3 yards per attempt).
Penn State Notes
Senior Matt McGloin has thrown a TD pass in every game this season and his four TD passes and 395 passing versus the Hoosiers garnered him Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week. His four scoring strikes pushed him into the top spot on the career charts, while his career-best 395 passing yards made his the top single season passer in school history (3,066). McGloin is atop the Big Ten charts in passing yardage, completions (251) and passing touchdowns (23). He is one TD pass shy of tying Daryll Clark's single season record for touchdown passes.
Penn State has out-scored the opposition, 90-6, in the first quarter this season, and 185-52 in the first half. The Nittany Lions have allowed the fewest first quarter points and the second fewest first half points in the nation. The Nittany Lions have not allowed a first quarter touchdown this season.
Penn State's defense leads the Big Ten with 31 sacks this season, three more than Nebraska's 28. The 31 sacks are good for a total loss of 195 yards, which is second to only Ohio State (230 on 26 sacks).
The Nittany Lions have marched down the field on 21 scoring drives of 70-yards or longer in 2012. Twelve of those scoring drives have covered 80-plus yards, including three 90-yarders.
On paper and mathematically, Saturday's game is the furthest thing from a must-win game as Wisconsin has ever had on its schedule in the last 10 years. Already secured of a winning season, a trip to Indianapolis and no at-large BCS bid, Wisconsin will start preparing for Nebraska – winners over Iowa Friday – the minute the finished at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions don't have to worry about bowl status for the next four years, ineligible for postseason play because of fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
So what does UW gain Saturday? Frankly a lot, as Wisconsin needs a win – especially over a good team on the road to give them some momentum heading into Indianapolis.
"I think we need to win every weekend," said junior tight end Jacob Pedersen. "One weekend is no different. Every weekend we're going to try and win. Penn State is playing really good football. I think they're better than what their record suggests. I feel the same way about us."
Both teams have a group of senior leaders undeterred by adversity. While Wisconsin's small-knit group has helped UW get enough wins to play for a conference championship, Penn State's seniors have held a group together dating back to July when the NCAA declared it open season on its players, allowing them to transfer wherever following the heavy sanctions.
After starting the season 0-2, Penn State has managed a better conference record than Wisconsin with far more issues to deal with.
"It shows that they are a resilient group and they know how to deal with adversity, and I think that makes them even more dangerous," said junior Travis Frederick. "In the game of football, you talk about overcoming adversity and that's going to help you move forward, be a better player and be a better team. It took them a couple games to get themselves together but once they came together, they are playing tremendous."
The key now will be how Penn State responds to playing without senior linebacker Michael Mauti, who hurt his knee in last week's win over Indiana. Mauti started every game this season and leads the team with 93 tackles (48 solo), is No. 6 in Big Ten in tackles, tied for No. 3 with three interceptions and tied for No. 2 with three forced fumbles.
Pedersen remembers going against Penn State's linebackers last year, recognizing that the Nittany Lions group was a combination of physicality and aggression who were always try to punish a blocker before disposing of them to try and tackle the ball carrier.
"I am sure they are just like us, ‘next guy in,' and I am sure the guy replacing him is not much worse than what he is," said Pedersen. "They are all good player who are there for a reason. They are all on scholarship for a reason … It's a great challenge for me personally and for us."
Penn State is favored by three in this game and has a ton of advantages. I think UW's secondary is playing fantastic, but the Badgers fed off the momentum of the home crowd last weekend and still left a ton of points off the board. Like many fans, I am just waiting for next weekend when the Badgers will be at 100 percent strength. For the two postseason games of the year, I think that's the only way UW wins.
Penn State 24,Wisconsin 17
Straight up: 9-2
Against the Spread: 9-1
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