Date/Time - Saturday, November 30 at 2:30 p.m. CT
Stadium –Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/FieldTurf)
Television –ESPN (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Sirius 192, XM 190
Series –Wisconsin leads series 9-7 (Wisconsin leads 6-3 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Penn State won, 24-21, in overtime on Nov.24, 2012 in State College, PA
Last week's Badger Nation game coverage
Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage
Saturday's game will be the final Leaders Division game for both Wisconsin and Penn State. The three-year old divisional format gives way to new East and West divisions when Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten next season. UW won't play Penn State again until 2018.
Wisconsin and Penn State have split their last eight meetings, dating back to 2003, with each team claiming four wins in that span.
The Badgers have won three of the teams' last four meetings at Camp Randall Stadium, including a 45-7 victory in Penn State's last trip to Madison in 2011. That win clinched a share of the first Leaders Division title and secured UW's spot in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game.
Last year's 24-21 win by Penn State marked the closest final score in the series since a 34-31 Nittany Lions win in 2003. In all, 11 of the teams' 16 all-time meetings have been decided by a double-digit margin.
Seven of Wisconsin's nine all-time wins vs. Penn State have come by at least 10 points.
Wisconsin's senior class, which will be honored in a pre- game ceremony, has gone 25-2 at home over the last four seasons, including perfect 7-0 records in 2010 and 2011. The Badgers can add a third perfect home mark to that total with a win Saturday.
Over the last eight seasons (since 2006), the Badgers are 27-4 (.871) after Nov. 1, excluding bowl games. That's the best such record of any FBS team in that span.
A victory Saturday would give Wisconsin seven Big Ten wins for the fifth time in school history. The Badgers also went 7-1 in conference play in 1998, 1999, 2006 and 2010.
Wisconsin needs just 34 rushing yards to break the school record of 3,309 set last season (in 14 games) and 30 to break the 12-game mark of 3,305 set in 1999. UW is also on pace to set school records for total offense (489.3 yards per game) and rushing offense (297.8).
With a combined 2,656 rushing yards on the season, sophomore RB Melvin Gordon and senior RB James White need a total of 349 yards to break the NCAA's single-season record for rushing yards by teammates of 3,004 set by Nevada's Cody Fajardo and Stefphon Jefferson in 2012.
Penn State Notes
Zach Zwinak gained 149 rushing yards vs. Nebraska for his third straight 100-yard rushing effort, giving him four on the season and 10 for his career. His 1,881 career rushing rank him 18th in PSU history, just behind Franco Harris.
Penn State is 7-1 in its next game after a loss under Coach Bill O'Brien. The Nittany Lions started last season 0-2, but have not lost consecutive games since. They have defeated Kent State, Michigan, Illinois and Purdue following losses this year.
The Nittany Lions have been turning opportunity into more points in the red zone in 2013, converting 38 of 45 (84 percent) visits into points. Of the 45 visits into the red area this season, Penn State has scored 29 touchdowns and nine field goals.
Penn State leads the Big Ten and is No. 7 in the nation in the fewest penalty yards per game, averaging 32.5 yards per game. Penn State ranks second in the Big Ten and 12th nationally in the fewest penalties per game, with 46 penalties for a 4.18 per game average.
Eight months before approximately 21 seniors were about to enter their final season at Wisconsin, hoping to win a fourth straight Big Ten and go to a fourth straight Rose Bowl, Jacob Pedersen and the rest of the UW seniors saw their head coach bolt for another job. That caused uncertainly about who was going to get hired, how the program would change and could UW's success continue.
Pedersen thinks he could come up with a complaint or two that if he thought long and hard about it, but they would be minor at best. Not only as the transition been smooth for everyone involved, the team has become closer together.
"Normally we don't have a lot of interaction with the defensive staff, but we see them on a daily basis and talk to you," said Pedersen. "The care factor is off the charts. They really care about you on the field, in the classroom and in life. Care factor is one thing, but they do their job to a ‘T.' They have everyone prepared for games and I wouldn't change them for the world."
That of course leads to the question of what came first – the chicken or the egg, or in this case, did the staff make the team better or did the seniors make the UW staff better? It's a question that will probably be answered in the next 12 months, but there's no denying it's been a 50-50 equal share this season.
Wisconsin returned the majority of its lineup on both sides of the football from last season; a team that went 4-4 in the Big Ten and lost six games overall. In preseason interviews with his new players, Gary Andersen said that, one by one, players came in and said they were disappointed and far from satisfied with what they got out of the program last year, winning a championship and making a Rose Bowl because two schools in their division were ineligible.
That group was already going to be leading the charge no matter who the head coach was going to be because, as Andersen said, UW has "kids that care."
"(These kids) seemed to buy into us and believe in us and know that what we do say we mean," Andersen said. "Because of that, that's why they've had the success they've had. There is no magic offense, defense, there is no magic coach. It's the kids that put them in a position to win football games. They've hung together through a lot of adversity and a lot of good times in their careers."
This senior group will certainly come full circle this year. Wisconsin's historic three peat started in 2010 thanks to the BCS. After throttling Northwestern on senior day, the Badgers finished in a three way tie with Ohio State and Michigan State at 7-1, and advanced to the Rose Bowl, despite losing to Michigan State, based on having the highest BCS ranking.
Wisconsin will likely have to rely on the computer numbers again should Michigan State lose to Ohio State in Indianapolis next week. If the Buckeyes win, does Michigan State stay in the top 14 of the BCS rankings, which is needed for considering? If they do, are they ahead or behind Wisconsin, and who does the BCS take?
"It's definitely tough, especially when it's in the computers' hands," said White, laughing. "I mean, hopefully we get the benefit of the doubt. We have to win on Saturday for that to even matter."
Penn State has its traditional players on defense, physical, aggressive, assignment-sound, but the intriguing players are on the Nittany Lions' offense. Senior linebacker Chris Borland says Penn State has an "intelligent" run game (a pro-style offense that usually checks to one of two plays at the line of scrimmage based on the look of the defense) that is led by junior running back Zach Zwinak, who has rushed for 1,062 yards in the month of November over the last two seasons.
"He's more of a straight-line guy, one cut and go," Borland said of Zwinak. "He's physical, hard-nosed, he's not going to make you miss or really run you over, but he makes great reads and runs hard."
One guy that is going to make players miss is junior receiver Allen Robinson, who continues to lead the Big Ten in nearly every receiving category and is among the nation's top pass catchers entering the final week of the regular season.
Through 11 games, the junior's tops the conference receiving charts with 89 catches (8.1 rpg) and 119.1 yards per game. In the NCAA, Robinson is third in receiving yards (1,310) and fifth in receiving yards per game. His 89 catches are seventh in the NCAA and his 8.1 catches per game are eighth nationally.
According to Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, the Badgers are going to vary their coverage on Robinson between a cornerback and a safety over top and true freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton matching up with him one-on-one.
"I think (Sojourn) is looking forward to that challenge," said Aranda. "They target him a bunch with isolation throws, screens and three-step drops. They try to get him a lot of touches. He doesn't just get the ball on third down. He gets it on first and second down, too. I anticipate a bunch of throws his direction and we're going to have to change up the looks."
Even with these weapons, Wisconsin is a 24.5-point favorite. The Badgers have dominated at home, a perfect 6-0 and outscoring opponents 247-to-36, and have only allowed three touchdowns in six home games this season. Not only is UW a talented group, they are motivated after what happened to them last year, especially James White, who had 13 yards on seven carries last year.
"It's my last game here," said White. "I want to go out with a bang."
And Chris Borland, who missed the game because of injury.
"There's no shortage of motivators for this week," said Borland. "I think we'll get it done."
They most certainly will.
Wisconsin 35, Penn State 13
Straight up: 10-1*
Against the Spread: 8-2-1
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