1. New Names, New Faces?
Based on their poor performance recently, it will be interesting to see if any changes are in the offing for the Wisconsin defense. Will St. Jean start or receive significant snaps? Will Royston replace Carter, if healthy? Based on the style of play of PSU, it will be interesting to see how Hodge plays, if he plays.
Connor is probably the best linebacker in the Big Ten, while Beckum is the best receiving tight end. Connor is pretty good in coverage, though since the Badgers don't have proven outside threats, expect Beckum to draw a lot of safety, if not corner help. Either way, watching Connor is a treat no matter where he is matched up.
3. Moving the Chains
PSU ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in scoring defense, total yardage defense, rushing defense, and passing efficiency defense. Obviously, they have a very good defense. They are allowing just 2.3 YPC and I don't expect Wisconsin to get much of anything on the ground. Donovan is going to have to go to the air, which could be problematic with both Swan and Hubbard MIA. The short passing game and very likely Donovan's feet are going to be key to keeping drives alive. Wisconsin needs to convert first downs, even on non-scoring drives. PSU punter Jeremy Boone is also tops in the conference in net punting, so negative field position will need to be avoided..
4. Bend, But Don't Break
The Badgers have not proven they can consistently stop teams this year. I expect that PSU will be able to move the ball. Wisconsin and their beleaguered defense, ranked dead last in the conference in red zone defense, will need to buckle down and force field goals rather than touchdowns.
5. Who Fliches First?
Penn State is –4 while Wisconsin is –5 in turnover margin this year, a problem area for both teams. Tyler Donovan threw some key interceptions at crunch time last week, while Anthony Morelli has been inconsistent as well. Which QB can keep the ball out of the opponent's hands will play a large part in the outcome of the game.
This one could be another tough one for the Badgers. I question whether Wisconsin has the offensive weapons to go against a top notch defense in a top notch hostile environment. The Penn State offense does not scare you when you look at star personnel, but they have good depth and rotate a lot of solid players, producing about 31 points per game and making it hard to believe that the Badger defense will be able to stone them. I do think the Nittany Lion style of play has always been one that Badger teams have matched up well with however. With Connor and company controlling the run game, Donovan will have to make good decisions when under pressure by Maurice Evans and company. I see a close game early, but with a few key Badger mistakes putting them in a hole that they don't come out of. Prediction: Penn State 27, Wisconsin 17.