Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, 3-7-1 ATS) vs. No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (9-2, 6-4-1 ATS), Week 13 NCAA Football, Saturday, November 26, 3:30pm ET, Camp Randall Stadium, ESPN
by Evergreen, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PSU (+14.5)/WIS (-14.5)
Over/Under Total: 48
With the 2011 NCAA Football season entering the final weeks, one of the best matchups takes place in Madison as the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams enter the week in the top-20 and a place in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game in on the line. Penn State leads the Big Ten Leaders division with a 6-1 conference record but a Wisconsin win sends the Badgers to Indianapolis to meet Michigan State as the head to head tiebreaker would belong to UW. The PSU players and coaching staff have handled themselves well considering the swirl of controvery that has followed the program in recent weeks but their toughest on the field test lies ahead and a potential Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth hangs in the balance. The game from Camp Randall kicks at 3:30pm ET and can be seen on ESPN.
Early lines from Vegas and the online betting sites had the Badgers as 18.5 point favorites but the line has moved to the 14 or 15 point range as of mid-week.Look for theoffshore sportsbooks to have the over/under total for the game at 48 or 49.
Penn State has not always played pretty this year but it is hard to argue with the results as the only blemishes for the Lions came at the hands of Alabama and Nebraska. State came to play last week and debuted a Wildcat package that helped them tip Ohio State in Columbus and set them up to win the division this Saturday. Camp Randall is typically kryptonite for visiting teams, but Penn State has shown the ability to win on the road with a 4-0 away mark this season.
Wisconsin had dreams of playing in a BCS Championship game but heartbreaking losses in consecutive weeks at Michigan State and Ohio State dashed those hopes. The Badgers have responded in recent weeks with wins at Minnesota and Illinois and now have life to make it back to back Rose Bowls should they win this week and on December 3rd. Bucky is 6-0 at home this year, averaging a stunning 52 points per game in front of the Madison faithful.
Penn State will be challenged to score enough points this week to pull the upset as the offense just hasn’t put of the kind of consistent results to scare opposing defenses. As a team, the Lions are outside the top-85 in passing and total yards and while they are better than average running the ball, that hasn’t resulted in points with State entering the week scoring 20.9 per game, good for just 107th in the NCAA. The defense, however, is extremely good and deserves a ton of credit in not really slipping at any point this season. The Lions are in the top-10 in pass and total yards allowed and give up the 3rd fewest points at just 13 per game. The defense is facing a tough test in a versatile and explosive Badger offense and will have to keep the scoring pace low to keep the game close.
Wisconsin is re-writing program record books with each week on offense and have enjoyed the ability to move the ball through the air since Russell Wilson arrived on campus. The Badgers average over 230 yards per game both through the air and on the ground and bring the 5th best scoring offense at 44.8 points per game. If the Sconnie offensive line can dominate the line of scrimmage as they usually do, the Penn State defense will be forced to commit extra men to stop the run which could spell trouble for the secondary as the day wears on. The Badgers are solid in defense, actually giving up fewer total yards than Penn State and give up the 8th fewest points per game at just under 16 per contest. The early forecast call for temps near 50 and just a chance of rain so playbook should be wide open for Wilson and Co.
Matt McGloin leads Penn State from the quarterback position and does manage the game well but has thrown for just seven scores this season and totaled just 88 yards through the air in the win against the Buckeyes. Silas Redd leads the Lions with 1,122 rush yards and 8 touchdowns but Stephfon Green has seen more carries in recent weeks and State may stick with the hot hand and fresh legs. Justin Brown and Derek Moye are talented but the air has been let out the ball with just four total TD’s between the pair and they both draw tough matchups with the Badger defensive backs.
If therewas a transfer of the year award, Russell Wilson would run away with it as the senior leads the NCAA in passer efficiency rating at 199.3 and has a shot to set the all-time NCAA record with a strong finish. Wilson has thown 26 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions and has five rushing scores as well. Montee Ball is now the Heisman candidate on the Badger with the junior running back sitting at 30 total touchdowns after adding three last week. He hasn’t scored fewer than two in any game this year and is nearing 1,500 rushing yards. Nick Toon is Wilson’s favorite target and leads team in catches and yards while sharing the lead in touchdowns with tight end Jacob Pedersen at eight.
Both teams are in pretty good shape on the injury front with the only notable coming on the Wisconsin side as center Peter Konz has been ruled out for a second week after dislocating an ankle againt Minnesota.
Penn State is on a tough run against the spread with just a 2-8-1 mark in the last 11 games against teams with a winning record and their games have been low scoring with the under hitting in 9 of the last 11 overall. Wisconsin has 9 ATS wins in their last 11 games as home favorites but have just a 1-4 ATS mark in the last five against Big Ten competition. With that gaudy scoring average at Camp Randall, it’s no surprise that over is four for the last four in Madison. The favorite has managed six consecutive wins against the spread between these teams.
Evergreen’s pick to cover the point spread:
The emotional fatigue level of the Penn State players is a question mark but the Wisconsin offensive power is not. The Badgers got tough after falling behind at Illinois and literally ground out a win in what looked like an Alvarez era game. That level of versatility will be too much for even the sturdy Penn State defense. The Badgers send their seniors out in style with a 35-13 win.
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