Wisconsin (7-4; 4-3) comes to PSU (7-4; 5-2) in the final game of the season for the Nittany Lions. Wisconsin has already locked a spot in the Big Ten championship game. Their OT loss to OSU prevented them from clinching the outright division championship, thus making their trip to the Big Ten Championship appear as more of a ‘handout’ than earned. How will Wisconsin respond in their final regular season game in preparation for the Big Ten championship, likely against Nebraska?
Last game of season
It all ends here for the senior class. Far from a normal season, this senior class has to be one memorable in the history of PSU football. These guys stayed and truly represented the heart of PSU. There are a number of newsworthy seniors, including Mauti and McGloin, but DB Stephon Morris is another unsung hero worth checking out (http://bit.ly/Xz71JN).
Despite the game falling on Thanksgiving break, I expect a good turnout to support the team, these players, and the future of PSU football. Although recall the last two high-emotion home games (Ohio and Ohio State). Both resulted in a loss with disappointing 2nd half performances. Will the players be able to control their emotions this time around ? The game comes down in part to hard will Wisconsin play. Wisconsin has nothing to play for, won’t want to show too many plays and won’t want to risk injuring key players with a trip to the Big Ten championship game looming. Penn State also will be heavily motivated on senior day in their final game of the year. Don’t expect Wisconsin to take it easy though…the home OT loss is fresh on their mind.
The leader of the PSU senior class won’t play on Senior Day. Interesting news though has surfaced that Mauti may have the option of petitioning the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility, which was actually done by Purdue QB Robert Marve. Mauti missed the 2007 season because of ACL injury, which he took a medical red-shirt. There is no rule that forbids a player from using the medical redshirt twice, and Mauti’s 2011 junior season seems to be eligible. In 2011, Mauti played in four games before going down with an injury. According to NCAA, medical redshirt can be acquired if the player has “not participated in more than 30% of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests”. The Penn State football team would have to fill out a Hardship Waiver form and submit to the NCAA to give Mauti a sixth year of eligibility, which is simply a formality. The question is whether this is something Mauti wants to pursue. Mauti could potentially be off of a football field until August, long after the NFL Draft, which takes place annually in April. So if his injury prevents him from performing tryouts for teams and making it to the NFL Combine, that could seriously hurt his draft stock, especially if he is expected to still be in the rehab process when NFL training camp begins over the summer. If Mauti had the option to spend another year at PSU to fully recover before going pro, would he?
Wisconsin Running game
It’s no secret that Wisconsin has a solid running game, in fact, that’s pretty much been the standard. RB Monte Ball scored his 78th TD against the Buckeyes last weekend, tying the college career record. He’ll be looking to claim the record for himself against PSU. Last year, Ball had 4 TDs and over 120 yards against the Nittany Lions. Defensive leader Mauti will be out, so expect the Badgers to pound the run and test the PSU front 7.
PSU Offense vs Wisconsin Defense
Wisconsin has been getting it done on defense this year, led by LB Mike Taylor. Wisconsin is ranked 2nd in the Big Ten in total defense and 1st against the run. PSU has seen recent success with running, particulary RB Zach Zwinak, but the passing attack will be the focal point on Saturday. McGloin is coming off a record game against the Hoosiers and looking to end his college career with a statement. The big question will be the trenches and whether McGloin has solid pass protection. OSU exposed the PSU offensive line, will the big Wisconsin farm boys do the same? If McGloin has protection, it could be another big day in the air for McGloin.
This game means everything to the Nittany Lions and nothing to the Badgers. Wisconsin is a hard nose old school big ten kind of team. Nothing fancy, but they know how to get things done on the ground. The forecast for Saturday looks to be a cold one with the possible chance of snow. Hard to say who this would favor, typically the team with a run heavy offense, which in this case would be Wisconsin. But with everything PSU has handled this season and the recent injury to Mauti, I’m certain every senior will be giving every ounce of energy, plus some. This is it. This is where it ends for many considering most will never play another game. This game means everything to PSU, as for Wisconsin, well there is the Big Ten Championship game to look forward to and potentially the Rose Bowl. With that being said, I see PSU winning a close one in what will be a very emotional end to a roller coaster season…