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Penn State vs. Wisconsin Big 10 Football Pick with Analysis

11/26/11

Wisconsin hosts Penn State on Saturday in a game that will determine who represents the Big 10 Leaders Division in the Big 10 Title game against Michigan State on December 3rd. Wisconsin opened up as a whopping -18.5 point favorite at the first sportsbook to post lines each week, 5 Dimes, and was bet all the way down to -14.5 as the early money was on the Nittany Lions. It's a move we agree with, as we'll explain below.

Handicapping a game involving Penn State is a risky proposition these days. You just don't know how this scandal is going to affect this team. They could rally all the way to the Title game. But on the other hand, you also have to wonder if this is the week everything catches up to them, all of the distractions, JoePa, and so on. Is this the week they simply don't show up and get blown off the field?

Speaking of rallying all the way to the title game, imagine if Penn State were to do just that, and play Michigan State in the inaugural Big 10 Title game, with a chance to win the Trophy that up until the scandal broke, was going to have Joe Paterno's name on it. Imagine further that Penn State wins the title. They spoke of beating Nebraska when this scandal broke, and marching the game ball to Paterno's house. Imagine if they were able to march that trophy to his house instead. Hmmm.

Putting all of the distractions aside, Penn State has a damn good football team this year. One of the best defenses in all of college football for sure. They have had some problems offensively but have even improved on that side of the ball in recent weeks as they have that running game working and last week introduced the wild cat to further that cause.

Wisconsin has a fantastic offense, averaging 45 points per game, however, if you look at their performance against good defensive teams, you see that average drop to a moderate level. They scored 31 on Michigan State, 29 on Ohio State and 28 on Illinois. More importantly they gave up 33 to Ohio State and 37 to Michigan State. Hey, if Ohio State can score 33 points on Wisconsin, Penn State may very well be able to find the end zone a few times as well.

All of those games mentioned above were on the road for Wisconsin. It just so happens to be that they didn't face a tough defense at home all year. But again, it's nice to score 51 points on UNLV or 59 points on South Dakota, number which boost those average points per game totals, but in reality, that number is much lower. We'd be shocked to see Penn State give up more than 35 points here. The most they have given up this year was 27 to Alabama.

Defensively, Penn State has one of the best yards per point numbers in the country at 22. They trail only LSU (24) and Alabama (23). Offensively, they have a problem, with a 17, which would place them last among "good teams". But again, we'd point towards their recent success running the ball.

Our model has a predicted score of Wisconsin 23-12. So, an 11 point win for the Badgers. That predicted score would also suggest the under 49 is worth a close look with 35 points predicted.

A +14.5 underdog in what is essentially a playoff game for the chance to play for all the Big 10 marbles. A chance to win a game for your coach a week after being diagnosed with lung cancer and a couple of weeks after being ousted from a position he held for 46 years. This is the type of stuff movies are made about. Of course, it means nothing if the talent isn't there and the team is not capable. But in this case, Penn State is very capable. We can't pass it up even after the initial 4 point line move. Penn State +14.5

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