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Big 10 College Football Pick
The Badgers could finish conference play 4-4 and still make the Big 10 Championship game. That's what you get when two of the best teams in your division are ineligible for postseason play. The closest teams to Wisconsin have 2-5 records. Penn State has no postseason aspirations, but they would like to end the season on a high note. Wisconsin only needs to win the Championship game to play in the Rose Bowl.
It was a little different situation last year as the Badgers were 17-point favorites and ended up winning 45-7. Montee Ball went off for 156 yards and four touchdowns. Matthew McGloin couldn't get anything going and finished with just 97 yards with one TD and one INT. In the past three games, the opponents have not come within 31 points of each other. This one will most likely break that trend.
McGloin had a disappointing game last year in Wisconsin, but he's come a long way since then. His numbers are more than double what they were in 2011 with 3,071 yards, 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He's the main reason the Nittany Lions haven't fallen to the wolves in what was supposed to be a largely disappointing season. Running back Zach Zwinak has stepped up as well, totaling at least 134 yards in three straight games. Another surprise has been sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson. After only three receptions in 2011, Robinson has become one of the top wide outs in the conference. He has 73 grabs for 983 yards and 11 TDs on the season after going for 197 yards and three TDs last weekend.
It won't be that easy for the Nittany Lions to score as the Badgers have not given up more than 21 points in their past six games. Their problem has been on the offensive end. They scored 14 points last week against Ohio State and only 13 against Michigan State a month ago in their last two losses.
The main problem has been the play of their quarterbacks. Due to ineffectiveness and injuries, fifth-year senior Curt Phillips started last week's game against Ohio State. It's hard to measure his performance as the Buckeyes have a good defense, but he only managed 154 yards and one TD. A positive is that he didn't turn it over. Montee Ball got a large dosage in that game (39 carries) and will continue to do so. In his last two games Ball has 66 carries for 389 yards and four touchdowns. Penn State will likely stack the box against the Badgers attack. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis has been known to get deep balls, although hasn't been as effective lately due to QB play.
The Badgers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall while the Nittany Lions are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. The favorite in this series has covered in seven straight games while the home team is 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings. The over is 4-1 in Wisconsin's last five road games and 7-1 in Penn State's last eight conference games. However, the under has hit four times in the last five meetings between these schools in Happy Valley.
Nothing too strong here, but all of our numbers, including our model, rate this game a tossup. Wisconsin performed better against the two best common opponents these two faced, Ohio State and Nebraska and we'd expect a top effort from both squads. This one comes down to a last second field goal. But we'd want +3 or better. Wisconsin +3 or better otherwise pass.
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