TEAMS: Wisconsin Badgers (5-6, 4-2 Big Ten) at Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3).
WHERE: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
TIME: 11 a.m. Saturday.
TV: ABC with Mark Jones (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analysis) and Molly McGrath (sideline).
RADIO: AM-920 in Milwaukee and a state network with Matt Lepay (play-by-play) and Mike Lucas (analysis).
TICKETS: Sold out.
LINE: Penn State by 8 1/2.
SERIES: Tied at 9-9, though Penn State has won the last three meetings.
COACHES: Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst (40-10, third season; 59-29 overall) vs. Penn State’s James Franklin (42-20, fifth season; 66-35, eighth season overall).
LIVE COVERAGE: Follow Jeff Potrykus’ tweets from the press box
SCOUTING REPORT: Penn State at a glance
LIVE SCOREBOARD: NCAA football schedule, box scores
Four things to watch
COAN ON THE BIG STAGE: UW quarterback Jack Coan is set to make his second start and third appearance of the season with Alex Hornibrook recovering from a second concussion suffered this season. Coan was OK in his starting debut when he completed 20 of 31 passes for 158 yards, with one touchdown and one lost fumble, in a 31-17 loss to Northwestern. He replaced Hornibrook for the second half against Rutgers and attempted only seven passes but completed five and appeared more comfortable than he had been at Northwestern. Penn State’s defense features playmakers on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary and winning at Beaver Stadium isn’t easy but Coan should be equipped to handle the challenge.
RUN THE BALL, SHORTEN THE GAME: The Nittany Lions excel at pressuring quarterbacks but they have proved vulnerable against power running games. UW is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing at 273.0 yards per game; Penn State is 10th in the league against the run (172.2 ypg). Tailbacks Jonathan Taylor (6.6 yards per carry), Taiwan Deal (6.7) and Garrett Groshek (6.7) are averaging more than 6.0 yards per carry. Michigan’s Karan Higdon rushed 20 times for 132 yards and the Wolverines finished with 259 yards rushing on 52 carries in their 42-7 victory over Penn State. UW should be able to control the ball, keep pressure off Coan to make too many plays with his arm and control the clock. In the last three games, Penn State has lost the battle for time of possession by 7 minutes 56 seconds, 10:36 and 15:52.
KEEPING THE POCKET CLEAN: Penn State and Michigan are tied for the Big Ten in sacks with 29, an average of 3.2 per game. Ends Yetur Gross-Matos (seven sacks), Shaka Toney (five sacks) and Shareef Miller (four sacks) have combined for 16 of the 29 sacks. If the Badgers get into too many third-and-long or obvious passing situations they will be setting up Penn State’s pass-rushers for success. That isn’t a formula for a UW victory.
MAKE PENN STATE DRIVE FOR POINTS: Penn State’s offense lives off big plays and quick strikes. The Nittany Lions have generated 48 plays of 20 yards or longer (32 passes, 16 runs) and 51 scoring drives in regulation. Of those 51 drives, only four have lasted 5 minutes or longer and 30 have lasted less than 2 ½ minutes. The best way to keep the Nittany Lions out of the end zone is to limit their chunk plays and make them drive the length of the field. Can UW’s defense hold up against quarterback Trace McSorley and company?
UW’s last trip to State College came in 2012, Bret Bielema’s final season as head coach.
The Badgers had already clinched a berth in the Big Ten title game when they faced the Nittany Lions in the teams’ regular-season finale.
Montee Ball scored on a 17-yard run in the opening quarter, his 79th at UW to break Travis Prentice’s NCAA mark for all-time touchdowns. Coupled with Melvin Gordon’s 57-yard touchdown reception, UW built a 14-7 lead after one quarter.
Penn State rallied and led, 21-14, when UW took over at its 34 with 3 minutes 51 seconds left.
Curt Phillips completed 6 of 7 passes for 54 yards to lead UW on a 14-play touchdown drive. He capped the drive with a 4-yard pass to Jeff Duckworth with 18 seconds left. Kyle French added the conversion to force overtime.
In the extra period, Penn State took a 24-21 lead on Sam Ficken’s 37-yard field goal.
UW lost a combined 2 yards on three plays and French then missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt.
Did you know?
Penn State enters the day with 67 tackles for loss, for a combined 287 yards.
UW has allowed 28 tackles for loss through nine games, for a combined 127 yards.
The 28 tackles for loss is tied with Army’s mark for the fewest among FBS teams this season.
UW’s top four runners have carried the ball 338 times this season and have lost yardage on a combined 10 carries.
Jeff Potrykus’ prediction
Both Wisconsin and Penn State are limping into this meeting, the teams’ first since the 2016 Big Ten title game. UW still has a chance to win the West Division but Penn State won’t be making a return trip to Indianapolis. Both teams are battling injuries. So which team will be more tenacious and aggressive? UW will ride its running game and enough plays on defense to spring the upset, 27-24.