The Nittany Lions have a 6-5 overall record this year, and they are 3-4 in Big Ten play. Penn State would like nothing more than to end their season with a big upset victory over one of the best teams in the conference. Two of their five losses have come by just three points. Penn State has a win over a ranked opponent this year, a quadruple overtime victory over then ranked No. 18 Michigan.
The Wisconsin Badgers are two big plays away from an undefeated record this season. They lost in a controversial game against Arizona State, and suffered a touchdown loss at the hands of Ohio State. Both of those games were played on the road, but the Badgers have the luxury of playing host this week against Penn State. Wisconsin has won six consecutive games coming into this weeks matchup with Penn State.
Kick-off for this Big Ten showdown takes place this Saturday at 3:30 PM ET with television coverage provided by ESPN. The oddsmakers have very little doubt about who will win this game. The Badgers have been listed as 24.5-point road favorites over the Nittany Lions.
Why Penn State Covers
Penn State is averaging 28.5 points per game this season. They have a very strong run bias, gaining 178 rushing yards per game on 4.1 yards per carry. They have also been a very strong passing team completing 58% of their attempts for 252 passing yards per game. The offense as a whole averages 430 yards per game, which is right in line with the figures put up by the Badgers this season. Wisconsin does not have many defensive weaknesses, but if they have any it is definitely against the pass. In their loss to Arizona State the Badgers gave up 352 passing yards. In their loss to Ohio State the damage was not quite as bad, but they still allowed a run-biased Buckeyes to throw for 198 yards. If Penn State can follow that same game plan they will have no problem covering a line greater than three touchdowns and a field goal.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games following a straight-up loss.
The Nittany Lions defense has held opponents to 26.4 points per game this year. That number does not stand out as being something special, but Penn State’s opponents have averaged just shy of 30-points per game. The run defense has been solid, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry, and if they can continue that success against the run-biased badgers then Penn State should easily cover the spread. The Nittany Lions secondary has also played well this year. They are giving up a somewhat concerning pass completion rate, but Penn State is a great tackling team so they have limited opponents to 228 passing yards from those completions.
Why Wisconsin Covers
The Badgers will easily be the best team Penn State has faced this season. Wisconsin could make a strong argument for best team in the Big Ten. They should have won their game against Arizona State if not for some poor sportsmanship from the Sun Devils who laid on the ball in the final seconds to prevent the Badgers from kicking the game winning field goal. They were also right there with Ohio State in a game that was played at Ohio State. If you change the venue on that game I think the Badgers would pull of a close win. This week Wisconsin will face a team that is nowhere near as good as either of those previously mentioned teams. Penn State has struggled on the road this year, posting a 1-3 record and averaging a mere 17.7 points per game. The Badgers should easily outpace the Nittany Lions since they are scoring 41.2 points per game at home this season.
The Wisconsin Badgers are 20-6-1 ATS in their last 27 home games.
The Badgers could make a strong argument for best defense in the Big Ten. Michigan State would probably get the edge, but Wisconsin is not far behind them. They have held opponents to 83 rushing yards per game in home games this season on a mere 2.9 yards per carry. Wisconsin is a perfect 6-0 straight up and against the spread at home, and those records are due in large part to the Badgers outstanding defense. They have held opponents to a mere six points per game in home games this season. The secondary is just as talented as the front seven. They have held opposing quarterbacks to a 44.9% pass completion rate in home games this season for 140 yards.
Wisconsin is clearly the better team, and their defense is one of the best in the Big Ten behind Michigan State. I think the Badgers put up a big number in this game, and their defense shuts down the Nittany Lions. Lay the points with Wisconsin because this game is going to be ugly for Penn State fans.