First of all, let’s get this out of the way.
There. Don’t I feel better now?
No, not really. This Turkey has a sinking feeling in the pit of his capacious stomach, having been subjected to the torture of the 2007 what’s gonna happen next Nittany Lions. I need some Prevacid, ferchrissakes. I don’t want to get into speculation about who’s going to jail, who’s in Paterno’s doghouse, who punched whom, or who got wasted on Red Stripe. This post is about the forthcoming Wisconsin game.
It’s Homecoming. Homecoming games are supposed to be against beatable opposition. Is Wisconsin beatable? I think so, but a lot of things will have to go right. This is neither a game for the molasses-in-January offensive start-up that has been characteristic of the past six games, nor a game for the typical fumbles, interceptions, and penalties we’ve seen in the first half of the season. Play error-free ball and beat Wisconsin. Sounds pretty simple, but with the veritable plethora of off-field distractions, suspensions, etc., it might be a tall order. But I digress again.
The Badgers (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Illinois. Sound familiar? Yeah, well Penn State and Wisconsin are in the same boat in that respect, only the Nittany Lions have an intervening win over Iowa to get them feeling cocky again. Wisconsin has a mediocre defense that is just begging to be beaten deep by Morelli and his talented receivers. They rank #81 in pass efficiency defense. Their front seven is no great shakes against the run, either, ranking #62. Last week, they gave up 289 rushing yards to Illinois. So, it would seem as if our offense, such as it is, will have its opportunities if it can play error free. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s offense might have been fearsome at one point, but right now their big weapons are Travis Beckum at tight end and a hobbled P.J. Hill. Luke Swan, the talented senior wide receiver is injured and out for the year. Last week against Illinois, Beckum and Hill accounted for much of the offense, even though Hill sat out quite a few snaps. Beckum had 160 yards, while Hill had 105 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
Beckum worries me, and with Hill semi-healthy, I would expect Beckum to get the ball a lot. Last week, he had 11 receptions and he’s currently tied for 18th in the country in number of receptions. The problem here, in this Turkey’s opinion is that our linebackers are not the greatest at pass defense. I would put my money on them stopping Hill, but I think that they can be consistently beaten by 6’4″, 224 lb Beckum. On the other hand, the Nittany Lions rank #16 in pass efficiency defense and #5 in total defense. So, if they play well, they can keep us in the game, leaving it up to our much maligned offense to somehow manage to score some points.
With respect to special teams, Penn State leads the Big Ten in net punting yards and is #4 in the nation in that category, whereas Wisconsin ranks #88. The Badgers rank #73 and #90 in punt returns and kickoff returns, respectively. Perhaps, for a change, the Nittany Lions won’t be giving up so many yards on kickoff coverage.
And now, for the long awaited Official Turkey Poop Prediction. You’ve waded through all that bull above, so you deserve to be rewarded with a long-winded prediction to throw your rotten tomatoes at. The gamblers have installed Penn State as a 7-point favorite, with an over/under of 44.5. That works out to Penn State winning by the score of 26-19. You know, that looks pretty good to me. I think that if we can’t score 27 on Wisconsin, then we deserve to lose. After all, The Citadel rang up 31 on them. So did Illinois, while Michigan State hit them for 34. The Nittany Lions managed to score 27 on Iowa, but their defense sucks worse than Wisconsin’s. Still, I think that this week might be the week that Morelli manages to put together an error-free game. If he does, the prediction is PSU 27, Wisconsin 20. If he and his teammates do not, then we lose. Simple as that.
We’ve got the opportunity to make a statement here. It’s Homecoming. P.J. Hill has a groin injury and isn’t 100%. Luke Swan is on the injured list. Austin Scott is not playing (thus, fewer fumbles and no dancing behind the LOS). Things are looking good for us here. If we blow this chance, team morale goes completely down the toilet, we probably lose on the road at Indiana, and we most assuredly lose to Ohio State the following week. So, let’s not blow this chance.