Wisconsin Badgers vs. #21 Penn State
The beaten-up Lions return to St. Joe Memorial Stadium (formerly Penndot) at Beaver Field to take on the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday at noon. Yes, that’s right, noon. The season has come to that. ESPN/ABC find us so unappealing that we get the ho-hum noon kickoff this week and probably, henceforth. Nevertheless, some PSU homeys still think this team is hot shit!
The two combatants have identical overall season records of 6-3, but the Badgers have a better conference record, 4-2. Penn State is 3-3. ‘Sconsin’s two losses were to Michigan and Northwestern, and their non-conference loss was to BYU. Next week, they face resurgent Purdue.
The all-time series is tied at 9-9. So, this is the rubber match for slim-ass bragging rights next year.
Because you didn’t ask, the menu at The Cave will be exactly what the title of this article states: beer and bratwursts. I’ll see if I can find some of the latter with badger meat, but no promises. We typically pay homage to our opponents with the menu and the drinks, so we’re going full Wisconsin here. As a special treat, Artificially Sweetened will be baking her secret Ukrainian family recipe soft pretzels. And there will be cheese, lots of Wisconsin cheese! These noontime kickoffs are worthy of tailgate food, kimosabe, and we’re going to do just that. As my German grandma would have said, “Besser als in die Hose geschißen!”. (Better than shitting in your pants!)
This game is relatively unimportant, as are the rest of the games this year, so we must look toward the sidelines for amusement. The question is, what head-up-the-ass fourth quarter call will come out of Franklin’s sorry ass THIS WEEK. (I’m still pissed off by stupid calls in the tOSU and Moo U. games, and then he did the musical quarterback number on us against Michigan and double-talked us in the presser. How many ways can you spell D-U-M-B-A-S-S?)
The Badgers are having an atypically bad year in what has turned out as a wide-open Western Division of the Big Ten. Most recently, they beat Rutgers 31-17. All-Everything sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns against the Scarlet Knights.
Some Relevant Stats
Wisconsin’s passing game with Alex Hornibrook at the helm sucks the bone, ranking 11th in the B1G. This is now exacerbated by the questionable status of Hornibrook’s health. However, the Badgers’ rushing offense is tops in the league, averaging 273 yards per game. Jonathan Taylor leads all FBS running backs at over 150 yards per game and is top rushing yards gainer in the entire FBS with 1363 yards through nine games. Michigan held Taylor to “only” 101 yards, although Northwestern did better (46). Meanwhile, Penn State ranks 10th in the conference and 79th nationally in rushing defense. Something’s got to give.
The predictological geniuses at BWI simplistically think that if Hornibrook is hampered, the Badgers can be beaten easily by containing their offense, which will be reduced to “one-dimensional”. All but one said geniuses pick Penn State to win. But given the Nittany Lions withering second-half showings in games against strong opponents, I call bullshit!
IITOP, Man! Gut check!
The Badgers’ defense is about on par with the Nittany Lions’. However, with the ground game going strong, Wisconsin is poised to establish a IITOP advantage. (That stands for Increasingly Irrelevant Time of Possession, my knock on some journalists who declare that it doesn’t matter anymore). Wisconsin ranks fourth in the B10 in time of possession (32:45 – 15th nationally) while Penn State ranks DEAD FUCKING FOURTEENTH AND LAST BEHIND EVEN FUCKING RUTGERS (26:51 – 122nd nationally). Increasingly irrelevant, my German-Jewish ass! And Wisconsin completes 45.2% of third-down opportunities (23rd nationally) vs. Penn State’s 34.2% (110th). Ach, du Lieber! Oy vey!
I guess the whole deal with what is purported to be “increasing irrelevance” is predicated on last year’s quick-strike Penn State offense. Alas, with the departure of Joe Moorhead, the quick-strikeness has turned into a lot of three-and-outs. Ricky Rahne’s offense is not working, to say the absolute least. This year, the long play is not bailing PSU out and the defense is wearing down from being on the field too long.
Badger junior starting QB Alex Hornibrook was in the concussion protocol for the second time in three weeks after getting hurt in last week’s 31-17 victory over Rutgers. If he is not ready to go on Saturday, sophomore backup Jack Coan will be pressed into service. Coan was 20 of 31 for 158 yards and a touchdown in the 31-17 loss to Northwestern two weeks ago in his first career start due to another Horny concussion. In that game, the Wildcats shut down the Badgers’ running game, holding Jonathan Taylor to 46 yards on 11 carries. It is probably upon that performance that the BWI geniuses formulate their predictions.
This turkey, however, suspects that the Penn State defense will not be able to contain Taylor, even if they sell out on the run. While unlike the offense, they’re showing improvement week-to-week, at least in first halves, later they still get run over. If the offense cannot put up points, the game will be lost in the second half. “We’re a second half team.” Yup. Second half losers. Burp!
Almost Elite Team?
Remember what James Franklin said after the tOSU loss? We were beaten by an elite team and we’re not there yet, but we’re a great team. Well, I’m calling extreme Franklin bullshit there again. Ohio State is not elite, at least not this year. We almost were beaten by non-elite Appalachian State and Iowa. We ain’t great by any means, and I’m not looking optimistically at this week’s Super Bowl.
We’re looking at good ol’ November in da Big Beave! How’s about a high of 36° with snow flurries? Cold hands on the field, and cold asses in the stadium seats.
Whither Penn State? Da Bottom Line
This offense suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, which makes it even more of a mystery that the oddsmakers opened shop favoring PSU by 8. The over/under is 55. Possibly on the basis of Hornibrook’s potential game missage, the margin has widened to 9 points in early betting.
Anyone want to venture a crappy prediction? Why does everyone think this will be an easy win? Home field, yeah, I know, right? But Penn State fans are fair-weather fans. Many of them won’t be braving the cold to see what they cynically predict to be yet another loss. After all, the Nittany Lions usually mope after a big loss and Michigan was a biiiiiiiiiiiiggg loss. One must hope the remaining stalwart, die-hard fans will provide enough inspiration to the team, who might well be hung over from the carnal devastation at the behest of Big Blue. Now not only can’t we catch, but also we can’t run or throw, either, and our defense gets run over in the second half. Above all, the playbook and the offensive play calling have been known to bite the big one this year, thanks to James Franklin and Ricky Rahne.
My cynicism is readily apparent here. What I’m doing is setting myself up for taking a dose of shit from my homeys if the Lions do well on Saturday. I’m a masochist, as you all know, because I’m either being flogged by the team’s performance or jeered by those who think I’m full of shit. Well, bring it on!
Let’s get on with it…
Where does this all lead? To my prediction of what would nominally be an upset if the odds don’t swing toward Wisconsin’s favor. At 9 points to the good, that is an impossible swing. The bettors must see something I don’t, because they’re looking for a 32-23 PSU victory over the Badgers.
Plenty fodder for pessimism in what has happened in the season so far and in what the stats above reveal. My glass is half-empty at this point. Those who tell us Penn State is just a few points away from being 8-1 don’t look at the other side of that coin. They’re also a few points away from being 4-5.
The Lions will let Jonathan Taylor run for 200 yards. Alex Hornibrook will show up and will have an exceptionally good day behind an offensive line that averages 6’5.4? – 322 lbs, tiring out the Penn State defense, who will do their usual number of keeping it close in the first half. Alas, they will ultimately give up their third home loss and the once proud Nittany Lions head for the infamous Toilet Bowl in Kohler, Wisconsin, where they can drink beer and suck down bratwursts and still be home for Christmas. The over/under on yellow puddle magnitude around James Franklin’s feet in the fourth quarter is two quarts. Wisconsin 31, Penn State 23.
I’ll be back to either wipe the egg off my face or gloat about the prognosticational efficacy of my well polished crystal balls.