Wisconsin Week Gameday Central
FEATURE: Honoring a Historical Senior Class
VIDEO: Nittany Lions Enjoy Thanksgiving Feast
VIDEO: One-on-One with Matt McGloin and Jordan Hill
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2) will closeout the 2012 season with a Senior Day clash against Leaders Division foe Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2) in Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Penn State will honor a senior class unlike any other in its history prior to kicking off with the Badgers. Coach O'Brien is urging fans to be in their seats at 3 p.m. when a special senior ceremony begins to recognize the 31 student-athletes and their families who stuck with the program through some of its most challenging days. It will be a Senior Day ceremony that fans will not want to miss. Be in the stadium early.
On the field, the Nittany Lions enter the final game of the season off of a dominant offensive performance against Indiana last week. Penn State tallied 546 offensive yards, including a career-high 395 passing yards from senior Matt McGloin and 197 receiving yards from standout sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson.
The Badgers enter the season finale with a berth in the Big Ten title game already locked up. However, Wisconsin has lost two of its last three games, including a narrow 21-14 overtime setback to unbeaten Ohio State last week.
Welcome to the gameday preview for the 12th and final contest on the 2012 schedule.
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Football is a team game, but no group in the 126-year history of the football program at Penn State deserves more individual recognition than these 31 players: Mark Arcidiacono, Joe Baker, P.J. Byers, Cody Castor, Derek Day, Andre Dupree, Emery Etter, Jacob Fagnano, Mike Farrell, Frank Figueroa, Patrick Flanagan, Michael Fuhrman, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Brian Irvin, Christian Kuntz, Evan Lewis, Pete Massaro, Michael Mauti, Matt McGloin, Shane McGregor, Stephon Morris, J.R. Refice, Matt Stankiewitch, Sean Stanley, James Terry, Jamie Van Fleet, Garrett Venuto, Mike Wallace, Mike Yancich and Michael Zordich. Those 31 players will run out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel one final time on Saturday. This group stuck with Penn State during some of its most challenging days. It will undoubtedly be an emotional pregame ceremony to honor these 31 players, but the seniors have a job to do in the final game on 2012 schedule. Managing emotions once the game kicks off will be essential on Saturday.
2. Saturday's clash is shaping up to be an intriguing matchup when the Nittany Lions have the football. Penn State enters the week second the Big Ten with 33.9 points per game in conference matchups. Wisconsin heads to Beaver Stadium as the Big Ten's No. 2-rated scoring defense by virtue of allowing just 17.4 points per contest in conference games. Additionally, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense during conference games (447.6), while the Badges rank second in total defense at 289.7 yards per game. Wisconsin's rushing defense ranks ninth nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten (106.64). For the Nittany Lions to have success on offense they will need to move the chains and establish a running game. McGloin's third-down passing will also be key against a very stingy Wisconsin defensive unit that has held five of its last six opponents to 16 points or less.
3. Stopping Wisconsin's running game is atop the Penn State defensive gameplan. Wisconsin is 17th in the nation in rushing offense (217.64 yards per game). Senior tailback Montee Ball spearheads a talented backfield duo for the Wisconsin offense. Ball and junior James White each average more than 5.0 yards per carry. Thanks to a tremendous season from Jordan Hill in the middle of the defensive line, Penn State has been very good against the run this season. The linebacker trio will be without its heart and soul leader, Michael Mauti, but Glenn Carson, Gerald Hodges and Mike Hull will need to collectively step up and play well between the tackles. Penn State wants to force Wisconsin senior quarterback Curt Phillips into a third-and-long passer.
What to Watch For - Wisconsin
1. Montee Ball is among the nation's top running backs. Currently at 78 touchdowns, Ball needs just one score to become the NCAA's career touchdown record. He has scored 14 times in his last seven games. Wisconsin's offense runs through Ball, and the Badgers need a strong outing from the senior running back to score a victory before traveling to Indianapolis next week for the Big Ten title game. Keep an eye on James White's production when Ball is not on the field, as well. White is averaging 7.0 yards per carry this season.
2. On the defensive side of the ball, Wisconsin has only yielded five rushes of 10 or more yards during its last four games. That being said, the Badgers are looking to force Penn State out of its offensive balance by limiting Zach Zwinak's production. The Nittany Lion offense enters the game with a great deal of confidence, but no Big Ten team has scored more than three touchdowns in a game against Wisconsin's defense in 2012.
3. With a Big Ten title game berth locked, Wisconsin does not have much on the line Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless, playing with intensity will be critical for a Badger team coming off a home loss against Ohio State last week. By no means does Wisconsin want to enter the Big Ten Championship Game with back-to-back losses. Staying focused and a quick start are essential for Bret Bielema's team.
Kickoff: 3:35 p.m.
TV: BTN - Mark Jones (PBP), Brock Huard (Analyst), Jessica Mendoza (Sideline)
Radio: Penn State Sports Network - Steve Jones (PBP), Jack Ham (Analyst), Loren Crispell (Sidelines)
Stadium: Beaver Stadium (106,572) - Natural Grass
Coaches: Bill O'Brien - 7-4, 1st season
Bret Bielema - 67-23 at Wisconsin, 7th season at Wisconsin (Same overall)
The Series: 16th meeting
The Final Word:
It's hard to fathom walking in the shoes of the 31 senior members of the 2012 Penn State football team. The group faced more turbulence in the past 12 months than some people might encounter in a lifetime. But no matter how difficult the situation was, the Nittany Lion seniors found ways to be leaders for the rest of the locker room, the community, the student body, the athletic department and the University. No group is more deserving of ending their careers with a victory than this one, but it will be a challenging afternoon in Beaver Stadium. Wisconsin has never lost two-straight games in November under Bret Bielema. The Senior Day ceremony will be emotional for the Nittany Lions, but the game will be decided in the trenches. How both teams block the opposing front four will play a big role in determining the outcome. Be in the stadium at 3 p.m. to honor the seniors and enjoy the final game of the 2012 season on a chilly November day inside Beaver Stadium.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
Wisconsin Gameday Preview - Lions Host Badgers on Senior Day
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