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Perseverance Pays Off in Big Ten Championship Win

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INDIANAPOLIS - On Friday, it was Penn State head coach James Franklin who told a room full of media members at the Big Ten Championship game that the one word to describe the Nittany Lion 2016 season was persevere.

Just a little more than 24 hours later, the Nittany Lions put on yet another resilient showing, proving that perseverance is truly the foundation for Penn State's Big Ten Championship season.

The path to hoisting the Big Ten Championship game trophy into the air Saturday evening wasn't anything short of extraordinary, but that's nothing the Nittany Lions aren't already used to.

Against Minnesota, it was Irvin Charles' 80-yard touchdown that sparked a double-digit comeback. Against Ohio State, it was the Marcus Allen blocked field goal that Grant Haley returned 60 yards for the touchdown to secure another comeback from a double figure deficit. We'll arrive at Allen and Haley later.

Near the end of the first half Saturday, the Nittany Lions were faced with yet another challenging deficit, trailing 28-7.

Penn State refused to back down in the first half though, as quarterback Trace McSorley relied on his arsenal of talented wide receivers, tossing four plays of at least 12 yards, culminating in a 40-yard touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall to send the Nittany Lions into the locker room down 28-14.

A renewed Nittany Lion team emerged from the locker room though, determined to engineer another comeback this season.

In the first Wisconsin drive of the second half, Penn State's defense paved the way, forcing the Badgers to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt, which they missed.

Now cue the momentum shift, as McSorley found Blacknall for a Big Ten Championship game record-70-yard touchdown on the first play of the Penn State scoring drive, pulling the Nittany Lions within seven after the Tyler Davis PAT.

Penn State continued to chop up field with chunk play after chunk play in the third quarter, as Barkley dashed for a 16-yard rush before McSorley found Chris Godwin for a pair of 13-plus yard pass plays to set up the 1-yard Saquon Barkley touchdown that tied the score, 28-28.

Limiting the Badgers to just a field goal in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions had found their stride with the defense making stops and the offensive line giving McSorley the extra crucial moments to key in on his talent receivers downfield.

Before long, it was veteran DaeSean Hamilton, who backed up his clutch first half third down conversion grabs with back-to-back catches of at least 25 yards, to put Penn State in perfect position for McSorley to find Barkley for the 18-yard touchdown catch to send the Nittany Lions ahead, 35-31 in the fourth quarter. Penn State's explosive offense was clicking.

With plenty of time left in the frame, the Penn State defense took over, as linebacker Koa Farmer sacked Wisconsin quarterback Bart Houston for a loss of four before defensive tackle Kevin Givens came through with the stop on third-and-16 forcing the Badgers to punt.

Although the Nittany Lions managed to convert on a 24-yard Davis field goal, the Wisconsin offense was surging, staring down a fourth-and-1 opportunity at the Penn State 24-yard line with just over a minute to play.

Out of Wisconsin timeout, it was Haley once again, who came up with the game-winning play to secure another one of Penn State's signature comeback victories this season.

From the first Penn State blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in what is believed to be program history, to a perfectly timed fourth-and-1 stop, Haley and Allen helped halt Badger running back Corey Clement to end the Wisconsin scoring threat. 

When asked about the connection between he and Allen on two of perhaps the most pivotal plays of the season, Haley prefers to bring it back to the team as a whole.

"I don't think it's just us two," Haley said. "I think it's the whole 11 guys out there on the field, even coaches in the box and the scout team. It's just something that our coaches prepare for us. And when the time - when it's time to step up, I feel like any person on our defense or offense is going to step up, and it just happens to be the situation that Marcus and I have been in two great situations."

Guided by a pair of 100-yard receivers in Blacknall and Hamilton, McSorley finished with career-high and Big Ten Championship game record 384 passing yards, throwing four touchdown passes for the second consecutive game.

In total, just three of McSorley's top three targets (Hamilton, Blacknall and Gesicki) combined for 331 of Penn State's 435 yards of total offense. 

"The wideouts made unbelievable plays for him and the tight ends made unbelievable plays for him," Franklin said postgame. "We said, look, we felt really confident about our wide receiver to DB matchups and tight end to DB matchups, but we just needed to strain, strain a little bit longer in protection and give us some time, and we'd have a chance to do some good things."

Good things turned into great things Saturday evening as the Nittany Lions emerged with their fourth overall Big Ten Championship title and first Big Ten Championship title game victory since it began in 2011.

"It's been our script all season long," Franklin said. "We've done it all different ways. We've done it with comebacks at the end of the game, two-minute drives. We've done it where we've blown people out. We've done it where we had to come back in the second half. We've done it with field goal plays, blocked field goal plays. We've done it a lot of different ways. But that's the sign of a good football team when you find different ways to be successful." 

Now, it's on to the bowl game.

Penn State is Rose Bowl Bound - (Transcript)
Sunday afternoon, the Nittany Lions received their official invitation to the 103rd annual Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual to take on USC Monday, January 2 at 5 p.m. ET in Pasadena, California.

Making their first appearance in the "Granddaddy of Them All" since a 38-24 loss to the Trojans in 2009, the Nittany Lions are set for their 47th all-time bowl outing. 

Franklin joined a pair of press conferences Sunday evening to talk about the selection. Here are a few takeaways.

- Franklin noted that like the Nittany Lions, the Trojans are one of the hottest teams in college football, stressing that the matchup presents one of the scarier programs playing with a high level of confidence leading up to the selection. 

"Obviously feel like USC is a very, very talented team, and once the quarterback started clicking for them, then distributing the ball, the whole team just kind of -- they developed around him," Franklin said. "So it's been fun to watch. It's exciting to watch. They're a dangerous team."

- Trojan head coach Clay Helton watched last night's Big Ten Championship game and it's not hard to guess who impressed him.

"I've just had the opportunity to watch Penn State really on TV and culminating in last night's exceptional win, and the one thing that jumps out at you right off the bat is offensively how talented they are with Barkley and McSorley and the points they're putting up," Helton said. 

- It's business as usual for the Nittany Lions leading up to the bowl game. Penn State coaches will hit the road recruiting giving the team some time to recharge before getting into practice. There's no stress around planning or logistical preparations though, as Franklin noted that plans have already been in place since preseason.

"We do all the schedules and all the calendars for all the bowls in preseason, in the summer," Franklin said. "We already have those all set and ready to go so we have a pretty good understanding of what's going on. We'll go back and make some slight adjustments to it but all those things are pretty much set ahead of time."

VIDEO: Postgame James Franklin & Players - Wisconsin

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INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State Football engineered a thrilling 21-point comeback Saturday evening to capture the Big Ten Championship with a 38-31 win against Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Catch up with head coach James Franklin as well as Nittany Lions Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, Malik Golden, Jason Cabinda, DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki following the win. 

Player Interviews

James Franklin

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By: Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- From the moment she first put on a Penn State uniform just over a year ago, it was evident to anyone watching that Teniya Page had talent.  The sophomore guard put on another show Saturday afternoon, as a career-high tying 31 points helped to lead the Penn State Lady Lions past Marshall, 82-80 in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

For head coach Coquese Washington, this is nothing out of the ordinary compared to the Page she's seen the last two years.  And, while the talent is there, it may be her basketball IQ that puts her over the top. 

"Teniya is a really smart player. I think when you look at how she scored 31 points in 15 shots, she's a very efficient player. She does a great job of finding and picking her spots; not just being a volume shooter. I think that's why she was able to have a good night," Washington said.  "When you have the high basketball I.Q. that she has, only good things happen."

Page helped get the Lady Lions going early, as she dropped in five of Penn State's first nine, and eight total points in a first quarter that saw the Lady Lions trailing 23-17 at the break.  Despite the deficit, a 3-pointer by Page with one second left in the quarter, her second of the game, was a sign of things to come.  

The big bucket sparked a 9-0 run to begin the second for the Lady Lions, giving the home team it's first lead of the day at 24-23 and then 26-23 before Marshall responded.  

Following the big Penn State run, Marshall responded with a 10-2 run of it's own, before a back-and-forth finish to the quarter saw the Thundering Herd take a 37-35 lead into intermission. 

Despite the big first half swings, the second half would be a close battle throughout, and for the home team that meant it was Teniya Page time.  After dropping 12 points in the first half, the guard doubled her scoring in the third, dropping 12 in those 10 minutes alone, including two of her game-high five 3-pointers to pace the home team.  

Saturday marked the second time in Page's young career that she hit five triples in one game, and for defenses, that outside shot is a scary combination with her quick first step. 

"I think it stretches the floor, especially if I'm making the 3's then they have to guard me which opens me up for the pull-up or the drive," she said.  "Then when I drive I can kick it out to my teammates. I think it just gives me more options and spreads the floor." 

One of those five 3's gave the Lady Lions a 59-58 lead heading into the fourth, a quarter where neither team would pull ahead by more than one possession until the final minute.  While big 3-pointers by Page were key to end the first and third periods, it was a driving layup that sealed the Lady Lions' victory. 

Page's slashing bucket with 35 seconds to go gave Penn State a 78-77 lead, and was the final of 13 lead changes between the two teams on the afternoon, as Penn State hit free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.  

For Page, the success she saw on the day, including her clutch late layup, was a result of reading the defense and taking what was given.

"I think being ready to shoot when people were attacking the gaps and also attacking the gaps myself, which made me available to shoot the pull-up," she said on her success.  "That's pretty much it and knocking down free throws." 

While Page's 31 points highlighted the box score, it was a team effort to secure the victory for Penn State.  Three other Lady Lions chipped in with double-digit scoring, led by 19 points from Sierra Moore to bring home the victory for the home team.

For Washington, continuing to find that balance in the scoring column will be key to the Lady Lions' success as the season goes on. 

"I think we've got to continue to find balance on the offensive end," she said.  "Sierra has recently shown that she can do that for us and so we've got to keep working with a few more players to be consistent on the offensive end."

The Lady Lions will look to keep the winning ways going as they hit the road to take on Holy Cross next Wednesday at 7 p.m. 


By Alyssa Palfey,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With country cross season just coming to an end, and the first indoor track meet of the season soon, the Penn State distance team is now in full track mode.

"It's been an outstanding fall. Obviously, the vast majority of athletes in middle distance group were doing some really high quality cross country training this past fall and really helped our team have a successful fall season," said head coach John Gondak. "The women as runner-ups in the Big Ten and winning the region and advancing to nationals. The men for getting a top five finish at the regional championships. Everybody has built up a fantastic base." 

Cross country season has allowed the athletes to already have solid training under their belt, but now the Nittany Lions are gearing up for their first indoor meet and are doing more track-based workouts.

"Now that cross country is over we're going to transition that into some quality track work. I think we have some outstanding athletes between the middle distance and distance side, both the men's and women's program," said Gondak. "I'm really looking forward to this indoor season."

The women had great success this cross country season, with 2015 Cross Country All-American Tessa Barrett and 2016 Cross Country All-Americans Elizabeth Chikotas and Jillian Hunsberger.

Last indoor season, Tessa Barrett ran the fastest 5,000-meter time in program history (15:46.08). Barrett also placed third in both the 3,000-meters (9:16.49) and 5,000-meters (15:51.56) at the Big Ten Championships. She also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 5,000-meters and recorded an 11th place finish with a time of 16:25.94. 

Elizabeth Chikotas ran the 5th fastest time in program history in the 5,000-meters at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Washington, running a time of 16:04.66. Chikotas placed third in the 3,000-meters at the Penn State National (9:17.58) and recorded a personal best in the mile at the Nittany Lion Challenge (4:45.59). Chikotas was also a part of the winning distance medley team and 4x800-meter relay team that won at the Penn State Relays.

Current junior Jillian Hunsberger did not compete during the 2016 indoor season, but did compete in a few meets outdoor. Hunsberger had a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Big Ten Championships in the 5,000-meters, running a personal best of 16:18.95.

For the men's middle distance and distance, last indoor season standouts were Isaiah Harris and Colin Abert.

Coming off a sixth-place in the 800-meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials is sophomore Isaiah Harris. Harris won the 800-meter at the Indoor Big Ten Championships running his all-time Big Ten record time of 1:46.24. That is also Penn State's all-time fastest indoor 800-meters time. He also has the fourth fastest 600-meter run in program history with a time of 1:17.50. Harris was also a part of Penn State's second all-time fastest distance medley relay.

Also, a sophomore this year, Colin Abert finished eighth in the mile at the 2016 Indoor Big Ten Championships (4:10.95). Abert recorded an 8:08.94 in the 3,000-meters at the FastrackNational Invite. He also took third in the 1,500-meters at the Penn State National (3:48.15). 

"They're responding really well from a great fall cross country season, which I'm really excited about," said assistant distance coach Angela Reckart. "They're really strong aerobically, so I'm just looking forward to continue to build on that for track."

The Penn State Track team will first be in action at their Blue and White intrasquad meet next Sat. Dec. 10th at the Multi-Sport Complex on campus.  

2016 Gameday Live - No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State is headed to the Big Ten Championship game, as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions are set to meet sixth-ranked Wisconsin in Saturday's title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.   

Follow along with our live blog for all your in-game updates in one place as well as exclusive content. 


Live Blog No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (Big Ten Championship)
 

Balanced Lions Silence Blackbirds

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions continued their dominance in the NCAA first round Friday night with a convincing straight set victory against LIU Brooklyn to advance the Nittany Lions to yet another second-round matchup.

Penn State used a balanced attack to overwhelm the Blackbirds, who were the NEC champions after a 16-14 season. Penn State limited LIU Brooklyn to eight points in the first set and six in the third set on their way to one of the quickest matches they have played all season long. It was a game Penn State was expected to win and they did just that, wasting little time.

"First off I want to congratulate Long Island on a great season," Nittany Lion head coach Russ Rose said. "I thought we played well tonight in a situation where the other team just couldn't seem to get themselves going."

Penn State certainly got going early and often as they started the match on a 16-3 run behind the hot serving of Abby Detering. She poured in 28 assists to go along with three service aces to lead the team. Detering also had 10 digs to give her a double double on the match.

On the offensive side, Penn State was efficient, hitting at a .403 clip, one of their highest totals since their out of conference slate ended. Simone Lee led the charge with 12 kills, but the main key for Penn State was a lack of attack errors. 

"I thought we did a solid job in the game of not committing errors and keeping the ball in play," Rose said. "I thought it was nice to get some of our other players in the match as well and I thought Clare Powers had a good match for us off the bench."

As always has seemed to be the case this year, Kendall White was once again a star in the back row for Penn State. White, who gained All-Big Ten freshman honors just this past week, had 18 digs and was the recipient of high praise from her coaching staff after the game.

"I thought she was really good tonight," Rose said. "She was always in the right place at the right time and just overall did a real nice job."

The Nittany Lions will not have much time off as they have to quickly recover and take on the Pittsburgh Panthers at 6:30 in Rec Hall. The Panthers are coming off an impressive victory over the Dayton Flyers, who came into this NCAA tournament with college volleyball's best winning percentage at 30-1 on the year. The Panthers dominated in sets three and four to take the match. Penn State talked about their matchup tomorrow with high expectations of Pitt.

"That first match was played at a very high level today," Rose said. "We will need to be better than we were today because Pittsburgh is a very good team and they have beat some good teams this year as well."

"We are prepared for them and we've scrimmaged them the last couple of springs so we should be ready to go tomorrow," added Lee.

Penn State will be in front of their home crowd for the final time this season tomorrow when they take on the Panthers. 

Nittany Lions Win THON Game

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Teddy bears flew through the air during the second intermission of No. 7 Penn State's (13-1-1, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) Friday night victory against No. 20 Michigan (6-7-1, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten). 

It was Penn State's THON game and hundreds of plush animals of all kinds were thrown on the ice, as part of the teddy bear toss tradition. Bears, turtles, rabbits, and stuffed elephants landed on the smooth surface after the fans in attendance were encouraged to throw them over the boards.

That same intermission, the Nittany Lions headed into the locker room up 3-1. Goals from junior forward James Robinson, junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton, and freshman forward Denis Smirnov in the first period, gave Penn State the edge. 

"The Denis Smirnov goal, a great block by Dylan Richard, and then an unbelievable pass by Derian Hamilton to send to [Smirnov] on the breakaway," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "That was a big, big goal and a big difference heading into the locker room up two instead of one."

The Nittany Lions defeated the Wolverines, 5-1. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz and freshman forward Brandon Biro rounded out the goals for the Nittany Lions.

"We've got to go and get even hungrier," sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr said. "We have a couple weeks off here so we'll practice hard and get prepared for the second half of the season."

The Nittany Lions don't play again until the New Year, when they travel to Ohio State January 6 and 7, 2017.

After the game, to continue with the THON game festivities, senior defenseman David Thompson cut his long hair to donate it to help make a wig for a child with cancer. The event, which many fans stuck around after the victory to witness, took only seconds, but the impact of such a donation will last a lifetime.

Thompson's hair was tied into a ponytail with zip ties and cut with scissors, before Thompson got the rest of his hair buzzed off in the locker room.

The Nittany Lions' THON child, Colton Buckley, was also in attendance for Friday night's festivities. Prior to Thompson's haircut, the Buckley's announced they donated $2,000 to THON, in the name of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board.

Thompson said before he lost his locks, that it was an honor to donate his hair in the name of THON, and felt truly humbled by the experience.

Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

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Penn State Football Big Ten Championship Game Content Central

Welcome to the Penn State Football Big Ten Championship game content central. Follow along with us from Happy Valley to Indianapolis for all your behind-the-scenes access and exclusive content during championship weekend.

Saturday, December 3 - GAMEDAY!

9 a.m. - Noon - ESPN College Gameday
ESPN's College Gameday hit Indianapolis for their weekly Saturday segment. Nittany Lion fans were out in full support with some creative signs and cheers galore. Penn State alum Keegan-Michael Key joined the set as the weekly guest picker, selecting the Nittany Lions as his Big Ten Championship game winner. 

Head out into the crowd and watch the Nittany Lion guest picker take the stage below. 

Noon - 8 p.m. - Fan Fest and the Big Ten Network Letterman Football Panels
An all-day event, the BTN Fan Fest has games, food, displays and more. For a portion of the afternoon, we caught up with Penn State Football alums Tyoka Jackson, Terry Killens and Anthony Morelli to talk Fan Fest and a little Nittany Lion football ahead of tonight's title game against Wisconsin. 

Penn State Women's Lacrosse in Indianapolis!
We caught up with Penn State women's lacrosse in Indianapolis as the Nittany Lions made the trip to show their support for the Nittany Lion football team in a very #OneTeam effort. 

6 p.m. - Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally
Nittany Lion fans waited patiently in line before entering the Penn State Alumni Association Pep Rally prior to the game Saturday.

 

Friday, December 2 - Arrival & Media

Touchdown in Indianapolis!
The Penn State Football charter flight touched down just before 2 p.m. to be greeted by a Nittany Lion Indy car, which led the police escort to the team hotel.

Once the team arrived at the hotel, Penn State head coach James Franklin was presented with the helmet of the Indy car driver, officially welcoming the Nittany Lions to Indianapolis.

                              

3:30 p.m. - James Franklin visits BTN set
Franklin went live with Dave Revsine, Spice Adams and Gerry DiNardo for a brief segment.
 

4 p.m. - Lucas Oil Stadium Press Conference (Transcript: Franklin - Transcript: Chryst)

INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of Big Ten Championship game media Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Prior to taking questions from the media, Franklin and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst posed together for a snapshot with the Big Ten title game trophy.

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Franklin opened his press conference noting the Nittany Lions are both humbled and honored to represent the Big Ten East Division, in another piece of an already exciting season.

"The word I probably would use best to describe our team is we've persevered and we've gotten better as the season has gone on," Franklin said. "It's something we take great pride in. What I've always taken great pride in as a coach is your team playing hard, number one, getting better each week, each day. We've done that."

Franklin also stressed that this week's focus was just as consistent as any other surrounding, 'Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin,' no matter what conversation might be going on outside the program.

"The only thing that exists for us is Wisconsin and the Big Ten Championship game," Franklin said. "If we take care of our business and play the way we're capable of playing, we'll be happy with the result."

Friday Night Senior Shares
As Franklin shared earlier this season, the Nittany Lions will have senior shares at the hotel the night before gameday, where selected seniors on the team and staff have opportunities to share their stories in their own unique way. This evening's shares include senior long snapper Zach Ladonis and Penn State director of Football Operations Michael Hazel.

On Special Teams Improvement
While Franklin pointed out that there has been lots of talk about the offensive and defensive improvements this year, he noted that probably the biggest area of improvement as much as anything this season has come on special teams - an area that will be of heavy importance come Saturday.

"Compared to the last two years and really from the beginning of the season, I think that's a big reason why we are where we are today," Franklin said.  "I think Charles Huff, our special teams coordinator, Yaz [Tyler Yazujian], our special teams captain, long snapper, Blake Gillikin, Tyler [Davis], those guys have been awesome all year long. Then the other 10 guys rallying around them have been really good.

Hometown Connections
Franklin pointed out that both he and Chryrst are currently head coaches of teams in their hometown states.

"The fact that he's from there, grew up there, played there, his dad coached there. It's an awesome story for him," Franklin said. 

"Then my story growing up in the state of Pennsylvania, having an opportunity to come back home -  that doesn't happen very often," Franklin said. "So for two coaches to be able to come back home and represent their home states is I think pretty cool, pretty special."

Inside The Locker Room
Take a sneak peek inside the Penn State Football locker room as set up and preparations for gameday are well underway. A converted Indianapolis Colts locker room now has a new shade of blue and white. Check it out below.

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7/6 Penn State men's hockey and No. 20 Michigan are set to meet once again, as the Nittany Lions close out the first semester of the 2016-17 season with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Wolverines. Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates all in one location and exclusive content. 


Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)
 

2016 Gameday - Lions, Badgers Set for B1G Championship

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Gameday Central | Gameday Live Blog | 2016 B1G Championship Content Central |  Game Notes | Press Conference Roundup | Wednesday Practice Update | Tim Banks Q&A | Monday Notebook | Nittany Lions in the NFL

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State is headed to the Big Ten Championship game, as the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions are set to meet sixth-ranked Wisconsin in Saturday's title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.   

The Nittany Lions (10-2, 8-1 East) closed out the regular season with wins in each of the last eight consecutive games, downing Michigan State 45-12 to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season crown. The Badgers (10-2, 7-2 West) won the West division outright and enter the matchup on a six-game winning streak, making their fourth appearance in the Big Ten Championship game since it first began six years ago. 

Following the dominant performance in the regular season victory against the Spartans, Penn State earned several Big Ten postseason awards this week.

Nittany Lion running back Saquon Barkley earned Graham-George Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year awards, in addition to First Team All-Big Ten Football Team honors from both the coaches and media. 

Penn State head coach James Franklin also earned Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, selected by the conference media members, to mark his first Conference Coach of the Year award.

In total, nine Nittany Lions earned selections to one of the three coaches or media 2016 All-Big Ten Football teams, with an additional five earning honorable mention distinction.

As every Big Ten honoree has been quoted this week though, the honors and awards are wholeheartedly a reflection of a collective team effort. Among postseason all the awards and predictions though, the Nittany Lions have approached the week with the same consistency and dedication to the process as any other regular season game. 

"Our guys are excited and they're focused," Franklin said. "We're not going to treat it as anything different. We're not going to change how we go through our weekly game plan."

Led by second-year head coach and 2016 Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year Paul Chryst, the Badgers wrapped up their regular season with a 31-7 win against Minnesota last week. Wisconsin topped Iowa on the road 17-9 before defeating then-No.7 Nebraska 23-17 in overtime to kick off its recent string of six straight wins. 

Penn State and Wisconsin will meet for the 18th time in program history as the Badgers own a narrow 9-8 advantage in the all-time series. The Nittany Lions have won each of the last two meetings, defeating the Badgers 24-21 in overtime in 2012 and 31-24 on the road in 2013.

"What I would say about these guys is when you think in your mind, or at least when I think in my mind, of what a traditional Big Ten team is, that's who these guys are," Franklin said.

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Pregame Reading -

What To Watch For: Penn State
1. Just a quick scan of running back Saquon Barkley's certainly makes the case for his conference postseason honors. Averaging 130.25 all-purpose yards per game Barkley is tops in the Big Ten in the category, while also leading the league with 17 touchdowns on the year, including 15 rushing touchdown runs. Barkley isn't the only threat from the running back unit though, as Andre Robinson, Miles Sanders and Mark Allen have all showcased their talent this season, with Robison coming off of a two-touchdown outing against the Spartans highlighted by a career-long 40-yard touchdown catch.

2. Second Team All-Big Ten quarterback Trace McSorley has continued to impress as the leader of Penn State's high-scoring explosive offense. McSorley leads the nation in passing yards per completion, averaging 16.17 per game. He's both gutsy and effective with the deep ball, ranking within the top five for passes of 20, 30, or 40 or more yards, slotted as high as second nationally with 20 passes for 40-plus yards on the year. McSorley's arsenal includes a deep group of wide receivers, including veteran Chris Godwin who sparked a 35-0 run in the second half against Michigan State with a 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

3. Having battled through adversity and challenges with injuries, Penn State's defense has only continued to become more relentless throughout the season. Ranked fourth in the conference in total defense, the Nittany Lions have held their last two consecutive opponents without a touchdown. Defensive linemen Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan are atop the team standings with six sacks each this season. Combining for 7.5 sacks between the two of the them in the last four games, Schwan has registered at least a half of a sack in all four outings during the stretch.

What To Watch For: Wisconsin
1. Earlier this week, Franklin sighted the matchup between Penn State's wide receivers and the Wisconsin secondary as an interesting matchup. Not only have the Nittany Lions proven that they can come up with the big catch, but McSorley's deceptive mobility has kept defenses guessing. Come Saturday, the Badgers enter the matchup with a national-best 21 interceptions on the year. All-Big Ten Badger safety Leo Musso has picked off five passes this season, ranking second in the conference and 10th nationally in interceptions per game. Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to eight touchdown passes in 12 games this season. 

2. As an entire defensive unit, the Badgers have strength all around, as Franklin pointed out strength in the Wisconsin linebacking unit as well as the secondary. With the third-ranked scoring defense nationally in the FBS standings, Wisconsin has also limited its opponents to 100.8 rushing yards per game with the third-ranked rushing defense. First Team All-Big Ten linebacker T.J. Watt is atop the team standings with 13.0 tackles for loss. With a team-high 9.5 sacks on the year, Watt is averaging nearly a sack per game at 0.79, which ranks third in the conference and 20th nationally. 

3. On the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers are both strong and physical, as their ground game has surpassed the 200-yard mark in five of the last seven games. All-Big Ten running back Corey Clement is the focal point of the Badger rushing attack, as he's logged at least 100-yard performances in six of Wisconsin's last seven games, including each of the last four straight. As just the 17th Badger in program history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, Clement's 1,140 rushing yards ranks third in the conference, while his 103.6 rushing yards per game is second. 

The Final Word -
Saturday's matchup has all of the making of a true strength-on-strength matchup with both the Badgers and the Nittany Lions are among the Big Ten's best in a few opposing categories. Keying in on just a few of the intriguing storylines, in the East Division, Penn State has won its last eight straight, averaging 40.4 points per game during the winning streak. In the West Division, Wisconsin has limited its opponents to fewer than 14 points per game, picking off a total of 11 passes in the second half of a six-game winning streak. Either way, both teams will await the outcome of another postseason matchup with Bowl selections beginning as early as 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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