WWN PENN STATE PREGAME # 7

VS.

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. #19 Wisconsin Badgers

LAST WEEK

Penn State bounced back and beat Iowa 27-7. The ground attack was much improved and Anthony Morelli even looked good for a couple of quarters before throwing 2 INTs.

HOMECOMING

It is Homecoming, but sadly a family event will prevent me from attending. For those of you going, the theme is sorority girls get new windbreakers Reflecting the Spirit.


This would have been really embarrassing if Joe Paterno had been charged with road rage.

Erica and I wish we were going to be there for all the festivities. I’ll miss marching in the parade with our alumni chapter, enjoying the post-parade happy hour, the halftime festivities with the alumni and current bands, the tailgating and of course, the game. Have twice as much fun on our behalf!

Don’t forget, I posted an interview with Blue Sapphire P.J. Maierhofer this week.

THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT: WISCONSIN

Wisconsin lost last week to Illinois (feel any better?) costing them a top 10 ranking they really didn’t deserve.

For the third consecutive season, D.C. blogger and Madison, Wisc. native, dl004d has provided a preview of the upcoming game:

Everyone knew Wisconsin was overrated at #5 last week. After losing to Illinois, perhaps the team can go about its business instead of constantly having to defend its high ranking. As I see it, Penn State and Wisconsin are evenly matched. Both, when playing at their best, are very good teams. But neither has played at its best for full games. I think Wisconsin can pull this one out, but it may just be wishful thinking. Wisconsin 22, PSU 19.

Wisconsin QB Tyler Donovan is coming off his worst game, throwing two terrible interceptions in back-to-back passes against Illinois. He does not have a strong arm, but he moves around pretty well. This is a big drop off from last year, when John Stocco was one of the strengths of the team. Wisconsin’s defense hasn’t caused many turnovers this year, so Morelli may catch a break.

Okay, here we go:

STRENGTHS

Tight end
TE Travis Beckum is Wisconsin’s biggest offensive star. He has caught 21 passes the last two weeks combined. Given Wisconsin’s WR woes, look for him to line up a few times as WR. For the same reason, the Badgers will employ many three-TE sets. If Penn State prevents Beckum from being a big part of the game, Wisconsin could be in trouble.

Offensive line
Losing left tackle Joe Thomas to the Cleveland Browns (he was the 5th overall pick in the 1st round of the NFL draft) was tough, but freshman Gabe Carimi has filled in surprisingly well.

Secondary
Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu is Wisconsin’s best player on the defensive side of the ball. He admittedly hasn’t done much this year, but he was a shut-down corner last year and most expect he’ll be a first-day NFL draft pick. As a result of Ikegwuonu’s reputation, most QBs have opted to pick on Allen Langford, the other starting CB. If Penn State does that, they ought to have good success on the short passes. Wisconsin does defend the deep ball pretty well. Ikegwuonu, by the way, was arrested for allegedly breaking into a house in Illinois last December and stealing an Xbox, but the trial isn’t until January 2008.

Kicking game
Punting, kickoffs, field goals… Wisconsin excels at these things.

WEAKNESSES

Wide receiver
The offense started the season strong. But its two senior WRs (Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan) are both injured and will not play against Penn State. Instead, the team will plug in two true freshmen: Kyle Jefferson and David Gilreath. Jefferson is going to be a solid receiver for the Badgers, but he’s not there yet. Gilreath is the team’s punt/kick returner, but he has caught just one career pass as a WR and this will be his very first game as a starter. When the Badgers need three or more WRs on the field at the same time, they’ll bring in Marcus Randle El (Antwaan’s little brother) and Xavier Harris.

Running back
There, I said it. The solid-but-unspectacular P.J. Hill will get 95% of the carries. He isn’t fast enough to get to the corner, so he is most effective between the tackles. He has racked up yards, mostly against inferior opponents, and the announcers love him. Most Wisconsin fans are less enthusiastic, though. Lance Smith, who many believe is Wisconsin’s best RB, has been suspended from the team’s road games due to a domestic incident that hasn’t yet gone to court. Smith is allowed to play only in the team’s home games, and as you can see, he’s been quite effective when he’s gotten carries — 29 carries, 228 yards = 7.9 yards/carry. As a result of Smith not being eligible, Hill’s backup will be true freshman Zack Brown.

Linebacker
I really like Jonathan Casillas. But the truth is that the LB corps has been a huge disappointment this year. They’re fast, but they can’t tackle anyone. The team speed on the defense is actually quite good, but that seems to have caused them to sacrifice on toughness.

Kickoff returns
Blech — I can’t even remember the last time Wisconsin returned a kick-off past the 25.

Thanks, dl004d. May the Badgers lose with honor 😉 Incidentally, dl004d and I have a friendly wager on the game. He is putting up a block of cheese in the shape of a cow, while I am putting a box of stickies on the line. He enjoyed winning stickies last year.

RANKING

Still in the “others receiving votes” part of the poll. A victory tomorrow probably earns a spot in the top 25.

PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

Here is the official Intercollegiate Athletics transcript of Tuesday’s Joe Paterno press conference.

INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS GAME NOTES

In PDF form.

TELEVISION

The game is on ABC or ESPN at 3:30 p.m. — more details. ESPN at 6 p.m.

PREDICTIONS

This is a really tough one because the two teams are evenly matched. It would be very easy for me to go with the visitors because Penn State has such an inconsistent quarterback in Morelli. However, I have decided to go with the Nittany Lions in a tight ballgame, 19-17. Evan Royster and Beaver Stadium make the difference.


GO STATE, BEAT BADGERS!

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