Five Things To Watch For: Big 10 Championship

  1. Another Road Game

The Nittany Lions have lost one game at Beaver Stadium in the last two years. On the road? They’ve struggled. Head Coach James Franklin said this week that he is treating this like a road game,

“We really kind of are looking at this, although we’re the home team, we’re looking at it as an away game. I think our guys are a little bit surprised at that. Some of them look at it as a bowl game.”

 

The Nittany Lions will have to show that they can beat a quality team on the road. So far (written on Saturday morning) there seem to be many more Nittany Lions fans in the area than Badgers fans. Having any sort of home field advantage will be huge for the Nittany Lions. Don’t forget, this team plays much better with the lights on.

 

  1. We’ve Seen This Before

“If I were to compare Wisconsin to any other team, I think it would be Michigan State actually. They like using a tight end with a wing off, do a lot of trades and shifts.

 

I’m happy that we got to play Michigan State this week because it’s going to prepare us for the game that we have this week. Like I said before, having their big offensive line, we’re just going to have to come out and play a hard, physical game, try and make them one-dimensional.”

 

That was senior defensive end Evan Schwan from earlier this week but really, it could have been about almost any Big 10 team that Penn State has faced this year. The game plan for this week is the same, the colors on the opposing uniform are just different.

 

  1. Beware of #53

Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards for Wisconsin is a wrecking ball of a human being. The 6’1” 244 pound sophomore blossomed into a well-rounded player after taking over early in the season due to injury. He’s a tough run stuffer who doesn’t give up ground, even versus bigger linemen. Despite his size, he’s also very comfortable in space and makes plays on the ball.

The front seven in general for Wisconsin is stout. Their defensive line plays with discipline and good fundamentals, even if they’re undersized at spots along their front three. The outside linebackers are also very talented and do a great job setting the edge. However at times they can be over-aggressive trying to stop the running back on read options. This could open up big lanes for Trace McSorley if the Badgers over-commit on running back Saqon Barkley.

  1. Man in the Middle

Brian Gaia has a tough task ahead of him. He’s an undersized center at a light 295 pounds. At times today he’ll be facing 6’2” 340 pound Olive Sagapolu. While Sagapolu isn’t the starter, and he is playing with a club on his hand, he’s still a mammoth of a human who plays with quickness and power. If he plays up to his potential, Gaia will have more than he can handle on Saturday.

When Sagapolu isn’t on the field, Connor Sheehy mans the middle for Wisconsin. He’s a much lighter, quicker athlete. He’s been pushed around by double teams. Teams can make yards up the middle in this situation if they have the guards to move people around. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they’ve got some great players in Steven Gonzalez and Connor McGovern.

  1. What You’re All Thinking About

What everyone really wants to know is if Penn State to get into the College Football Playoff. This week unfortunately, the likelihood of Penn State making the tournament are slim. However, there is only one team that could sneak in from the Big 10 Championship game…and it’s the Nittany Lions.

Even though margin of victory is not supposed to count in the selection committee’s decisions, let’s be realistic.

It does.

So for a Big 10 Champion to leap frog the Pac 12 Champion, the winning team would have to put on a show in Indianapolis on Saturday. Wisconsin simply doesn’t have the weapons to score enough points in this game. Both defenses are tough, physical and shut down the run. But Penn State has the most balanced offense in the Big 10, led by the best quarterback in the big 10. If you try and shut down Saquon Barkley on the ground, Trace McSorley can throw the ball to one of five quality targets on the outside.

So for the Nittany Lions to have a shot at the College Football Playoffs, McSorley has to have a game like he did vs Michgian State last weekend where he threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns.