Penn State's game against Wisconsin today is more than just a clash for the Big Ten Leaders Division title. If the Nittany Lions can upset the Badgers and take home the Leaders Division crown, they can provide the first band-aid to the multiple cuts and scrapes that have been applied to the Penn State reputation.
Nay-sayers might believe that football should be the last priority on Penn State's list of things they need to take care of, but I think a win is just what the Doctor ordered.
As the Jerry Sandusky story continues to unfold, the Nittany Lions are doing their best to move forward. Moving forward is exactly the mentality the football team needs to have in order to give Penn State faithful a break from the chaos created from Sandusky. The Nittany Lions have an opportunity to shed positive light on the shadow that has been cast over State College. One thing is for sure, it's not going to come easy.
Many fans and media personnel like myself never thought at the beginning of the season that the Nittany Lions would be in position to win the Leaders Division. Who could blame us? Penn State's showings against Temple and Indiana were enough to think that once the Lions got into tougher conference play against such teams like Iowa and Illinois that their true colors would be revealed.
That's exactly what ended up happening, and the colors turned out to be what all Penn Staters have come to love and honor over the years. Those colors were blue and white, representing how Penn State has always typically won football games and this season more than ever has reflected the old style of Penn State football. Play great defense and manage the game on offense and by game's end the Nittany Lions should always be in the ball game. A style that I don't necessarily agree with, but the team is 9-2 and could possibly reach a BCS bowl game with a win today and another win in the Big Ten Championship game.
A style that I do agree with however is the offensive scheme the PSU coaching staff used against the Buckeyes. The real question is where was this creativity all season long? For those of you who missed last week's game against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions implemented a new rushing attack in form of the "wildcat". Wide receivers Bill Belton (Fr.) and Curtis Drake (So.) took snaps for the Nittany Lions and were effective in moving the football. The use of the Belton and Drake mirror how former Penn State wideouts Derrick Williams, Deion Butler, and Jordan Norwood were used in Penn State's Spread HD attack in 2005.
The Spread HD offense was centered around using the athleticism and skill set -which happened to be speed- to their advantage by mixing in reverses, end arounds, and wildcat formations. Obviously, the offense seemed to bring success to the team being that Penn State made a trip to the Rose Bowl that year. The Nittany Lions seem to possess the same quality of athletes and it showed last week against Ohio State.
Creativity seemed to escape the PSU staff once again when Penn State couldn't punch it in from the one-yard line. Two fullback dives, a quarterback sneak, and a half-back dive later the ball was turned back over to Ohio State. This was after the Nittany Lions had success spreading the defense out and running the ball with the wildcat formation. Neither I or the Nittany Lion faithful can figure out the thought process of the coaching staff and their reasons for not using those type of formations when they were on the goal line. It honestly just didn't make sense.
Week 12 of the season matches up the Nittany Lions with the Wisconsin Badgers (3:30 p.m. ESPN). The Badgers are probably the best offense Penn State will face this season and have a ton of weapons that will be looking to dismiss any Penn State hopes for a Big Ten title appereance.
Highly touted quarterback Russel Wilson is having a heisman type season passing for over 2,500 yards and tossing 26 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball has also been racking up the yards rushing for close to 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns. Running back James White is also a threat to the Nittany Lions rushing for 600 yards and seven scores on the year. Wideout Nick Toon is also a game-changer for the Badgers catching 47 balls for 746 yards and eight touchdowns.
It's no doubt the defense has their work cut out for them and the Wisconsin offense at home has blown people out this season. The defense has shown week in and week out that they will welcome any challenge from an opposing offense.
That leaves the Penn State offense. The Badgers only give up 15.9 points per game, so scoring won't come easy this afternoon. There is no doubt that Jay Paterno and Galen Hall have to mix up the playing calling like they did against Ohio State or the game will get ugly in favor of the Badgers. Penn State can not run the ball on first and second down and expect McGloin to convert on third and long situations. They have to spread the Badgers out, take some shots down field, and use the athletes they have at their disposal.
It's interesting to see how the Nittany Lions will handle the game against Wisconsin. The atmosphere is going to be very electric to say the least and like I mentioned, this is more than just a football game to this university. A win keeps hope alive in Happy Valley, and a loss puts an uneeded damper on an already awful situation.