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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
James White

Football: Badgers take on Penn State in final matchup of the regular season

Winter is coming fast in Wisconsin, as is the end of college football's regular season. 

In the final matchup of the year, Wisconsin (6-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) faces a depleted Penn State (3-2, 6-5) team, coming in as 24-point favorites.

Things to watch for:

Missing Lions

Penn State is crossing their fingers for the return of a few key players, including tailback Zach Zwinak and cornerback Adrian Amos.

Head coach Bill O'Brien has a history of not discussing injuries, leading to speculation over who will see the field come Saturday.

Zwinak is on the cusp of his second-straight 1,000-yard season with 874 yards thus far. His physical running style is finally catching up to him, and he suffered both a wrist and shoulder injury against Nebraska earlier this season. 

After switching from safety to cornerback Amos has put together a solid season, recording 47 tackles and one interception. 

Also of note is running back Bill Belton, who missed last week's game with strep throat and a bum shoulder. If both backs are still out come kickoff, PSU's offense is going to take a huge hit and look much more one-dimensional.

Wisconsin's senior leadership

There are 23 seniors on Wisconsin's roster, including some of the best players in the Big Ten—James White, Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland, Dezmen Southward, Beau Allen and Jacob Pedersen. 

Added together, the seniors have gained 2,953 yards of offense and recorded 182 tackles, and these numbers can only grow in the class' last game at historic Camp Randall Stadium. 

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It will be interesting to see who steps up to replace this years' senior class next year, but for one more agonizingly short game, watch for these young men to play with a little extra heart as they try to soak it in one last time.

Weather Woes

It's no secret: Wisconsin, at the end of November, is cold. As much as the coaches and players will deny it, this changes the way the game is played.

Hits add up over the course of a game, cold hands drop balls and thin air means more players get out of breath.

Wisconsin's taxing ground-and-pound style was born in this environment, and suits the Badgers well going against the Nittany Lions, who rank near the middle in every major defensive category.

Conclusions

Penn State has the opportunity to be two different teams, and whether or not its running backs return from injury will make a huge difference in how effective its offense can be.

Wisconsin will be inspired as it says goodbye to a powerhouse senior class, and its offense won't lose a beat no matter what the conditions dictate. 

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