Nittany Lion's Den took off last week after hitting the snooze alarm on the Blue White Round Table alarm a few too many times, but we're back for the regular season finale. Adam Collyer of Black Shoe Diaries once again serves up some questions for discussion as Penn State prepares to take on Wisconsin for the right to play in the first annual Big Ten championship game.
1. The Penn State offense has struggled week in and week out throughout the course of the season. The implementation of the wildcat formation by interim Head Coach Tom Bradley appeared to signal a shift in offensive philosophy from the rest of the year. What did you think?
Love it. During one of the post game interviews I heard Jay Paterno say it is something they had been working on for a while but due to injuries they were just unable to get it on the field. I'll buy that partially but I give all kinds of credit to Tom Bradley and the rest of the staff for making the decision to use it now. It has taken defenses by surprise and gives defensive coordinators something to actually worry about now that Penn State does not appear to be a typical run-run-pass offense that Joe Paterno had been running for years (decades).
As long as they have the personnel, and use it in modest proportions, I expect them to go throw it in the mix for the remainder of the season, whether it be one, two or three more games.
2. In his Tuesday press conference, Coach Bradley indicated that the team is working on some new offensive wrinkles for this weekend's game against the Badgers. What do you expect those wrinkles to be? How effective will they be?
My first instinct when I heard him say that was it was typical coach speak, but I buy it and am wondering what exactly they have in mind. Will we see a flea-flicker? Perhaps two quarterbacks on the field at the same time (Bolden to McGloin for a touchdown?)? How about a halfback pass?
Obviously Penn State cannot afford to get too creative against Wisconsin, but at the same time they cannot afford to hold anything back on the road, in a tough environment and with so much riding on the outcome.
3. Did you notice any differences between the defensive game called by Bradley and the defensive game called by Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden? Should expect anything different?
The one thing I thought I picked up on was the reduced role of Devon Still, but then we learned Still had flu-like symptoms for the game and it made sense. I honestly did not pick up on too much different from the basic defensive game plan and philosophy we are accustomed to seeing, although it did look like they brought a little more pressure this game compared to last game against Nebraska. I believe that is because Ohio State had a freshman quarterback who was not used to being pressured this way. Think Terrelle Pryor and his freshman season.
4. Wisconsin's offense has been very impressive. How do you contain Montee Ball and Russell Wilson?
When it comes to stopping a running back it's always the same answer. You have to stop him at the line because if you don't then he will pick up some extra yardage and really drain the defense. That means having your front seven lock in on the back at all times, but of course that causes another problem with Russell Wilson. Wilson could take advantage over the middle if Penn State's linebackers are worried about Ball.
Penn State is going to need to bring the pressure and penetrate the offensive line no matter who they are trying to stop. Against Wisconsin's offensive line, that is much easier said than done.
Ball and Wilson will make some big plays and pick up some crucial first downs. The key will be for the defense to not get rattled and realize that a couple first downs are fine if they can keep Wisconsin out of the end zone.
I think Penn State's defense once again keeps the game close and will put the offense in position to win in the fourth quarter. But if the game is on the line who am I going to put more faith in this weekend? Matt McGloin or Russell Wilson? Who do I count on to pick up a yard on 3rd and 1 or even 4th and 1 more. Silas Redd or Montee Ball? We have seen a couple of short-yardage situations where Penn Stte came up small against Nebraska and Ohio State.
Penn State winning would be a great story, but I have to go with the home team this weekend to finish the job set at the beginning of the season by being named Big Ten favorites.
Wisconsin 17, Penn State 13