The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 29, 2013

Badgers seek BCS boost, Lions aim for seventh win

MADISON, Wis. — In college football, endings have a way of serving as springboards for the future.

Some teams, such as Penn State, will have to wait another nine months before playing again after the regular season finale today at No. 14 Wisconsin.

But it sure would give the Nittany Lions (6-5, 3-4 Big Ten) some positive offseason vibes if they can trip up the Badgers (9-2, 6-1) and their hopes of an at-large berth into a big-money Bowl Championship Series game.

“And there’s only one game left, so ... Our guys will be ready to go out there and lay it on the line, I know that,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said.

NCAA sanctions have the Nittany Lions shut out of the postseason again.

But Wisconsin can sniff another Bowl Championship Series game, sitting just one spot from the top-14 berth in the BCS standings needed to qualify for an at-large spot.

Around Madison, BCS chatter is commonplace in November.

The Badgers have been to three straight Rose Bowls, though their hopes of playing for another Big Ten title were dashed this year with a loss to Ohio State.

The Badgers could finish the regular season with two more wins than last year’s 8-6 squad, but find themselves out of the BCS.

Coach Gary Andersen didn’t plan to address postseason scenarios with his team as part of preparation this week.

“But if they’re given that opportunity and they’re deemed to be in that position,” Andersen said.

“The best thing I say about that is if they can find a way to win this game against Penn State, do I think that they deserve that opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game? Absolutely, yes.”

Five things to know ahead of the final “Jump Around” of the season at Camp Randall Stadium:

Senior sendoff: It’s going to be hard for future Wisconsin classes to match the success this year’s crop of 26 seniors had in their careers.

Enduring a coaching change from Bret Bielema to Andersen, the Badgers didn’t miss a beat.

A strong crop of senior leaders led by top linebacker Chris Borland helped smooth the transition.

They’ll be honored before the game today.

“If you buy into the top, I’m sure the young guys would follow, and I think that is what’s happened here,” Borland said.

Here’s to you: Allen Robinson, Penn State’s elite receiver, keeps frustrating secondaries week after week.

The junior has been the Big Ten’s top wideout two seasons running, and there may not be much left for him to prove on the collegiate level.

If today is his last game for Penn State, Robinson needs 10 catches to tie Deon Butler’s school career record of 179 receptions (2005-2008).

“A guy that good, you just don’t play him physical the whole game because that’s not going to work,” senior safety Dezmen Southward said. “You have to be constantly showing him different looks.”

Downtown Abby: Wisconsin has a pretty good receiver, too, in senior Jared Abbrederis, whose contributions can be overshadowed by the Badgers’ powerful running game.

Abbrederis has excelled in connecting with quarterback Joel Stave for big gains on play-action passes.

Don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin take more than a few shots downfield with Abbrederis after establishing its powerful rushing attack.

Abbrederis is second on the school career list behind Lee Evans in yards receiving (2,975) and touchdown catches (23).

Hack attack: The future is bright at quarterback for Penn State with Christian Hackenberg, who has already compiled the best season in school history for a freshman signal-caller.

Hackenberg – a true freshman – has completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,616 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“When you look at being 18 years old and coming in here and playing pretty much every snap of every game, I think he’s gotten better and better” at being a game manager, O’Brien said.

Rush men: Wisconsin seems to throw in a new wrinkle each week, but the offensive philosophy remains the same: The Badgers plan to run the ball.

Try and stop it.

With Melvin Gordon (1,375 yards, 12 TDs) and James White (1,281 yards, 13 TDs) leading the way, Wisconsin just needs 34 yards to break the school team record of 3,309 set last season – in 14 games.

 

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