Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Statistically Speaking: Monte Ball Edition

What IS behind curtain number 3?

The NCAA rankings don't favor Penn State well this week in the match-up with Wisconsin.

NCAA Stats Comparison
Category:Penn St.WisconsinDelta
Passing Offense9557-38
Total Offense8912-77
Scoring Offense1065-101
Rushing Defense344410
Turnovers Gained146147
Passes Had Intercepted362-34
Pass Defense63-3
Net Punting9270-22
Punt Returns805-75
Kickoff Returns269165
Turnover Margin237-16
Fumbles Recovered2710881
Passes Intercepted14195
Fumbles Lost701-69
Turnovers Lost492-47
Passing Efficiency1102-108
Pass Efficiency Defense4106
Total Defense86-2
Scoring Defense363
Fewest Penalties Per Game203212
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game23252
Punt Return Yardage Defense6155-6
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense668014
Offense Third-down Efficiency923-89
Offense Fourth-down Efficiency1710-7
Defense Third-down Efficiency4139-2
Defense Fourth-down Efficiency356934
Tackles for Loss22297
Offense Tackles for Loss51611
Pass Sacks254217
Pass Sacks Allowed214726
Time of Possession4027-13
First Downs8322-61
First Downs Allowed124-8
Red Zone Efficiency863-83
Red Zone Efficiency - Defense11569-46
Average NCAA Rank:45.8129.54-16.27
Weighted Avg. Rank:51.2519.33-31.92

The Badgers are better than Penn State in almost every category.  Wisconsin's 29.54 average NCAA rank is good for FOURTH in the nation, behind LSU, Alabama and Stanford in that order.  In case you are wondering, PSU's 45.81 is ranked 20th in the Nation.

Even in the categories where PSU has an "edge", that edge is thin.  Kickoff returns and fumbles recovered is where it is at.  We need to recover fumbles and run back kicks to win this game.

Penn State is a 15 point underdog.

Well, throw out those stats.  Stifle Edith.  Come on Eileen.  Good Night Irene.

This game is going to come down to the team that wants it the most.  Penn State has overcome incredible tragedy and odds to even be in this position.  Yeah, they've won a lot of close ugly games against less than marquee opponents.  In fact, the two marquee opponents to date--Nebraska and Alabama--beat us.

But Ohio State beat the Badgers (in Ohio Stadium.)  And in case you forgot, Penn State beat those same Buckeyes (actually a better Buckeye team because they had Posey back) last Saturday in Ohio Stadium.  Michigan State needed a Hail Mary pass to beat the Badgers, but again, that was not in Madison.  The guys with a W on their helmet are averaging about 52 points per home game.

Make no mistake about it.  Penn State will be lucky if they are still in this game going into the fourth quarter.  But if they are still in the game--watch out.  This team is on a mission, and that mission is not to lose.

In my preseason assessment, I ranked this game as the second most difficult game to win behind the Alabama game.  It still is.  Here's what I said:
After I put this list together, I found out that Jon Budmayr, who was supposed to start for the Badgers at Quarterback, has been injured. NC State transfer Russell Wilson is going to be thrust into the job early on, according to the ESPN Big 10 Blog. Of course, he may be back by the last game of the season, but who knows if he can win his job back (ala Bolden last year) or if he will mentally and physically be able to manage the team.

Had I known this, I might have dropped the Badgers down to 4th. But maybe not. Does it really matter who is the quarterback? They are going to line up a herd of cattle across the field and pound the ball at you come hell or high water. They have depth at running back--Montee Ball (are you kidding me!), James White and Zach Brown. Despite losing two all-Americans on the line, the Badgers are expected to reload. That's what they do. Big. Offensive. Linemen.

Prediction: We lose. We might win, but I just don't have the confidence (stupidity) that I used to have. I think a lot will come down to how banged up these teams are after the Big Ten season. It should be an interesting finale, and hopefully will have some championship implications.
Well, well, well.  I wasn't far off.  But who knew a reject from NC State would end up being a star QB for the Badgers?  And while I'm not sure there's enough Kool Aid to really make me think we can or will win this game, I just can't shake the feeling that this team, these players, these coaches--won't find some way to pull this out and head to Indy for the Big Ten Championship.

And perhaps the stars are aligning.  Apparently, the starting center for Wisconsin is out due to an injury.
The Badgers are known for their outstanding offensive lines, but they are dealing with a key injury as center Peter Konz is out with a bad ankle. That has led to some shuffling on the line, which could be a break for Penn State's defensive front.
Tom Bradley has gone on record saying he wants the PSU head coaching job.  This is a big test, but if he brings home a win--and perhaps a Big Ten Title--can the Board of Trustees really look past him?


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