Penn State Meets Wisconsin for Big Ten Title Saturday Night in Indy

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UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. – Big Ten East Division Champion Penn State will meet the champions of the West Division, Wisconsin, in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday night in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The telecast will begin at 8 p.m. on FOX.

(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Penn State tied with No. 2 Ohio State for the East Division title with an 8-1 conference record to earn its second shared division title since the Big Ten adopted the divisional format in 2011. The Nittany Lions’ head-to-head advantage over the Buckeyes earned them their first trip to the championship game, while Wisconsin won the West outright with a 7-2 league mark for its fourth championship game appearance in six years.

The game presents intriguing matchups in strengths. Penn State’s offense is averaging 40.4 points per game during its eight-game winning streak and has been held to less than 24 points just once this season, but Wisconsin’s defense ranks third in scoring defense in FBS, trailing only Alabama and Michigan, allowing just 13.7 points per game.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley has thrown just five interceptions this season and he leads the nation in passing yards per completion and the Big Ten in passing efficiency, but Wisconsin is tops in the nation with 21 interceptions and ranks fifth in FBS in passing efficiency defense. Additionally, Saquon Barkley ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yardage, but Wisconsin ranks third nationally and tops in the Big Ten in rushing defense, only yielding 100.8 yards per game.

Penn State is not without a formidable defensive unit though, as the Nittany Lions have not allowed a touchdown in their last two games. They also rank fourth in the Big Ten and 20th in FBS in total defense. The Lions will need to get the Badger offense off the field though, as it leads the nation in time of possession and is averaging 42.7 points in their last three games.

 

HEAD COACH PAUL CHRYST

  • Paul Chryst is in his second season as head coach at his alma mater. He is a former Wisconsin player and assistant coach and a Madison, Wisconsin, native.
  • In his first season, Chryst led Wisconsin to a 10-3 record and a victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl.
  • Chryst was the head coach at Pitt for three seasons (2012-14) and led the Panthers to bowl games in each.
  • Prior to his stint at Pitt, Chryst was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator for seven years. During those seven seasons, Wisconsin claimed a pair of Big Ten titles and compiled a 70-22 (.761) record, winning at least 10 games five times.
  • Chryst was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon State in 2003-04. That followed his first stint at Wisconsin in 2002, as tight ends coach.

SCOUTING THE BADGERS

  • Wisconsin is 10-2 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play. The Badgers won the Big Ten West Division outright to earn their fourth trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in the last six years.
  • Wisconsin boasts an elite defense that ranks third in FBS and second in the Big Ten in points allowed per game (13.7) and seventh in FBS and third in the Big Ten in total defense (292.0 yards per game).
  • The Badger defenders are particularly strong against the run, allowing just 100.8 ground yards per game to lead the Big Ten and rank third in FBS.
  • However, passing is also a risky proposition as Wisconsin leads the country with 21 interceptions.
  • Safety Leo Musso has four interceptions in the last three games to lead the Badgers with five on the year, which also ranks eighth in FBS and second in the Big Ten. Fellow safety D’Cota Dixon and cornerback Sojourn Shelton have four each, while cornerback Derrick Tindal has three.
  • Wisconsin is able to keep its defense rested as the offense leads the nation in time of possession, holding the ball for an average of 35:12 per game.
  • Running back Corey Clement is third in the Big Ten with 1,140 rushing yards on the season.
  • Wisconsin splits reps at quarterback between redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook and senior Bart Houston.

B1G EAST CHAMPIONS

  • Penn State is making its first appearance in the Big Ten Championship game, which is now in its sixth year.
  • Finishing at 8-1 in Big Ten play during the regular season, Penn State clinched a share of the Big Ten East Division title with Ohio State. It is the first divisional title for the Nittany Lions since sharing the Leaders Division crown with Wisconsin in 2011.
  • Penn State has now won three overall Big Ten regular season titles and two divisional crowns since joining the league in 1993.

BONUS FOOTBALL

  • Penn State’s Big Ten Championship game appearance means it is now slated to play in a program-record 14 games this season, as the Nittany Lions are also guaranteed a berth in a bowl game.
  • The Big Ten Championship game will mark the 14th time Penn State has played 13 games in a season.

FIRST TIME ON FOX

  • Penn State football will be televised on Fox for the first time in program history.
  • The last time a Penn State game was televised on a network other than the ESPN family of networks or BTN was Sept. 9, 2006, when the Nittany Lions played at Notre Dame on NBC.

NITTANY LIONS IN NFL VENUES

  • Penn State will be playing in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, for the first time.
  • It will be the 11th current NFL venue that Penn State has played in.
  • Penn State played in the Colts’ prior home, the RCA Dome, in 2000, as Indiana hosted the Nittany Lions in a neutral site regular season game. It was also the last time Penn State played in Indianapolis.
  • It will be the first retractable roof stadium that Penn State has played in.
  • If the roof is closed for the game, it will be the first time Penn State has played indoors since the 2000 Indiana game in the RCA Dome. The only other indoor games Penn State has played in are the 1975, 1979 and 1983 Sugar Bowls in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
  • Penn State’s first road game this season was played in Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 69,983 in attendance for the game at Pitt game in September marked the largest crowd ever at a city of Pittsburgh sporting event.
  • The Nittany Lions have also played in current homes of the Jacksonville Jaguars (EverBank Field), Miami Dolphins (Sun Life Stadium), New Orleans Saints (Mercedes-Benz Superdome), New York Giants/New York Jets (MetLife Stadium), San Diego Chargers (Qualcomm Stadium), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium) and Washington Redskins (FedEx Field).
  • The Lions have played 20 bowl games in 10 different venues that housed NFL teams at the time, posting a 12-8 record. The Lions have also played 41 regular season games in 15 different stadiums with permanent NFL tenants.

NITTANY LIONS IN DECEMBER

  • Penn State will be playing on Dec. 3 for the second time ever and for the first time since 1921. Following a 0-0 tie at Pitt the week prior, the Nittany Lions traveled to Seattle to play Washington on Dec. 3 to conclude the 1921 season. Penn State won, 21-7.
  • It will be the program’s 27th game played in December.
  • The previous 26 December games included 17 bowl games (16-9-1) and nine regular season games (5-4) for an all-time record of 16-9-1.
  • The Nittany Lions have won seven of their last nine December games.
  • The last game played by Penn State in December was the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl, a 31-30 overtime win over Boston College.
  • The last regular season game played in December by the Nittany Lions was the 2001 regular season finale at Virginia. The game had been postponed from Sept. 13.

PENN STATE-WISCONSIN CONNECTIONS

  • PSU sophomore running back Mark Allen and freshman DE Shane Simmons and Wisconsin running back Taiwan Deal played together at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
  • PSU freshman OL Alex Gellerstedt and Wisconsin freshman OLB Griffin Grady played together at Dublin Coffman High School in Ohio.
  • PSU redshirt freshman WR Juwan Johnson and Wisconsin senior RB Corey Clement both attended Glassboro High School in New Jersey.
  • PSU junior S Troy Apke played for Wisconsin special teams coach Chris Haering at Mt. Lebanon High School as a sophomore (2011). Haering was Mt. Lebanon’s head coach for 17 seasons before joining Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst’s staff at Pitt in 2012.
  • Wisconsin redshirt QB Alex Hornibrook is the younger brother of Penn State women’s swimming & diving senior captain Mackenzie Hornibrook.
  • PSU head coach James Franklin and Wisconsin outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar both coached at Kansas State during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Franklin was the offensive coordinator and Tibesar was the special teams coordinator in 2006 and the defensive coordinator in 2007.
  • PSU Athletics Director Sandy Barbour and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox were both on staff at California from 2004-05, serving as the AD and linebackers coach, respectively.

NITTANY LION FROM INDIANA

  • QB Tommy Stevens – Indianapolis/Decatur Central

NITTANY LION FROM WISCONSIN

  • DT Robert Windsor – Fond Du Lac/Fond Du Lac

WINNING AGAINST A TOUGH SLATE

  • The Nittany Lions’ 12 opponents have a combined record of 67-55, which ranks 30th in FBS.
  • Of the 10 teams Penn State has defeated, they have a combined 54 FBS wins, which ranks Penn State among the leaders in FBS. (Source Phil Steele)
  • Eight of Penn State’s 12 regular season opponents are bowl eligible: Pitt (8-4), Temple (9-3), Michigan (10-2), Minnesota (8-4), Maryland (6-6), Ohio State (11-1), Iowa (8-4) and Indiana (6-6).

McSORLEY EARNS WEEKLY AWARDS

  • QB Trace McSorley threw for four touchdowns and 376 yards, while completing 17-of-23 pass attempts in a division-clinching win over Michigan State.
  • Accordingly, he was named the Rose Bowl Game Big Ten Player of the Week and one of the Manning Stars of the Week.
  • McSorley’s 376 yards passing were a career high and rank as the fifth-highest single game passing yardage in the Penn State record books.

BELL TABBED WALTER CAMP NATIONAL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

  • Senior LB Brandon Bell was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after his Senior Day performance against Michigan State.
  • Bell is the eighth Penn State player since 2004 to earn Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors, all of which have been on the defensive side of the ball. Bell is the first Nittany Lion to be honored since Sept. 30, 2012 when linebacker Mike Mauti claimed the award.
  • Bell tied his career high with 18 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss, against the Spartans, equaling the mark he set against Ohio State earlier this season. He also had one pass breakup. He was the stalwart on a defense that shutout Michigan State in the second half, only allowing 87 yards in that frame.
  • The senior captain is one of three players in FBS to have multiple games with 18 or more tackles, joining New Mexico State’s Rodney Butler (3 times) and Kent State’s Nick Cuthbert (twice). Despite missing four and a half games, Bell ranks second on the team with 74 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.

HIGH SCORING

  • RB Saquon Barkley and K Tyler Davis both have scored more than 100 points this season (Barkley 102; Davis 113). It is the first time in school history that there have been two 100-point scorers in the same season.
  • During their eight-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have scored 323 points, an average of 40.4 points per game.
  • The Nittany Lions have scored 40 or more points in four games this year, the most in a season since the 2008 squad did it seven times.
  • Prior to scoring 39 points at Rutgers (Penn State had a botched snap on an extra point try), Penn State had posted 40 points or more in three consecutive outings (Purdue, Iowa, Indiana) for the first time since 2008 (Oregon State, Temple, Syracuse).
  • It was the first time in program history, the Nittany Lions had scored 40 or more points in three-straight Big Ten Conference games.
  • Penn State has scored 30 or more points in nine games this year, the most in a season since the 2008 squad also did it nine times.
  • The Nittany Lions have scored 232 points in their last five games, marking the highest four-game total since 2008 (249 – 66 vs. Coastal Carolina, 45 vs. Oregon State, 55 at Syracuse, 45 vs. Temple, 38 vs. Illinois).
  • The Nittany Lions have scored 232 points in their last five Big Ten games, marking the highest five-game total since 1994 (237 — 63 vs. Ohio State, 35 vs. Indiana, 35 at Illinois, 45 vs. Northwestern, 59 vs. Michigan State).
  • Penn State’s five 20-plus point wins are the most since the 2012 team had 5.
  • The 24 points scored in the fourth quarter at Indiana and the third quarter at Purdue are the most by a Penn State team since scoring 28 in the second quarter against UMass in 2014.
  • Penn State’s 62 points scored at Purdue are the most for the Nittany Lions in a Big Ten game since scoring 63 against Illinois 2005. It is the third-highest point total in a Big Ten game in program history.
  • The 62 points scored against the Boilers are the most by a Penn State team in any game since topping Coastal Carolina, 66-10, in the season opener in 2008.
  • Penn State’s 62 points set a record for an opponent at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium, surpassing the 56 Ohio State scored in 2013. It also tied the most points any Purdue team has allowed anywhere, matching Wisconsin’s output from 2011.
  • The Nittany Lions’ 45 points scored in the second half are the most by a Penn State team in a half since scoring 56 in the first frame against Illinois in 2005.
  • Penn State had 28 points off of turnovers against Purdue. Entering the day, the Nittany Lions had 20 points off of turnovers for the season. It was the most points scored off turnovers for Penn State since scoring 34 points off of five Temple turnovers in 2014.
  • The 39 points scored by Penn State against Pitt were the most in a loss in program history. The previous mark was 35 against Iowa in a 2002 overtime game.

OFFENSIVE LINE SHUFFLE

  • Penn State used two different starting line combinations in its first six games of the season, but has used four combinations over the last six due to injuries, including a different combination in each of the last four weeks.
  • Penn State returned 91 career starts along the o-line to enter the season, ranking the unit as the 17th most experienced in FBS, and the second-most experienced in the Big Ten (Michigan, 115).
  • C Brian Gaia leads the unit and the team for most career starts on the Nittany Lions at 37.
  • However, Penn State has lost two OTs for the season, and Brendan Mahon has missed the last four games.
  • Junior starter Andrew Nelson suffered a season-ending injury against Maryland.
  • Senior Paris Palmer, who was starting in place of Nelson, suffered a season-ending injury at Indiana.
  • Sophomore Chance Sorrell announced the end to his playing days due to recurring injuries.
  • Redshirt freshman Ryan Bates has moved from guard to left tackle and sophomore Chasz Wright is now starting at right tackle.

McSORLEY CONNECTING

  • Sophomore QB Trace McSorley is the fourth Penn State quarterback to lead his team to 10 wins in his first year as the starting quarterback, joining Daryll Clark in 2008 (11), Tom Shuman in 1973 (12-0) and Chuck Burkhart in 1968 (11-0).
  • McSorley has thrown for 200 or more yards in nine of his 12 career starts.
  • McSorley is third in the Big Ten in passing yards with 2,976 in his first season as the starting quarterback.
  • McSorley leads the nation in passing yards per completion, averaging 16.2 ypc.
  • McSorley ranks in the top five nationally for passes of 20-, 30- or 40-or-more yards.
  • McSorley leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency (150.9).
  • McSorley’s third quarter touchdown pass against Michigan State gives him a touchdown pass in 13 consecutive games, dating back to the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. The 12 consecutive games with a touchdown passes in a single season ties McSorley with Matt McGloin, who also had 12 straight games in the 2012 season with a touchdown pass.
  • Penn State ranks first in the Big Ten and sixth in FBS with just five passes intercepted all season.
  • McSorley set a career mark with four touchdown passes against Michigan State. He had three TD passes earlier this season at Purdue. The last Penn State QB to throw four touchdown passes was Christian Hackenberg in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl.
  • Penn State was one of 10 teams that did not have an FBS start at quarterback on its roster entering the season. The other teams were Arizona State, Arkansas, North Carolina, NC State, Rice, USC, Utah, UMass and Big Ten foe Wisconsin.

McSORLEY IN THE RECORD BOOKS

  • Against Michigan State, QB Trace McSorley completed 17-of-23 passing attempts for a career-high 376 yards and four touchdowns, and also rushed for 13 yards, moving him up multiple Penn State statistical charts.
  • McSorley had his ninth 200-yard passing game of the season, moving him into a tie with Christian Hackenberg (2013) for third place.
  • McSorley is fourth in the Penn State season passing charts with 2,976 yards, moving up three positions after Michigan State.
  • McSorley ranks 11th on Penn State’s season pass completions list with 184. He is 10th in season pass attempts with 327.
  • McSorley had 389 yards of total offense against Michigan State, giving him 3,348 this season, which is the Penn State single season record. The previous best mark was 3,215 yards by Matt McGloin (minus-51 yards rushing, 3,266 yards passing) in 2012.
  • McSorley had a career-best 376 yards passing against Michigan State. His previous high was 335 vs. Minnesota earlier this season. It is the fifth-highest single game passing yardage figure in the Penn State record books.
  • Against Michigan State, McSorley had his fourth 300-yard passing game of his career, tying him for the school record with four in one season. Matt McGloin (2012) and Christian Hackenberg (2013 and 2014) are the other three instances.
  • McSorley had one of the most productive games by a Nittany Lion ever against Minnesota. He accounted for 408 yards of total offense — 335 passing and 74 rushing — to mark the third-highest total in school history. It was the most yards of total offense since Christian Hackenberg posted a school-record 454 yards against UCF in the 2014 Croke Park Classic vs. UCF. McSorley also had his longest career completion, an 80-yard touchdown to Irvin Charles.
  • McSorley is the 12th quarterback in Penn State history to register a 300-yard passing game, and just the fifth to record to have multiple 300-yard pass games, joining Christian Hackenberg, Matt McGloin, Kerry Collins and Daryll Clark.

SECODN HALF SUCCESS

  • The Nittany Lion offense ranks second in FBS in second half scoring (22.83) and first in fourth quarter scoring (13.00).
  • Penn State is fourth in FBS in second half scoring differential (+12.33) and first in fourth quarter scoring differential (+8.42).
  • Courtesy of SportSource Analytics
  • Penn State has outscored its opponents 118-47 in the third quarter this season and 274-102 in the second half this season.
  • Over the last six games, Penn State has outscored opponents, 175-40, after the halftime break.
  • Just 105 of the 273 points allowed by Penn State have been after halftime.
  • Six of Penn State’s 10 wins this season were one possession games at halftime with the Nittany Lions trailing on three occasions.
  • Most recently against Michigan State, Penn State trailed 12-10 at the half, but shutout the Spartans 35-0 in the second to win 45-12.
  • At Rutgers, Penn State held a 9-0 lead at halftime, but then added 30 points in the second half for a 39-0 victory.
  • The PSU defense allowed multiple scores in the third quarter for the first time all season at Indiana (TD, FG), however Penn State rallied from 10 points down late in the third and outscored the Hoosiers, 31-7, over the remainder of the game for a 45-31 win.
  • Penn State has shut out four teams in the second half: Kent State, Maryland, Rutgers (entire game) and Michigan State.

OFFENSE COVERING GROUND

  • The Nittany Lions have nine games with 400 or more yards of total offense, the most since the 2008 team had 10 games with 400+ yards.
  • Penn State has surpassed 400 yards of offense in its last five games.
  • Penn State has had four games with 500 or more yards of total offense, the most in a season since the 2009 team had four games with 500+ yards. Penn State totaled 549 yards at Rutgers.
  • PSU did not have a single three-and-out against Iowa, a feat not accomplished since 2015 against Purdue.
  • Penn State had 599 yards of total offense against Iowa, the most since recording 661 yards at Rutgers in 1995. The 599 is also the highest total offense output by Penn State vs. a Big Ten team since 653 yards against Michigan State in 1994.
  • The Nittany Lions’ 599 yards of total offense are the third-most by a Penn State team in a Big Ten game.
  • The Nittany Lions had more than 500 yards of total offense in back-to-back games for the first time since surpassing 500 yards against Illinois and Eastern Illinois in 2009.
  • Penn State’s 359 yards rushing were the most since rushing for 372 earlier this season against Maryland and the most allowed by the Hawkeyes since 2000.
  • Penn State had 511 yards of total offense at Purdue.
  • At the time, Penn State’s 524 yards of total offense against Maryland were the most since posting 574 against Eastern Michigan in 2013 and the most in a Big Ten game since having 546 yards against Indiana in 2012. It was the first game with 500 or more yards since the 2014 season opener vs. UCF (511).

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