Big Ten Championship: Penn State 38, Wisconsin 31. What Does It All Mean?
Penn State roared back to beat Wisconsin 38-31 for the Big Ten championship. What does it all mean?
Penn State beat Ohio State, but …
It’s not getting into the College Football Playoff.
Penn State is the champion of the best conference in college football this season, and it beat Ohio State in the head-to-head matchup, but Ohio State will almost certainly get into the College Football Playoff on resume. That means Penn State will go to the Rose Bowl – almost certainly against USC. Maybe.
After the way the Nittany Lions came back to beat the Badgers like they did, there’s now an argument to be made for a spot in the CFP over Washington.
But they’re most likely going to Pasadena.
Now, Wisconsin – because it was a tight fight – will almost certainly go to the Cotton to face Western Michigan, while Michigan will likely go to the Orange to face Florida State.
THAT’S how you beat Wisconsin
The Badgers were always vulnerable against the deep ball. Michigan was able to pull off the win in Ann Arbor on a big late pass, and Purdue came up with a few deep balls, but the Wisconsin secondary usually made teams pay for trying – especially ones who could only dink and dunk.
Trace McSorley figured that out, bombing away to his big receivers for 384 yards and four scores, and the Wisconsin defense was helpless to stop it.
The Badger pass rush slowed down, McSorley got time, and he let his receivers take care of the rest. It was the perfect way to mount a massive comeback considering …
Wisconsin, you had a 28-7 lead. What more did you want?
For a while it looked like the Badgers were looking like they were ready to make a big push for the playoff with a dominant first half. Up 21 and with the nation’s leading ball control attack, it was all set up perfectly for a Bucky win.
And then came a missed field goal, and then came the Penn State late first half scoring drive to cut the lead to 14. As soon as the momentum swung to the Nittany Lions, it couldn’t be stopped.
However, Wisconsin still had a shot to be Wisconsin.
All it needed was one yards on a fourth-and-short to keep a possible game-tying drive deep in Penn State territory alive, and it couldn’t get it.
If you’re Wisconsin, and you can’t get one yard power running the ball, you don’t deserve to be the Big Ten champion. But …
Everything else worked fine for the Badger offense
If you had told Wisconsin before the game that it would hold the ball for close to 37 minutes, Bart Houston would hit 16-of-21 passes for 174 yards, Corey Clement would run for 164 yards and a score, the ground game would crank up 241 yards, and there wouldn’t be any turnovers, it would’ve thought it would’ve won easily. But the offense couldn’t close in the second half, and the defense wasn’t the Badger defense. Penn State had a wee bit to do with both of those things.
And you wanted to put James Franklin on the hot seat
No, winning a Big Ten championship doesn’t heal anything or make anything better. But doing this after the program was banned from going bowling just after Franklin took over, and coming up with the title in a division with juggernaut Ohio State and Michigan teams, is absolutely amazing. The offense is now more exciting than anyone thought it might ever be, the defense got stronger as the year went on, and now, this is a power program again. Considering what Franklin had to deal with after taking over, it’s been a phenomenal turnaround/rebuilding job.