The Big Ten Championship Game is set to take place this Saturday, December 6 from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, and will feature the Wisconsin Badgers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions — two teams that not many college football experts predicted would be here. Nevertheless, the Badgers and Nittany Lions, both coming off of spectacular seasons, are looking forward to playing for not only a Big Ten title but a possibility of making the playoffs.
Wisconsin captured the West title in the Big Ten, and Penn State claimed the championship in the East. Both teams enter the Big Ten championship with 10-2 records, however, the Nittany Lions may have a slight ax to grind if they win Saturday night and miss out on the college football playoffs.
Penn State was the only team to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes this season. OSU is currently ranked No. 2 in the country, while the Nittany Lions are No. 7 in the CFP poll and No. 8 in the AP Top 25.
Let’s play devil’s advocate here for a moment. If PSU wins, and say No. 3 Clemson or No. 4 Washington happen to lose in each of their respective championship games, could (and should) the Nittany Lions be a top four ranked team and make the college football playoffs?
How about the Badgers? They are currently No. 6 in the playoff rankings. If they win and one or two of the playoff teams lose this weekend, what are their odds of heading to the postseason? The players from both sides know that they can’t control what the CFP committee does, they just need to worry about winning the game first and foremost.
“I’ve said before: We can’t control what (the selection) committee does,” senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton said during a conference call. “For that decision to be made, the only thing we can do is just try to focus on the week of the game and try to play our best football and just put ourselves in the best position to be talked about.”
Fans can debate these questions for years to come, but right now, all the Nittany Lions and Badgers are looking forward to is winning on Saturday night, then let the chips fall where they may.
Win or lose, both teams should be heading to a great bowl game this January, but right now they have bigger fish to fry.
This game should be a classic for anyone who loves college football, just for the fact that not only were these two teams not expected to be in this position, but they are both being led by young and upcoming quarterbacks.
Trace McSorley is the man with the plan for Penn State. The sophomore starting quarterback is having the best year statistically than most QBs in the Big Ten. Heading into the Big Ten title match-up, McSorley has thrown 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also is just 24 passing yards short of eclipsing 3,000 for the year. For Penn State to score enough to beat that tough Wisconsin defense, McSorley will have to be at his best once again.
The Wisconsin Badgers are led by Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook was thrust into the starting role on September 24 when the Badgers played at Michigan State. Wisconsin went on to win that game 30-6, and Hornibrook has taken the majority of snaps ever since.
The Badgers also like to bring in Senior QB Bart Houston a lot as well. In fact, Houston led the charge in Week 1 of the season when he guided Wisconsin to a huge upset win over LSU and set the tempo of the entire season for Wisconsin.
Picking the winner in this game won’t be easy. These two teams have been rolling in the last month of the season. Wisconsin has averaged 42.7 points over its last three games, and they lead all of NCAA football with 21 interceptions. That’s an incredible span.
Believe it or not, Penn State enters the Big Ten championship on an even bigger roll. Winners of eight straight and averaging 40.4 points during the stretch, including the shocking upset of Ohio State on October 22, the Nittany Lions are one of the hottest teams in college football right now.
Las Vegas odds makers have the Badgers listed as a three-point favorite and the over/under number set at 47.5.
Just like the Michigan vs. Ohio State prediction, this game may come down to the final drive, and the winner may be the team that has the ball last.
Pick — Penn State +3
The Wisconsin vs. Penn State Big Ten championship game will air nationally on FOX starting at 8 p.m. this Saturday, December 3. College football fans can also catch all of the action streaming live online through FOX Sports Go.com or by downloading the FOX Sports GO app.
[Featured Image by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images]