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Penn State looks to stop Ball's game

11/26/2011

When the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers host the No. 19 Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday (ESPN, 3:30 ET), it will be a battle of strengths for the right to play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin superstar running back Montee Ball leads the nation with 30 total touchdowns. Only three players in FBS history have had more in a single season. Since November 26 of last season, when John Clay went down with an injury, Ball has been the most productive runner in the nation.

His 30 rushing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns of at least 15 yards are both the most in the country, and his 1,776 rush yards and 31 rushes of at least 15 yards are second-most in that span.

Keep in mind that Ball is also a threat as a receiver — he’s got five touchdown catches this season and his average of 13.1 yards after catch per reception leads his team.

Russell Wilson This Season
Play-Action Passing

Bell’s success on the ground has opened up the play-action game for Wisconsin and its new quarterback. Russell Wilson averages 101.7 passing-yards-per-game on play-action and is gaining at least 20 yards on a quarter of his passes after a run fake.

The Badgers offense is on pace to shatter the school’s scoring record — it is averaging 44.8 points per game, nearly four more than the record it set last season (40.9). Only one Big Ten school has averaged more than 45 points per game since 1916 -- when Penn State averaged 47 in 1994.

It’s not just offense in Wisconsin. The Badgers are the only team in the nation in the top ten in scoring offense and defense this season.

When talking defense, that’s where Penn State shines, ranking in the top eight in the country in total, scoring, passing, and pass efficiency defense. The only two teams allowing fewer points per game than the Nittany Lions are Alabama and LSU — the top two teams in the BCS standings.

The Nittany Lions make their opponents grind out touchdowns, allowing only ONE touchdown drive that took two minutes or fewer, fewest in FBS. Wisconsin’s offense has 28 touchdown drives in two minutes or fewer, fifth-most in FBS.

Penn State hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 27 points and has held nine of its 11 opponents to fewer than 20 points this season. It will face perhaps its toughest test this season trying to stop Ball, who scored three touchdowns last week. Ball has at least two scores in every game this season and is scoring a touchdown once every eight touches.

Stats of the Day

Wiconsin has won 15 straight home games, the second-longest active FBS streak behind LSU. The Badgers have won nine straight Big Ten home games, scoring nearly 53 points-per-game and outscoring their opponents by more than 36 points per game in that span.

Penn State is 4-0 on the road this season and 14-4 the past four seasons. The Lions are looking to go 4-0 on the road in Big Ten play for the third time in school history.