WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
For the third straight week, UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook is questionable to play because of a concussion. Hornibrook, who missed UW’s loss to Northwestern, returned last week vs. Rutgers but suffered another head injury on the final play of the first half.
Backup quarterback Jack Coan has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception, in the past two games. The Badgers haven’t done much in the passing game this season, ranking 111th out of 130 FBS teams in that category.
UW running back Jonathan Taylor might be able to get going against a Penn State defense that ranks 79th in the nation against the run. Taylor, who is coming off his third 200-yard game of the season, leads the country with 1,363 rushing yards. Penn State’s defensive front isn’t short on pass rushers, however.
The Nittany Lions’ 29 sacks match Michigan for the most in the Big Ten. Penn State allows 24.4 points per game, tied for seventh in the conference, and hasn’t held an opponent to fewer than 21 points since Kent State on Sept. 15.
EDGE | EVEN
WHEN THE NITTANY LIONS HAVE THE BALL
Penn State also enters the game with injury questions at quarterback. The Nittany Lions expect starter Trace McSorley (right knee) to play, but he was hobbled in last week’s 42-7 loss to Michigan. Backup QB Tommy Stevens ended up rotating in for part of that game. McSorley has had a down senior season as a passer by his standards, completing 52 percent of his passes for 1,711 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
UW’s run defense will be tested; Penn State’s Miles Sanders ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 848 rushing yards (5.9 average) and eight TDs this season. UW’s secondary has improved throughout the season, and the Badgers could get safety Scott Nelson (hamstring) and cornerback Deron Harrell (ankle) back from extended absences.
EDGE | PENN STATE
UW punter Connor Allen performed well in his second career start last week, but Penn State’s Blake Gillikin has an edge with an average of 43 yards per punt.
Badgers kickoff specialist Zack Hintze might be able to neutralize Penn State’s KJ Hamler, who averages 26.9 yards per kickoff return, but Nittany Lions punt returner DeAndre Thompkins could be a threat. He had a touchdown return vs. Pittsburgh earlier this season and scored against Akron last year.
EDGE | PENN STATE
Penn State’s James Franklin and UW’s Paul Chryst have been in the mix for Big Ten Coach of the Year honors the past two seasons. Franklin’s team won the conference championship in 2016 with a comeback win over the Badgers.
EDGE | EVEN
Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., isn’t an easy place to play, but the early kickoff time might help UW in that regard. Penn State doesn’t have much to play for beyond bowl positioning after its loss to Michigan last week, while the Badgers could re-enter the Big Ten West race with a victory.
EDGE | UW
STATE JOURNAL’S PICK
While Penn State fell out of contention in the Big Ten East race last week, the Nittany Lions likely are the better team in this matchup.
Leaving Happy Valley with a win won’t be easy for the Badgers.