Once again, the lights of prime-time shine on Madison as Penn State comes into Camp Randall to play Wisconsin in 8 EST kickoff on ABC. While the Badgers have been consistently good for 15 years now, this type of prime-time exposure is unprecedented and Bret Bielama wants to be sure his program doesn't miss the opportunity.
Missed opportunities are the story of the Wisconsin season thus far. A horrible quarter at Michigan and failure to recover two Ohio State fumbles on the game's decisive drive have turned a dark-horse national championship run into a must-win situation just to stay in contention for a BCS bid.
The fact the Badgers played even-up with a Buckeye team that has superior talent is testimony to their abilty to overcome the disappointment from the previous week. If they can do it two weeks in a row, they can finally get a Big Ten win and put themselves in position for a strong finish to the season. Penn State is very good, but not appreciably better then Ohio State and if Wisconsin simply matches last week's effort the odds would say the ball has to eventually bounce their way. One big bright spot for UW is the play of strong safety of Jay Valai, says Jeff Potrykus of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Joe Paterno is having the kind of season he desperately needed, with a university president unwilling to grant him a contract extension. Regardless of what happens Saturday, PSU looks no worse then a 10-2 squad and that means Joe Pa will hold all the cards when it comes to the future of the program. The present is looking awfully sharp, with an offense that has real explosiveness and a defense that stepped up and made a statement against Purdue. It's important to keep a grip on national title hopes until the road trips Saturday night and to Columbus are out of the way. That's tough row to hoe for anyone. But Lion fans can't be blamed if they are having a hard time maintaining that grip, because this may be a game they can even afford to lose, provided a one-loss team will have a chance at the title game and the presumptive loss was very close. Penn State is the one team in the Big Ten that will get respect from voters. Jeff Rice of The Centre Daily Times reports on whether the old coach will still be in the press box for Saturday night.
Michigan State and Northwestern will be in the 3:30 EST slot on ESPN2. This will be a big game for both schools. NU is still undefeated and now has an opportunity to defeat a good team for the first time. MSU can continue to put itself in position for a tough late-season stretch run. C.J. Bacher added some fuel to the fire by saying that based on the last two shootouts the schools have played, this now qualifies as a rivalry. While you can't help but respect the Wildcats and what they've done, State is decidedly the better team in this one. Northwestern's offense hasn't been as explosive as in years past, and while the Spartans have to make some progress on defense, they are considerably more disciplined then previous teams were. And Javon Ringer should have no trouble keeping Bacher on the sidelines.
Notre Dame goes to North Carolina in another 3:30 ESTkick, this one on ABC. The Irish have come along nicely, but I think they are in over their heads in this one. The Tar Heels are one of the elite in the ACC, and in spite of their narrow loss to Virginia Tech, I'm sticking by my preseason pick of them to win their league and go to the Orange Bowl. The Heels are a little more complete, while the ND offense still comes and goes and Clausen is not yet adequately supported by enough of a running game.