Four things to watch

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports -

UW quar­ter­back Jack Coan is set to make his sec­ond start and third ap­pear­ance of the sea­son with Alex Horni­brook re­cov­er­ing from a sec­ond con­cus­sion this sea­son. Coan was OK in his start­ing de­but when he com­pleted 20 of 31 passes for 158 yards, with one touch­down and one lost fum­ble, in a 31-17 loss to North­west­ern. He re­placed Horni­brook for the sec­ond half against Rut­gers and at­tempted only seven passes but com­pleted five and ap­peared more com­fort­able. Penn State’s de­fense fea­tures play­mak­ers on the line, at linebacker and in the sec­ondary and win­ning at Beaver Sta­dium isn’t easy, but Coan should be equipped to han­dle the chal­lenge.

COAN ON THE BIG STAGE:

RUN THE BALL, SHORTEN THE GAME:

The Nit­tany Li­ons ex­cel at pres­sur­ing quar­ter­backs but they have proved vul­ner­a­ble against power run­ning games. UW is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rush­ing at 273.0 yards per game; Penn State is 10th in the league against the run (172.2). Tail­backs Jonathan Tay­lor (6.6 yards per carry), Tai­wan Deal (6.7) and Gar­rett Groshek (6.7) are av­er­ag­ing more than 6.0 yards. Michi­gan’s Karan Hig­don rushed 20 times for 132 yards and the Wolver­ines fin­ished with 259 yards rush­ing on 52 car­ries in their 42-7 vic­tory over Penn State. UW should be able to con­trol the ball, keep pres­sure off Coan to make too many plays and con­trol the clock.

KEEP­ING THE POCKET CLEAN:

Penn State and Michi­gan are tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 29, an aver­age of 3.2 per game. Ends Ye­tur GrossMatos (seven), Shaka Toney (five) and Sha­reef Miller (four) have com­bined for 16 of the 29 sacks. If the Badgers get into too many third-and-long or ob­vi­ous pass­ing sit­u­a­tions, they will be set­ting up Penn State’s pass-rush­ers for suc­cess. That isn’t a for­mula for a UW vic­tory.

MAKE PENN STATE DRIVE FOR POINTS:

Penn State’s of­fense lives off big plays and quick strikes. The Nit­tany Li­ons have gen­er­ated 48 plays of 20 yards or longer (32 passes, 16 runs) and 51 scor­ing drives in reg­u­la­tion. Of those 51 drives, only four have lasted 5 min­utes or longer and 30 have lasted less than 21⁄2 min­utes. The best way to keep the Nit­tany Li­ons out of the end zone is to limit their chunk plays and make them drive the length of the field. Can UW’s de­fense hold up against quar­ter­back Trace McSor­ley and com­pany?

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