Our 2016 Big Ten Championship free pick offers the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2 Overall, 7-2 Big Ten) at #8 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2 Overall, 8-1 Big Ten). Many thought when the season started that the Badgers had a shot at the Big Ten West, and ultimately they did take it. But Penn State was not seen as being as competitive as they ended up being. Most thought that Ohio State would take the East Division. But it’s the Nittany Lions who are in the title game tonight.
In their past five games, the Badgers have run off five wins. That includes a 23-17 OT victory against #7 Nebraska on Oct 29. Other major wins during the 2016 season include a close 16-14 week one victory against #5 LSU and a 30-6 beating of #8 Michigan State in week four. Losses have been to #4 Michigan 14-7 and #2 Ohio State 30-23.
Penn State went 2-2 at the start, losing to Pittsburgh 42-39 and #4 Michigan 49-10, and then never looked back. Since that start, they’ve run off eight straight wins including a very important 24-21 victory over #2 Ohio State. Last week, they beat Michigan State convincingly 45-12.
The Wisconsin Badgers, who are scoring an average of 28.5 PPG, rely a lot on their running game to get the job done. They are averaging 201.8 YPG on the ground. RB Cory Clement (271 ATT, 1,140 YDs, 4.2 AVG, 13 TDs) has had seven 100-yard-plus games this season. He is key to this team’s success. QB Alex Hornibrook (58.1 COMPY%, 8 TDs, 7 INTs, 12 Sacks) is a minimal passer. His primary target is WR Jazz Peavy (39 REC, 582 YDs, 14.9 AVG, 5 TDS). Peavy has also has 17 ball carries for 263 YDs and one TD. He’s averaging 15.5 YPA.
The Badger defense is the key to their victory. They are permitting teams to score an average of just 13.7 PPG. Teams are averaging 191.3 YPG when passing against them and 100.8 YPG when rushing. They’ve made 31 sacks, 67 TFL, and 21 INTs. The D has broken up 53 passes, has 36 QB hurries, and forced nine fumbles.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is scoring 36.6 PPG. However, in the past five games, they’ve averaged 46.4 PPG. Lions’ QB Trace McSorely (56.3 COMP%, 21 TDs, 5 INTs, 21 Sacks) is a dual threat. As a runner, he’s made 134 carries, gained 371 YDs, and scored six touchdowns. RB Saquon Barkely (228 ATT, 1,219 YDs, 5.3 AVG, 15 TDs) has run for 200-plus yards twice and, also, 100-plus yards twice. WR Chris Goodwin (47 REC, 762 YDs, 16.2 AVG, 9 TDs) looks to make some big plays in this game. The Penn State attack is well balanced overall and will challenge the Wisconsin defense.
Over the course of the season, the Nittany Lion defense has held teams to 22.8 PPG. But, as they have on offense, they have been much more efficient during their last five games, allowing opponents just 16.2 PPG. They have posted some impressive defensive stats, including 37 sacks and an incredible 104 TFL. Their defense also has nine picks, nine forced fumbles, and 42 passes broken up. They have also blocked three kicks or punts.
2016 Big Ten Championship Free Pick
Penn State has an extremely tough run defense. We expect them to be able to shutdown the Badger rushing game. This will be a close game, but we see the Nittany Lions springing the upset. Our 2016 Big Ten Championship free pick takes Penn State at +3.0. The game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium at 8 p.m. ET with kickoff at 8 p.m.