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Opponent Watch: Penn State, and thanks for Wisconsin foes past

It's Thanksgiving, so we're being generous and previewing Penn State, despite their dubious merits. Also, let's give thanks to Wisconsin's 2013 opponents.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports


I had a birthday then Wisconsin beat Minnesota. Chris Borland was insanely good--12 tackles, one for loss, one (two?) forced fumble to tie (break?)((break again?)) the FBS record and two fumble recoveries. I tried to look up Borland's birthday out of geeky curiosity. I couldn't find it, so now I'm convinced that my favorite player is a Ron Swanson acolyte in matters of privacy, and probably other things too, and I'm all the happier for it.

Abbreviated preview, because Penn State isn't worth a lot of ink and it's Thanksgiving (thanks unto you, dear reader).


Penn State (6-5, 3-4), Nov. 30

Last week: Nebraska 23, Penn State 20 OT

What happened: Penn State lost to Nebraska in overtime, and now its win-loss pattern looks like a Christmas tree:


And just in time for the holidays.

Penn State was a muffed punt away from hitting for the cycle of special teams gaffes. They tallied a missed extra point, a missed field goal, a block punt allowed and a kickoff return for a touchdown allowed.

Then dumb things happened on offense. Allen Robinson dropped key passes in cold weather, contributing to Christian Hackenberg's 16-for-33 passing day. Hackenberg turned in 217 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which are his customary numbers.

The defense was fine. The weather was cold. Things are things.

Why you should be afraid: You really shouldn't be unless you're the superstitious type. Wisconsin has yet to have a completely flat performance this season, so perhaps they're due for a lousy outing. There is no reason to expect it, however, at least based on what we've seen from Gary Andersen and Co.

All right, something tangible: Allen Robinson is a hell of a weapon, and Zach Zwinak is a B-plus running back.

Why you shouldn't: I like Penn State and Bill O'Brien. I hate this team.

The Nittany Lions are playing hard, and boy that's swell, but they are painful to watch. Wisconsin is the better team in every respect, and Saturday is Senior Day at Camp Randall.

Hubris: Wisconsin finishes off the trunk of the tree.


UMass (1-10, 1-6 MAC)

Thank you Minutemen, for spreading so many wins to your opponents' win columns and asking so few in return.

Tennessee Tech (5-7, 2-6 OVC)

Thank you Golden Eagles, for burying Austin Peay 34-0 this week to win consecutive games for the first time since August, 2012. Glad to hear you're doing better these days. You look great!

Arizona State (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12)

Thank you Sun Devils, for following the script and knocking UCLA out of BCS bowl contention. Now feel free to lose one or both of the next two games.

Purdue (1-10, 0-7)

Thank you Boilermakers, for ... well this is embarassing. I haven't really watched you play since September. How you been? I ... Oh. Oh no. I'm so ... oh god I'm so sorry.

Ohio State (11-0, 7-0)


Northwestern (4-7, 0-7)

Thank you Wildcats, your season-long reenactment of Candide was the most brilliant piece of performance art this year.

Illinois (4-7, 1-6)

Thank you Illini, for punctuating Northwestern's lessons on tragedy with reminders of its inevitability, unto ages of ages.

Iowa (7-4, 4-3)

Thank you Hawkeyes, for resurfacing this season and giving me hope that the parallelogram of hate will be strong next season, and a whole lot of fun.

BYU (7-4)

Lose to Notre Dame? I thought you were cool.

Indiana (4-7, 2-5)

Thank you Hoosiers, for so much chaos. I don't know what happened to you the last two weeks, unless you're playing a long con to putting up 1,000 yards on Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket, in which case you're magnificent and I love you.