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Penn State Football:Five Things To Watch As The Nittany Lions Take On Wisconsin

by on November 09, 2018 2:00 PM

It is that time of the week again as Penn State prepares to face Wisconsin to open the final three game stretch of the regular season. The Nittany Lions will take on the Badgers in a cold wet and very November-like conditions for the second to last game at Beaver Stadium this year. It won't be fun or pretty to watch, but it's necessary.

In reality Penn State is heading into three very winnable games and what ought to be a fairly even opponent in a bowl game. In turn, it's not entirely impossible that Penn State still manages to win 10-games this year, for the third season in a row. So are the playoff hopes and Big Ten title dreams gone? Yep. But that doesn't mean the season is over.

So here is what I'm looking for this weekend. 

How's the leg?:

It goes without saying that Trace McSorley's health is at the forefront of just about every in-game narrative between now and the end of the season. The good news for Penn State, none of the remaining three defenses the Nittany Lions will face are on par with Michigan, meaning McSorley might be able to get away a bit more with not being 100%.

Then again, maybe he's perfectly healthy this week, Penn State's lack of injury updates leaves just about everyone in the dark, so your guess (aside from me actually seeing McSorley in practice this week) is about as good as mine. Either way, keep an eye on him and the leash Penn State has him on if he isn't healthy and the offense continues to trend south.

Hey Jahan:

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Jahan Dotson has been far and away the most consistent receiver in the back half of Penn State's season simply because he keeps catching the ball. He attacks passes, catches with confidence and seems willing to run sharp and accurate routes. Can he keep it going? That's the real question and so far the answer seems to be yes. If Juwan Johnson continues to miss time and the likes of Brandon Polk, DeAndre Thompkins and KJ Hamler keep having up and down results, Dotson might just be the new No.1 guy. 

Maybe he doesn't have Hamler's abilities after the catch, but Penn State needs consistency more than it needs explosiveness right now.

Having fun yet?:

I stumbled across the Big Ten championship game the other day and watched a fair amount of it again, and that team looked like it was having fun. Trailing, it was having fun, winning, it was having fun. It didn't matter, this group just enjoyed playing football. Right now, sometimes it feels more like a chore for this group.

What does "fun" look like? Well it's hard to say, but you know it when you see it and this team could use more of it. Then again, winning helps that too.

All the small things:

Football expert reporting for duty, Penn State could use a game or two of not getting in its own way be it penalties, weird mistakes or mental errors. The Nittany Lions are not really all that bad when they get going, but there are so many random moments that seem entirely preventable.

if Penn State can get through the game limiting errors and miscues, the could go a long way towards proving to everyone things are headed in the right direction. This applies a lot more to special teams than any other unit, but all three have had their moments.

Can this team avoid those mistakes?

Micah, you're next:

It's getting to the time of year where young players start to more noticeably look like they've played a lot of football. If a young talented player like Micah Parsons is going to be a bigger and bigger part of Penn State's linebacking group of the future, this is the time of year where he should start to make those steps.

To be sure, Parsons has looked the part at times, this isn't at all about him being underwhelming, it's just the time of year where he and his fellow freshmen can start to look more and more like impactful players in the future. This should be a good weekend for it too as Wisconsin will be happy to run the ball and even happier to test out a linebacker unit that has been occasionally porous.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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