Planning for success: Penn State

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
8:00
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan knows what's coming Saturday.

He knows all about Wisconsin's rushing attack, about the Big Ten's toughest one-two punch in James White (1,281 yards; 6.5 ypc) and Melvin Gordon (1,375 yards; 8.2 ypc). He knows how they like to bounce outside and how any chance at an upset is tied to just how well he and the defense can slow those two down.

[+] EnlargeOlaniyan
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarC.J. Olaniyan and Penn State will try to stop Wisconsin's ground game.
And he's looking forward to it.

"For me personally, I love when we play teams that run the ball because I like to be physical," he said. "So I know it's going to be a physical game. Each play, you got to bring it."

Olaniyan might want to be careful with his wishes. Penn State's last two meetings with top rushing offenses didn't go so smoothly. Nebraska ranks No. 19 nationally in rushing -- and Ameer Abdullah rushed for 147 yards and nearly 6 yards a clip against Olaniyan's defense. Ohio State ranks No. 5 in rushing -- and the Buckeyes rolled to 408 yards and 8 yards a carry.

Wisconsin is No. 8 and, behind a mammoth offensive line, has amassed nearly 300 yards a game on the ground. The average starting Wisconsin lineman weighs in at 321 pounds, or 8 pounds heavier than the average OL starter on the Green Bay Packers.

"Wisconsin's a good team, big line," linebacker Mike Hull said. "I don't think it really helps them or hurts them in any way. Just another Big Ten opponent. We've got to attack it the same way."

Hull said the only way to prepare for the running game is to focus on fundamentals and make sure his Nittany Lions get off blocks. But Olaniyan is taking it one step further this week. Every time he finds some free time -- whether it's after practice, a quick bite or a nap -- he breaks out his iPad or laptop and continues to watch the film.

To beat Wisconsin, a three-touchdown favorite, he didn't hesitate when asked just how much more film he's looking at now.

"Every extra moment that I get," he said.

This is a must-win game for Wisconsin. If the Badgers want to keep their hopes alive for a fourth straight BCS bowl berth, then they can't let up against Penn State. For the Lions, it's a bit more complicated.

On paper, this game means nothing. Penn State won't be heading to a bowl no matter what. But the difference between a win and a loss Saturday is the difference between a winning season and a 6-6 season. And that still means a lot to these Lions.

"Winning is always the standard we strive for," Olaniyan said. "So, of course, we're going to be disappointed if we go .500."

And if Olaniyan and Co. can't stop Wisconsin's running game, it'll almost certainly be in for that disappointment.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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