Ball-hawking Badgers ready for Penn State’s McSorley

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s defense is getting so picky.

The sixth-ranked Badgers have 11 interceptions over the last three games and 21 on the season, tops in major college football.

And now they are focused on Trace McSorley and No. 8 Penn State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night.

“They’ve done a good job of playing the ball and … looking for it,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said about his defense. “Not just knocking it down, but let’s get the pick.”

All those interceptions are, in part, a byproduct of the stout play of the front seven at Wisconsin (10-2, No. 6 CFP).

The defensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage, helping to free up a strong linebacker corps to make plays, whether in the backfield or in coverage. A secondary that had question marks at the beginning of the season has become a ball-hawking strength.

Safety Leo Musso, a former high school running back, has the speed to catch up to deep throws. He also has been displaying smarts in coverage, like when he stepped in front of a pass in the end zone last week against Minnesota after appearing to bait Mitch Leidner into making a seemingly safe throw.

“Our names are getting called but it’s really the front seven doing their job,” said Musso, who has four interceptions over the last three weeks. “We have the easy job of just covering guys and catching the ball.”

But the quality of Wisconsin’s competition hits a higher level Saturday when compared to the past three weeks. The Badgers had four interceptions apiece against Illinois and Minnesota, sandwiched around a three-pick game at Purdue.

Penn State (10-2, No. 7 CFP) offers a big-play issue.

McSorley has thrown just five interceptions all season. The Nittany Lions have 106 plays this season of 20 yards or more, with 57 coming through the air.

Blitzing could be costly for the Badgers. McSorley was 12 of 15 for 245 yards and threw three TDs against the blitz in last week’s 45-12 win over Michigan State. UW has done a good job  getting pressure with four rushers.


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