MADISON, Wis. -- First, a few injury updates. Leading receiver Jordan Norwood is a go for tonight's game. The senior has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but several Penn State people said last night that Norwood will be back in the slot when the Lions and Badgers line up. The status of tight ends Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, however, is still up in the air. It looks like Quarless is 50-50 to play, while Shuler is likely out. To address the situation, Penn State had offensive/defensive lineman Mike Lucian practicing at tight end during practice this week. If Quarless and Shuler can't go, you'll likely only see Lucian is two tight end sets along with Andrew Szczerba, who would start.
Norwood's return, though, is huge. He was clearly quarterback Daryll Clark's favorite target in the first four games, and gives Penn State another threat down the middle of the field. As good as the Lions' run game is, they will need to pass effectively against the Badgers. I'm not saying Clark has to fling it 30-plus times, but somewhere in the 20-25 range will keep Wisconsin from stacking the box with eight for the entire game.
Wisconsin is big and physical on defense and has fine set of linebackers led by DeAndre Levy. How they contain Clark will be a key to his game. I think Penn State will use Clark more on designed runs than he was last week against Purdue. He is the x factor and I can't think of any conceivable way that the Lions score less than 20 points, despite only scoring a combined six points on their last two trips here. If coach Joe Paterno, who I expect to be up in the press box tonight, can keep from reverting to his road conservative ways, Penn State wins this one based on its offense alone.
Defensively, the Lions will face their toughest challenge yet. The Badgers are old school and will run, run, run until it hurts. However, they, too, need to establish their air game. Quarterback Allan Evridge has been inconsistent and if he struggles early he could get the hook. If defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans can pressure Evridge the game might become academic.
I like Penn State to move to 7-0 on the season with a ripe Michigan next on the schedule in State College next Saturday.
Prediction: Penn State 28, Wisconsin 17