Penn State vs. Wisconsin results: Nittany Lions stun Badgers in season finale, 31-24

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Hackenberg goes out with a bang, and the Big Ten's bowl picture gets a little bit cloudier.

Penn State put the final touches on another winning season under severe sanctions by going to Madison and knocking off the unsuspecting No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers, 31-24. Penn State held a 31-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Wisconsin staged a late rally, but the heavily favored Badgers couldn't cover enough ground and Bill O'Brien improved to 15-9 in his two seasons in Happy Valley. Not bad for a program that was supposedly on death's door when he came in.

The Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4) harassed the vaunted Badger ground game into 120 yards on 30 carries on the day, and while Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was able to throw for 339 yards, it took him 53 attempts to get there, and that pass-heavy emphasis was emblematic of Penn State's ability to force Wisconsin out of its comfort zone on offense.

Box Score Hero: Christian Hackenberg served notice to the rest of the Big Ten that he's set for a big 2014. Hackenberg went 21-for-30 for 339 yards and four touchdowns (with no picks, even) in the victory.

Rankings Ramifications: This is essentially doom for Wisconsin's at-large BCS hopes, as the Badgers were on the periphery of eligibility coming into the week. Taking a third loss — and by a much more substantial margin than in its losses to Arizona State and Ohio State — puts Wisconsin in a lower, much larger tier of merely good teams, and merely good teams don't go to the BCS unless they go undefeated in a low-level conference like the MAC or WAC (RIP).

But Did They Cover? Wisconsin was a 25-point favorite. It did not cover. It very, very did not cover.

For More On This Game: For Wisconsin fans, check out Bucky's 5th Quarter. Penn State fans should read Black Shoe Diaries. For all things Big Ten, read Off Tackle Empire.

Next Week's Schedule: Penn State's season is over, thanks to those ongoing NCAA sanctions. Wisconsin will be off to a bowl, presumably either the Capital One or Outback (depending on how the Big Ten Championship shakes out).

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