The sixth installment of Wisconsin Badgers B1G previews pits Bucky against those corn-hatted Nebraska folk. Will it be another intense regular-season showdown, or will the Badgers completely dominate every facet of the game like they did back in Indy?
Week 12, November 15: Home against Nebraska
The Wisconsin Badgers didn’t play Nebraska last season, but our friends Southwest will now be a staple in our schedule for years to come. The Cornhuskers won the regular-season matchup in 2012, 30-27, but then got absolutely trounced in the B1G Championship game in Indianapolis. Nebraska managed to take Joel Stave out of the regular season game, which forced us to use the frustratingly sub-par Danny O’Brien.
A few months later, former offensive coordinator Matt Canada set up a near-perfect game plan to embarrass Nebraska, and send the Badgers to their third-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. Wisconsin also beat Nebraska 48-17 in the Huskers B1G opener. I still also have a small issue with any coverage of the 2012 championship game. Everyone always showed and admired the Taylor Martinez scamper, but then glossed over the other 10 WISCONSIN TOUCHDOWNS.
No matter our quarterback, no matter our offensive line and no matter the game plan created by OC Andy Ludwig, all focus will be on stopping Randy Gregory from sacking the man behind center. Gregory led the B1G in sacks last year with 10.5, tackles-for-loss with 19 and was a First-Team All-Big Ten lineman. In short, he was a beast.
A quick release might have to be enough in order for the Badgers to gain control if the running game gets stuck up front. Short crosses and button hooks should work in Kenzell Doe‘s favor as the arguable No. 1 WR should nickel and dime corners. Whatever the plan is, Wisconsin must be prepared to change things up, as Nebraska can get off the field quickly. The Huskers were sixth in 3rd down defense last season, and top 40 in both total defense and passing yards allowed.
Good news for Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense will be the sight of four new starters to the Nebraska O-Line. This isn’t to say that getting through will be easy, as a good chunk of the 3-4 are fairly new themselves. Ameer Abdullah was a surprise last season, racking up nearly 1,700 yards rushing and collecting team MVP and First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Tommy Armstrong Jr came in for an injured Martinez and won games, but in ugly fashion. The probable starting QB threw nine touchdowns against eight interceptions.
That said, I don’t think we’ll see a lot of downfield action, as the urge to feed Abdullah will be strong. Marcus Trotter will have to be our field general, but I think he’s outmatched. I see blitzes. Lots and lots of blitzes.
Nebraska did some work last year in securing freshman to compete at a high level in the B1G. ESPN ranks Nebraska as the 39th best class for 2014 — four spots and a recruit behind the Badgers. True freshmen that can make an impact for the Huskers will be defensive backs Trai Mosley and Josh Kalu, safety Luke Gifford and defensive end/tackle Peyton Newell.
Four-star recruits D.J. Foster and Tanner Farmer will be strong linemen up front for the next few years, but I would think Bo Pelini would be smart enough not to use quality youngsters just one year after the departure of Taylor Martinez. Also … Drew Brown may be its best option at kicker.
Home Field Advantage
The Badgers will more than likely get used to a sea of red and white when they travel to Rutgers two weeks earlier, but this game will have about 30,000 more fans. A time has not been set for the game, but given the fact that the Badgers will have just one prime time game (LSU in Houston) before Nebraska, this game could get a later start time. Aside from Nebraska, only Iowa in Iowa City on November 22 would stand out as a possible night game.
I don’t know if the university has anything special for this game, but the Huskers have a tough schedule to navigate before they get to Madison. The game may not have an impact for them in the West, but a loss will assuredly give fans grief in Wisconsin.
Jon us next week when we discuss that final away game at Kinnick Stadium.
Also keep with us as Part 3 in our Badger fan series will take form when a former English teacher in Wisconsin tells us why Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Lee Evans might just be the best to ever play at Camp Randall.