Wisconsin Badgers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers: What to Watch For in Freedom Trophy Game


When it was announced in 2014 that the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers would begin a new rivalry and play for the Freedom Trophy, I was mostly on board. I thought another trophy game would not be a bad idea and why not start a rivalry with a new Big Ten member in Nebraska.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

A year later, those sentiments have changed. The more I think about it, the more I think right now that is a bad idea. When the two face off Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, NE, it will be just the 10th meeting between them. A few close games and less than a dozen meetings between the teams does not a rivalry make. And don’t get me started on the Freedom Trophy itself. I get what they were trying to do, but I think they took a big swing and missed on this one.

But I digress. I could go on all day about the trophy and rivalry itself but I won’t. If you want to read more, Badger of Honor editor Jim Oxley gives a real nice history of the Freedom Trophy game. And if you share my views on the trophy game or if you want another good read about it, Jon Rzepecki has a great piece on his thoughts about how he thinks this is Big Ten’s worst rivalry.

Moving on. Although both teams lost their conference opener a week ago and come in with less than stellar records, this game has plenty of intrigue. With that, I picked three storylines that Badger fans should keep their eye on Saturday afternoon.

Wisconsin’s offense, Joel Stave look for bounce back game. I still don’t know if Wisconsin played poorly on offense last week or if Iowa’s defense is just that good. Either way, going against Nebraska’s bad defense should provide a great opportunity to get this offense back on track. The Cornhuskers rank 12th in the Big Ten in total defense and dead last in pass defense. If Stave struggles once again in this one there will be plenty of grumblings about how Wisconsin should make a change at quarterback.

Look for Joe Schobert to continue dominance on defense. Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country and it starts with outside linebacker Schobert. He single handedly tried to lead the Badgers to a win over Iowa last weekend. His stat line is impressive to say the least– eight tackles, four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three sacks. Nebraska doesn’t have much fire power on offense. Look for Schobert to have another big day.

Early season must-win game for both teams. I’m not a big fan of dubbing certain games “must-win” so early in the season. But the way the Big Ten has shaped up thus far, especially the West division, both Wisconsin and Nebraska have already dug themselves a decent-sized hole that both need to climb out of. After their loss to Iowa and the way Iowa looks so far, Wisconsin finds themselves more behind the 8-ball than Nebraska. If either team wants to contend for the West title, they need to come out of this game with a ‘W.’ That alone provides plenty intrigue in itself than just a battle for the Freedom Trophy.

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