Game Day: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

A rivalry best served cold

No. 16 Nebraska and No. 20 Wisconsin play Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium for ?control of the Big Ten West. Friends Melvin Gordon and — if healthy enough — Ameer Abdullah will square off in part to see which running back is better in the Big Ten. But NU’s offensive and defensive linemen figure the Huskers and Badgers are playing for something more elemental at 2:30 p.m. on ABC. Something they think will decide the game. Who’s tougher? Who’s stronger? Whose imposition of will is fiercer?

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. Wisconsin rush defense

Wisconsin's seventh nationally in rushing yards allowed per carry (2.9) mostly because the Badgers have given up just five runs of 20 yards or more this year. They are quick and well-organized, but they haven't faced the nation's 10th-best rush offense yet. Ameer Abdullah's health is an issue, but for the past two weeks, he's been healing and Nebraska's presumably been developing a possible contingency plan. Could be a big day for Tommy Armstrong.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Wisconsin pass defense

Of the 71 quarterbacks who're averaging at least 200 passing yards per game, Armstrong has the second-lowest completion percentage (53 percent). He's throwing one interception every 28.3 pass attempts. Not good. Wisconsin's deceptive pass rush schemes will create some pressure on Armstrong, too (the Badgers have 28 sacks, second in the league). Plus, U-W has held opposing QBs to a nation-low 46.3 completion percentage.

Wisconsin rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Melvin Gordon is the nation's rushing leader (1,501 yards), yet backup Corey Clement still averages 6.3 yards per carry. Tanner McEvoy, the part-time starting quarterback, gets 9.4 yards per attempt. Nebraska's giving up just 3.74 yards per carry and its talented front four won't be easy for Wisconsin to maneuver around – but NU's defense, only facing 33 rush attempts per game (12th fewest nationally), hasn't been tested like this.

Wisconsin pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Joel Stave was indeed impressive in the first half against Purdue, throwing for 190 yards on 15-of-20 passing. Receiver Alex Erickson is by far the team's top pass-catching option, but the Badgers will spread the ball around. Tight ends and running backs are regularly used as well. The Huskers must be leery of play-action, but they appear to have the skill to match up downfield against this team. NU opponents are averaging just 5.8 yards per pass attempt (10th-fewest nationally).

Special teams

Start with De'Mornay Pierson-El. He has more punt return yards (441) than anybody and he's facing a team that's allowed 11.9 yards per punt return (114th nationally). Wisconsin's also averaged just 37.3 yards per punt (119th). The Badgers do have Kenzel Doe, who averages 11.6 yards on punt returns and 24.5 yards on kickoff returns. But NU ranks fourth in the Big Ten in net punting. Both teams are relying on freshman place kickers.

Intangibles

Bo Pelini's teams are 7-2 after bye weeks, so he and his staff know how to use the extra time and get their players prepared. And the Huskers are 20-6 under Pelini in November, so they're usually playing their best football at this time of year. But Wisconsin's 11-1 at Camp Randall Stadium under Gary Andersen. The Badgers overwhelmed Nebraska in Madison three years ago too. The Huskers don't always respond well in these big-time moments.

Key matchup: Wisconsin nose guards vs. Nebraska's interior linemen

Senior Konrad Zagzebski, injured against Purdue last week, is supposed to play. Sophomore Arthur Goldberg's proven to be a capable backup anyway. Lining up directing opposite of NU's center (or shaded just off his shoulder), they'll be spending Saturday afternoon trying to disrupt Nebraska's offense by creating pressure right up the middle. The Huskers must win at the point of attack.

Our take

It's two of the nation's top rushing offenses, each headlined by two of the best running backs who could deliver a highlight-reel moment at any time. Certainly, all eyes will be on Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah (presuming he's healthy). So there's no sense to downplay the importance of Saturday's match-up. Aside from the Heisman Trophy audition, the winning team remains in control of its own destiny, the clear favorite in the West Division. So you can bet both Nebraska and Wisconsin will have plenty of motivation to play well. And we think the Badgers, at home, will make the fewest mistakes.

Our prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 31

Live updates

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Game Day
 

Photos

World-Herald fan photos »

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will broadcast live Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m., then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Purdue game provided by the Huskers athletic department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History page is your new home for taking a look back into the history of one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks.

BRT app

iPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Nebraska adds Omaha Skutt record-breaker Christian Banker as preferred walk-on

Omaha Skutt wide receiver Christian Banker has accepted a preferred walk-on opportunity at Nebraska.

Barfknecht: Lovie Smith hopes early spring football practice start helps Illinois focus, deal with injuries

The Illini opened practice on Valentine’s Day, making them the early birds of the 130 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Recruiting: Nebraska will join forces with Kansas, other Adidas schools for junior college prospect camp

Husker football coaches will be in attendance for a junior college prospect camp on July 22 hosted by Kansas, according to a flier tweeted by the Jayhawks' director of recruiting.

Former Huskers Nate Gerry and Cethan Carter are projected to be picked, but Nebraska may face another thin NFL draft

Nate Gerry and Cethan Carter might carry the best hopes of Nebraska prospects, but overall lukewarm projections leave the Huskers looking at a lean NFL draft for the second time in five years.

Dwayne Johnson lands at Texas Tech after transferring from Nebraska

Nebraska senior offensive lineman Dwayne Johnson has left the program and will pursue transfer options after he graduates in May with a degree in criminal justice and criminology, a Husker spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Huskers Illustrated first reported the news.

Big Fat Recruiting Update: Where does Nebraska go from here?

The Huskers have to be happy with their haul to this point. They’re hovering around the top 10 nationally in the recruiting ratings thanks to a lush star-rating-per-prospect. Life’s pretty good in The Good Life. So, what now?

Former Husker Will Compton, Redskins agree to contract extension

Restricted free agent linebacker Will Compton re-signed with the Washington Redskins on Monday.

Recruiting: After opening evaluation period with 'Nebraska Swarm,' NU coaches moving on to 'Husker Heartland'

Nebraska’s first priority of the spring evaluation period was to “swarm” its own state. The Huskers hit high schools in every corner of Nebraska over the last week, but now the coaches are expanding their range.

Nebraska's Chris Jones has big plans for himself and reconfigured Blackshirts in his final season as a Husker

Given where Chris Jones plays on a football field — out on an island at cornerback, just a man and his assignment — perhaps it makes sense. The senior who may be NU’s best overall player doesn’t talk much to…

Jordan Westerkamp ended Husker career injured, but is now hopeful for opportunity in NFL

As one of the most successful receivers in Nebraska football history, Jordan Westerkamp knew a little something about adjusting routes and finding ways to make things work. The last four months have been a little like that, too.

Husker coaching staff makes connections across state during high school tour

Nebraska’s staff spread out, “swarming the state” and promoting it hard on social media. All told, the Husker staff made close to 50 stops six days after the spring game.

Recruiting: Three takes on the commit of Chase Williams

Nebraska received its eighth known verbal commit for the 2018 class on Sunday evening from Corona (Calif.) Centennial wideout Chase Williams. Three quick thoughts on his decision.

Nebraska gets commitment from four-star athlete Chase Williams

Nebraska football kept its recruiting roll going Sunday evening when Corona (California) Eleanor Roosevelt athlete Chase Williams verbally committed to the Huskers via a video he released on Twitter.

Husker A.D. Shawn Eichorst had big hand in shaping NCAA recruiting reform

Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst was a key architect of a massive recruiting reform package — one Husker coaches supported — that was passed April 14 by the NCAA Division I Council.

Shatel: Style under Mike Riley may change NFL’s thinking about Husker quarterbacks

It’s been a long, long time since Nebraska had a quarterback play quarterback in the NFL. A long time since NU had a quarterback drafted as a quarterback.

Barfknecht: Alignment can be over-hyped; Wisconsin tailoring system to talent is tried and true

Maybe it’s wise to check out what has worked for the Big Ten’s most consistent defense recently — Wisconsin — which conveniently also is among the programs the Huskers have to conquer to get out of the West Division.

Twitter roundup: Husker coaches canvas the state during swarm of visits

Several Nebraska football coaches had a busy day Friday, swarming the state visiting potential 2018 and 2019 recruits. Here's a few of the coaches' tweets pinpointing the high schools they visited throughout the day.

On Husker radio show, coach Mike Riley hints at more commitments on the way

Nebraska officially has seven commitments for the 2018 class. But on Mike Riley’s Husker Sports Network radio show Thursday night, the coach said NU has nine commitments — which means two of them are “silent” unannounced verbal pledges — with…

Huskers rank 10th in ESPN's updated recruiting rankings with four commits in top 300

Nebraska has never had a recruiting class finish better than 17th in ESPN's rankings. The Huskers' 2018 class currently ranks in the top 10. ESPN released Thursday its updated player rankings for the 2018 class, and the Huskers have four…

New satellite camp rules fit into Husker coach Mike Riley’s plans, which include events with fellow Adidas schools

Riley said Wednesday he was pleased the NCAA Division I Council voted last week to significantly regulate how many camps college coaches can work, and where those camps can be held.

Recruiting: Marquez Beason gave Nebraska one of its earliest commitments, but that's nothing compared to Cameron Jurgens

The 10 recruits that were committed to Nebraska earliest in their respective recruiting cycles, and the current Husker commits that have a chance at cracking this list.

Husker coach Mike Riley names Tanner Lee as starting quarterback, praises Patrick O'Brien and Tristan Gebbia

Nebraska split practice time evenly this spring as QBs Tanner Lee and Patrick O'Brien battled for the starting job. NU coach Mike Riley announced Wednesday that the job is now Lee's to lose.

Huskers' offensive line feels urgency to run the ball better, aims for better consistency in 2017

David Knevel said the Nebraska offense seemed to find traction this spring with a particular outside running play, with “pinners and pullers” and a design that the right tackle thought was a good fit for Husker linemen.

Pick Six Podcast: Nebraska spring football, Husker recruiting, NU-CU baseball, Bluejay basketball

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the April 18 edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."

Rutgers’ offense in for another revamp with Jerry Kill's addition to the coaching staff

No need to scour the dictionary for flowery phrases to describe Rutgers’ football offense last year when one word will do: Inept. Maybe “inept” should be in capital letters considering the Scarlet Knights were last nationally in total offense (283.2…

McKewon: 10 spring standouts moving up Huskers' wide-open depth chart

For Nebraska’s 2017 football team, picking out the big movers isn’t the hard part. It’s limiting the list to just 10. That’s because Nebraska arguably has its youngest and least experienced roster since 2011, the season after the Huskers had…

Recruiting: D-lineman Calvin Avery keeping Nebraska among lead suitors after attending spring game

Teammate of NU signee Damion Daniels plans to make decision after senior season.

Recruiting: Nebraska target Judge Culpepper has good impression of Huskers after spring game

Prized defensive line/tight end prospect "definitely" keeping Nebraska in the mix

Husker receiver JD Spielman credits work in redshirt season for promise he’s shown in spring

Spielman got a taste of what he’s been waiting for with four receptions and a touchdown in the Red-White scrimmage Saturday.

Recruiting: Nebraska nabs an Easter Day commitment from Colorado DE Tate Wildeman

Nebraska’s newest commit for the 2018 recruiting class won’t have to learn the nuances of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.