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

Recruiting: Tyjon Lindsey leads all Husker commits in final rankings, but highly-rated targets remain available

247Sports, Rivals and Scout have all released their final batch of rankings of the nation’s top college football prospects, and Tyjon Lindsey leads the way among Husker commits according to all four services.

McKewon: Billy Devaney's recruiting role grew with Huskers after key staff departure

As Nebraska football finishes its 2017 recruiting class and gears up to start the 2018 cycle, Ryan Gunderson’s departure from the player personnel department should not go unnoticed.

Nebraska set for battle with Iowa, LSU over tight end recruit Kurt Rafdal

Nebraska and Iowa — and possibly a SEC school — will square off for a tall, sure-handed tight end in the final weeks before signing day.

Bryan Reimers among six Husker walk-ons hauling in scholarships for spring semester

Nebraska gave scholarships to at least three Husker in-state walk-ons Wednesday: Fullback Luke McNitt, I-back Austin Rose and wideout Bryan Reimers.

Nebraska lands coveted 2018 athlete Eric Fuller, sets sights on teammates Joseph Lewis, Greg Johnson

Nebraska received on Wednesday a coveted commit from one of Los Angeles’ top talent hubs – for next year’s recruiting class. NU wouldn’t mind getting a few commits for the 2017 recruiting cycle from Los Angeles Hawkins High School. For…

New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco on why he chose Nebraska: 'Blackshirt defense, man, and Coach Riley'

Bob Diaco's first public comments as Nebraska's defensive coordinator underlined his passion for the new job, his new boss and returning to the Big Ten.

Recruiting: After Tyjon Lindsey's commitment to Nebraska, options abound at wide receiver

Nebraska got the biggest commit of the 2017 recruiting cycle on Saturday, when top 100 prospect Tyjon Lindsey flipped from Ohio State to the Huskers. But NU wideouts coach Keith Williams isn't done on the trail.

Recruiting: With one DB target announcing Thursday, Huskers set to host two others this weekend

Nebraska doesn’t have a defensive back committed to its 2017 recruiting class with two weeks left until national signing day, but the Huskers are about to host two of their top targets, and another is set to announce his commitment…

Shatel: Huskers are embracing change with Bob Diaco hire

Take a closer look at the game and you see that staff turnover is commonplace in big-time college football. Some head coaches replace an assistant every season. That wasn’t the Nebraska way, not the old Nebraska way. But then, that…

Lincoln East OL Chris Walker commits to Nebraska, flipping from Wyoming

For a second straight recruiting cycle, Nebraska snagged an in-state commitment just before signing day — flipping a prospect from Wyoming.

Coach who worked with Bob Diaco gives him high marks

Nebraska has been trying to get back to the Big Ten championship game since 2012. Bob Elliott thinks Bob Diaco can help it get there as the new defensive coordinator.

A ‘different breed’ comes to Lincoln: Bob Diaco brings 3-4 scheme, top-level experience to NU’s coordinator post

As he built one of the best defenses in the nation, Bob Diaco would arrive before dawn at Notre Dame’s football offices and usually be one of the last to leave. He loved the film room, and wanted his players…

McKewon: Two key Husker pieces add up to one big week for Mike Riley

Should the Mike Riley era at Nebraska turn out to be a big winner, the last seven days might be remembered as the Riley Rally.

Recruiting: Tyjon Lindsey picks the Huskers days after decommitting from Ohio State, becomes NU’s highest-rated commit

Saturday was a big day for Nebraska football with the Huskers landing a commitment from four-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey.

McKewon: Five quick takes on Tyjon Lindsey's commitment to Nebraska

Four-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey announced on Saturday that he was committing to Nebraska, days after he dropped his commitment to Ohio State. World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon has five quick thoughts on what landing Lindsey means for the Huskers.

It's official: Nebraska names Bob Diaco its new defensive coordinator

Nebraska officially announced Bob Diaco as its defensive coordinator Saturday, three days after coach Mike Riley dismissed his longtime coordinator, Mark Banker. The World-Herald had reported the expected move on Friday night.

Coaching with energy: Mentors, former teammates say Bob Diaco has the same personality on sideline that he had on field

Bob Diaco went from pads on his shoulders to whistle around his neck, and somehow made the transition in the Iowa football program without changing himself.

Shatel: With the NFL's Chargers bolting San Diego, some of one’s youth is taken away

You always remember your first time. Mine was on Oct. 2, 1966. My father and I drove down from Escondido, California, about 30 miles to Balboa Stadium, in the middle of gorgeous Balboa Park near downtown San Diego.

Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker talks about departure, being fired over the phone

Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker — a longtime friend, confidant and assistant to coach Mike Riley — learned over the phone he wouldn't be returning as a Husker coach.

Recruiting: Top Nebraska DT target Damion Daniels down to three, set for signing day announcement

Dallas Bishop Dunne defensive tackle Damion Daniels will announce his college choice on Feb. 1 — national signing day — his father, Tony Daniels, told The World-Herald Friday.

Recruiting: Huskers open contact period visiting with top targets, longtime commits

Not only did the Huskers visit with some of their top targets — players they want to add before national signing day — but they also checked on recruits they’ve had committed for months.

Huskers to name ex-Irish aide Bob Diaco as defensive coordinator, replacing Mark Banker

Nebraska football will name former Notre Dame defensive coordinator and former Connecticut coach Bob Diaco as its new defensive coordinator, multiple sources confirmed to The World-Herald Friday.

Nebraska targeting defensive coordinator with experience in 3-4 scheme; Bob Diaco a candidate

The World-Herald confirmed through several sources Thursday that coach Mike Riley may be leaning toward a coach with experience with the 3-4.

McKewon: John Parrella’s words important to Husker recruit in time of change

When news broke Wednesday night about Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker not getting his contract renewed, Guy Thomas said he quickly received a call from defensive line coach John Parrella to explain the situation.

NU recruit Jamire Calvin not done with Huskers despite Army Bowl surprise

Top receiving target Jamire Calvin shocked Husker fans and coaches Saturday when he picked Oregon State over NU at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but Nebraska isn't out of the running for the 2017 prospect yet.

College football coaches favor adding second signing day in December

Coaches unanimously support creating an early signing period for college football in December, but the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association says none of them want a third signing day in June.

Recruiting: Huskers moving forward with other WR targets; Quick look at upcoming visitors

The Nebraska coaches didn’t sit on their hands after missing on Jamire Calvin during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. So even though the longtime Nebraska lean picked Oregon State, the Huskers had contingency plans in place and have moved forward…

Outland trophy notes: Robinson didn’t feel pressure at Alabama; Lott eyed playoff long ago and more

Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson was a five-star recruit coming out of Monroe, Louisiana, and ranked as the No. 3 prospect nationally by 247Sports. But Robinson said he didn’t necessarily feel any pressure following him to Tuscaloosa.

Recruiting: Top Nebraska target Tyjon Lindsey decommits from Ohio State

Tyjon Lindsey, a top 100 prospect at wide receiver from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School, announced on Twitter early Wednesday morning that he was reopening his recruiting process just weeks before Signing Day.

After Mark Banker's 'surprise' departure, Mike Riley will have a new defensive coordinator for the first time in nearly two decades

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker will not have his contract renewed, Husker coach Mike Riley announced Wednesday, while defensive backs coach Brian Stewart has decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere.