Nebraska rush offense vs. Wisconsin rush defense
The Huskers had better pack a lunch. Wisconsin’s run defense gives up just 2.43 yards per carry and has allowed just two runs of 20 yards or longer. The Badgers aren’t fancy against the run, they’re just consistent — consistently tough — with defensive linemen Conor Sheehy and Alec James and undersized-but-rawhide-tough inside linebackers TJ Edwards and Chris Orr. Nebraska has to be diverse in its run game and give carries to Mikale Wilbon, Devine Ozigbo and Jaylin Bradley. Nebraska’s offensive line has been better the last two weeks in wins over Rutgers and Illinois, but Wisconsin is a different kind of nasty. If Nebraska gains 100 yards on the ground, call it good.
Nebraska pass offense vs. Wisconsin pass defense
Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee wobbled badly through a three-game stretch in which he threw nine interceptions, but he righted the ship against Illinois’ secondary. That should help, as should a healthier trio of top wideouts in Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and JD Spielman. NU’s receivers can make plays on Wisconsin’s secondary, which may be the best the Badgers have had in years but remains vulnerable because of the chances UW takes with its pass rush. The Huskers will have their hands full blocking Wisconsin’s front seven and its basket full of twists, stunts and blitzes. But if they can keep Lee protected, NU will have some downfield chances.
Wisconsin rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense
The Badgers do what they do — they run the heck out of the ball with power plays and pulling offensive linemen and tough tight ends and fullbacks. In each of the last two games, Nebraska has actually held up against Wisconsin’s run game pretty well until the fourth quarter, when the Badgers got some chunk plays. NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s preference for rotating players in his front seven should pay off coming into this game, but Nebraska’s linemen and linebackers haven’t faced a line that averages 322 pounds. UW running back Jonathan Taylor, though just a true freshman, is fast and big. Nebraska can’t let him find open space.
Wisconsin pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense
Much depends on whether preseason All-America tight end Troy Fumagalli plays in the game. If he does recover enough from a leg injury to get in the game, Nebraska’s coverage assignment gets much harder, as Fumagalli is a giant, athletic target who can catch the ball over defenders. Wisconsin’s receivers — Jazz Peavy, Danny Davis, Quintez Cephus and AJ Taylor — are as good and perhaps a little better than Nebraska's receiving corps, and NU’s secondary isn’t as good as Wisconsin’s. That leaves the Huskers’ front to pressure Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, the lefty with good touch but not much power.
Nebraska has the more explosive returners (Spielman on kickoffs, Pierson-El on punts) while Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti has often been excellent this season for the Badgers. NU kicker Drew Brown gets a slight nod over good friend Rafael Gaglianone — who wears No. 27 in honor of former Husker punter Sam Foltz — and Brown is one of the best kickoff guys in college football. Nebraska needs to find a way to steal a touchdown or some key field position here.
NU is 46-5 in home night games, and even if this is one of NU’s toughest, the Huskers have big recent wins (2015 Michigan State, 2014 Miami, 2009 Oklahoma) at night. Nebraska will be honoring the 1997 national title team and wearing alternate uniforms; the Huskers are 2-2 since 2009 in alternates at home. Wisconsin has a psychological advantage over every team in the Big Ten West. Since the West formed in 2014, Wisconsin has lost just one divisional road game — at Northwestern in 2014.
Key matchup: Nebraska’s offensive line vs. Wisconsin’s pass rush
The Badgers’ offense might be slowed some, but Nebraska won’t shut them down entirely, so, somewhere in the course of four quarters, NU will have to score some points and complete some passes. And Lee will only be able to do that if he has the time to do it. Look for the Huskers to throw some on first down to keep Wisconsin off-balance, but Lee has to make plays on third down.
Here’s the big one. Until Nebraska beats Wisconsin, the Big Ten West bully will continue to punch the Huskers with a power running game and a stingy defense. This isn’t the best NU team that’s come down the pike since 2011, but it’s probably not the best Badger team, either. Nebraska will need a quick start — Wisconsin occasionally can be sluggish early — and withstand the inevitable fourth-quarter UW surge. On the night Nebraska welcomes the 1997 national title team back to Memorial Stadium, the Huskers are game. They have a puncher’s chance.
Our prediction: WISCONSIN 24, NEBRASKA 20
Big Red Today coverage
World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Chris Heady tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast.
Minnesota’s offense, which started eight freshmen in its bowl win over Georgia Tech, averaged 5.68 yards per play last season, ranking ninth in the Big Ten. That’s UM’s highest average in a decade.
Ask around the offense, and "plus-twos" are as important as any conventional statistic coaches and players track. Moving a defender two yards can demonstrate a strength advantage and extra effort on an individual level.
Former Husker running back Ameer Abdullah re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses which players in Husker football history he'd most like to bring back to play for Nebraska today, and which one's would fit the current system best.
Twenty-one of the 33 upperclassmen scholarship players play defense. And 11 of that 21 are seniors. Big, bold vocal seniors who have played a lot of football. With that experience comes urgency. Wisdom. Responsibility.
The Tony Tuioti effect for Nebraska football recruiting is in full swing.
Deontai Williams said, he’s the “OG” of the safety group. He’s right, too — he and junior Marquel Dismuke are the veterans while redshirt freshmen Cam’ron Jones and CJ Smith learn and sophomore Cam Taylor bounces among safety, nickel and…
His boss got all the attention during last fall’s miserable start, but put yourself in Barrett Ruud’s shoes for a moment. Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler returned to his alma mater and hometown in 2018 to coach his old position —…
On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker explores some of Nebraska football's hardest losses, and narrows down what one play in Husker history he'd choose to change.
JoJo Domann is one of Nebraska’s most versatile defenders. And his coaches need an array of colorful language to describe him. Leaning against a wall on the second floor of the Hawks Center, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Domann…
Former Nebraska running back Greg Bell — who left the program four games into the 2018 season — is transferring to his hometown school, San Diego State.
Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti wants a consistent daily mindset from his players, where linemen “press the reset button” after each practice to gear up for the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.
If the first two weeks of spring practices are any indication, Nebraska's defense has some playmakers.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker previews the Blackshirts' defensive line personnel for spring football, reasonable expectations for the group and much more.
Even if Jovan Dewitt can’t make every meeting — even if, during practice, he has to take a knee and “get some hydration” — he’s going to be at every practice he can.
Nebraska has given Logan Jones something to think about. The Council Bluffs Lewis Central defensive lineman tweeted Tuesday he has received a scholarship offer from the Huskers after committing to Iowa last month.
It's a spring of transition on the offensive line, which lost several leaders from last year's team. Now a trio of juniors holds that responsibility, and this spring is an important step in their development.
Videos include an interview with Scott Frost, a recap of the the practice by Sam McKewon and Evan Bland and an update on Maurice Washington.
Circumstances are aligning for Jaylin Bradley to prove himself. Now coaches are anxious to find out if the running back can.
Attack. That’s a buzzword for the Husker tight ends this spring. Collectively, they’re the offense's most experienced group. But there’s a higher level the coaches expect these tight ends to reach.
So far, so good for true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey. Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said McCaffrey, an early enrollee, has done well in spring practices to pick up the offense.
Scott Frost doesn't even want to say the Oklahoma word. But the drill Nebraska threw out in front of the media Monday morning did look a whole lot like the infamous Oklahoma drill.
This timeline of events in the Maurice Washington investigation is based on allegations outlined in court documents, investigator reports and officials' statements.
Nebraska was in full pads for its fourth practice of the spring Monday morning. The media were allowed inside practice for the first 30 minutes. Here's what we saw.
On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker skis down a mountain and shares the story of his all-time favorite Husker football game.
Husker running back Maurice Washington returned to California over the weekend to self-surrender to authorities, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
This column might be a shot-clock violation. But I received so much feedback from emails and on Twitter last week on the idea of a shot clock in high school basketball that I thought I would spill over into this…
Adrian Martinez’s head coach, Scott Frost, wants more. Much more, based on his comments last week. Don’t gloss over them. If Frost is bullish on Martinez’s potential — talking him up as potentially one of the best, if not the…