Noah Johnson, Senior Sports Editor: Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 17
It’s been eight games since Nebraska fans have seen the Huskers win. Don’t expect that streak to end this weekend.
Nebraska is coming off another defeat to a team the Huskers should have been able to beat. Statistically, the Huskers outplayed Purdue in their 42-28 loss. Nebraska racked up almost 600 yards in total offense, with over half coming on the ground. Quarterback Adrian Martinez played a strong game under center, throwing for 323 yards, two touchdowns and a late interception. Senior running back Devine Ozigbo put together one of the best games of his career and likely solidified his spot as the Huskers’ go-to running back.
So what gives? How did the Huskers let this game slip away?
Just like in nearly every other game this season, a lack of discipline doomed Nebraska from the moment the team stepped on the field. Against Purdue, the Huskers accumulated 11 penalties for a total of 136 yards. Coupled with an inability to convert on third and fourth down, Nebraska’s lack of discipline will continue to hinder its success this season.
Coming into a game against a Wisconsin team led by sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor and a strong offensive line ranked eighth nationally in rushing offense, Nebraska’s defense will have to put together an uncharacteristically strong performance on Saturday in order to have any chance against the Badgers.
Martinez and the rest of the Husker offense will step into Camp Randall Stadium against a good Wisconsin defense, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Martinez and Ozigbo find some success on the ground. The Badgers’ defense bent a little during their last two games, specifically in their 24-21 loss to Brigham Young University. Establishing the ground game is going to be critical for Nebraska if it hopes to find any offensive success this weekend.
Of course, none of this really matters if Nebraska continues to pick up penalties the way it has this season. Simply put, there’s no better way to shoot yourself in the foot than by averaging nearly 100 yards worth of penalties per game. If Nebraska doesn’t find a way to reduce this number significantly, there won’t be much of a game to watch on Saturday.
Jacob Bova, Assistant Sports Editor: Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 13
The Huskers will have to do everything right if they are to beat Wisconsin this year. Judging by the way they have performed so far this year, they will not, and this game will be a massive struggle.
The two teams are entering this game from completely different directions. The Badgers are coming off a bye week after winning at Iowa to take control over the Big Ten West, while Nebraska enters the game with an 0-4 record.
If Nebraska is to win this game, it will have to do a good job at containing the Badgers’ star running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is the nation’s leading rusher in yards per game, and almost impossible to stop. The last time Nebraska faced a good running back, they were gashed for long run after long run by Karan Higdon of Michigan.
On the other side of the ball, Nebraska will have its hands full with one of the top defenses in the Big Ten. Nebraska will need to be able to run the ball effectively so it can stay ahead of the chains and avoid becoming one-dimensional with its passes. That will be easier said than done as Wisconsin enters with one of the best-run defenses in the country.
Either way, I think Nebraska is going to have a tough time with Wisconsin on both sides of the ball. I think this team is getting better with every passing week so it should not be as bad as the Michigan game, but I don’t think this game is going to be close by any means.
Luke Mullin, Assistant Sports Editor: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 17
Well, it turns out the Purdue game wasn’t so winnable after all.
Nebraska is now 0-4 to open the season and it would take a dramatic upset to end the winless streak this week. Wisconsin is as tough of a team as any in the country, with a bruising offensive line, stellar defense and Heisman-caliber running back. And of course, what Nebraska fan can forget the many lopsided losses Nebraska has suffered to Wisconsin since joining the Big Ten.
There were some encouraging signs near the end of the Purdue game, but this team still doesn’t have it all put together. Nebraska’s coaching staff seemed pleased with the up-tempo, no-huddle offense the Huskers ran in the fourth quarter last week, but the Huskers will be hard-pressed to repeat the same efficiency this week. Wisconsin is going to slow the game down, run the ball effectively and keep mistakes to a minimum, so Nebraska can ill afford to make any characteristic penalties and turnovers.
On a good day, Nebraska might have the talent to keep this one close, but on a bad day it could get ugly like the Michigan game two weeks ago. It will be up to the team to find out which Husker squad shows up.