The Huskers have won the last 20 night games they’ve hosted at Memorial Stadium. On Saturday, the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers will look to end that streak when they come to Lincoln to play the Huskers on Oct. 7, at 7 p.m.
This game will be the toughest of the year so far for Nebraska. Up to this point, none of NU’s opponents this year have been ranked. The Huskers are 2-0 in Big Ten Conference play this season, but have quite the hurdle to get over in order to improve to 3-0.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has a long history with Nebraska head coach Mike Riley. Riley met Chryst in 1991 when Riley was head coach of the now-defunct San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football, and Riley offered Chryst a position as running backs and tight ends coach. Since then, Chryst has served as Riley’s offensive coordinator at Oregon State and the tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers when Riley coached the team from 1999-2001.
Chryst is in his third season at the helm of Wisconsin’s football program and has a 25-6 record at the school. Wisconsin has not lost a game to Nebraska since Chryst took over as head coach. Overall, UW has a 5-1 record against the Huskers since NU joined the Big Ten in 2011.
During Chryst’s tenure at Wisconsin, its defense has been dominant — a trend that has continued in 2017. This season, Wisconsin has only allowed an average of 13 1/2 points-per-game which ranks eighth in the nation. Additionally, UW has allowed less than 15 points in three of its four games and has only given up six touchdowns total. The Badgers also rank among the top-five nationally in total defense, surrendering an average of only 247 yards per game.
The Badgers’ front seven is dominating opponents through their four games this season. Wisconsin is only allowing 74.3 rushing yards, which ranks No. 4 in the country. UW has allowed less than 100 yards on the ground in three out of four games in 2017. That could prove to be a major factor as the Huskers have not won a game this season when they have rushed for less than 110 yards.
The Badgers have gotten to the opposing team’s quarterback 16 times this season. The secondary for Wisconsin has also made its fair share of plays this season by picking off seven interceptions in just four games.
To go with its dominant defense, UW has a much-improved offense from last year. This season, Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 163-54. One of the Badgers’ 13 1/2 players this year is sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He has thrown nine touchdowns in just four games in 2017, matching his season total from last season. The Badgers’ quarterback is averaging 220 passing yards this season; combined with the 234 yards Wisconsin averages on the ground, the Badgers have several ways to score on opponents.
The Nebraska defense has its work cut out for them this weekend. Wisconsin is averaging 41 points-per-game on offense. The Blackshirts are riding a big wave of momentum and confidence, however, and have not allowed a touchdown in their last seven quarters of football.
If Nebraska can stifle the Wisconsin offense, it could be a close, low scoring game. The last two games these two teams played in Lincoln were decided by a total of five points. Nebraska beat Wisconsin 30-27 in 2012, and the Badgers was victorious over the Huskers 23-21 in 2015.
Nebraska will need to play its best game of the season to have a chance at victory Saturday night. The Huskers are 46-5 all time in home night games, but they will need to play mistake-free football to notch conference win number three against a very good Wisconsin team.