Four B1G Things vs Nebraska: The Final Day

30 Sep

Stop Taylor Martinez. Smash the Husker defensive line in the mouth. Play great under great expectations. These were the three B1G Things we’ve discussed over the past three days that the Badgers must do to beat Nebraska. That brings us to the last day before the big game and ultimately the last B1G Thing the Badgers need to focus on to walk away victorious. Here goes.

Prove it. Earn it. Win it.

That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s no longer a question of talent; we have it in abundance. It, now, all comes down to beating the guy across from you. If the Badgers focus on doing that every play, the rest will fall in place.

So come on, Badgers. We know you’ve put in the work and have the hunger to be great–we’ve seen the glimpses. So go out and embrace playing a damn good team. Sure, they’ll make some plays, but take the field with the mentality that you’ll win every play. Do that and make history.

We’re dying to celebrate again.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

 

Four Big Things vs Nebraska: Day Three

29 Sep

Last year’s Ohio State game was one of the greatest atmospheres and moments in Wisconsin football history. To this day I still get chills thinking about it. I’m here to argue, however, that this upcoming game is bigger. Much bigger.

The Badgers came into last year’s game against No. 1 ranked Ohio State  limping off a loss to Michigan State and holding the 18th position in the polls. Sure, we thought we were good, but we had yet to prove it. We hoped we would win, sure, but that’s all it was–a hope. Going into the game we hoped it would it be a great atmosphere, but we didn’t know if it would be. We hoped we’d play the Buckeyes tough, but we didn’t know for sure. We hoped the Badgers would smash the Buckeyes in the mouth and come away with a magical win, but…we had no way of knowing.

Bottom line: those things did happen, and now we know how great it is to play in a Camp Randall night-game shrouded in national hype. Last year we hoped to play for a BCS birth. Now we know we’re fighting for one. We’ve seen what can be and we know what to expect–now we’re fighting for the chance to repeat it. We’re not the underdog anymore, Wisconsin. No more are we the darkhorse–we’re the front runner.

Or at least we think we are.

That’s where the third installment of Four Big Things vs Nebraska comes in:

Playing With Expectations

Here come the bright lights, Badgers. Last year you demonstrated you could win the big game–but that was last year’s team. The players from last year’s team understand what it takes to pull off the big win–and how it feels to lose the big one. They should be prepared for Nebraska. There will be no surprises. There will be no wide eyes. The Badgers no longer have the luxury of coming into College Game Day’s showdown as a relative underdog. They’ve got the target on their big cardinal-clad back. It’s here we see if they are truly continuing the momentum they started last year. It’s here we see if the Rose Bowl loss has kept them hungry. It’s time to see what they’re made of.

Gut-check time, Badgers; time to prove you’re worthy of another magical Camp Randall celebration.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. Nebraska

29 Sep

As possibly the most-hyped game in Wisconsin football history, all eyes will be on Madison Saturday night. Nebraska will be bringing upwards of 20,000 fans to Madison, which will up the ante even more. The excitement surrounding this game is unmatched.

But, what’s truly important is what happens on the field.

The Huskers have had trouble stopping both the run and pass this year. You’d think they would have shored that up by now. They haven’t. And that’s bad news for a defense going up against the most-high powered offense they’ll face all year. Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and company should be able to find their groove early and scoring will be a constant theme. Look for Wilson to emerge as a legit Heisman contender following this game.

On the other side of the ball, the Huskers will score some points. Their offense is just too good to be completely contained. But it won’t be enough.

Wisconsin 40, Nebraska 23

-Sam Oleson

I, like most of Sconnie Nation, have been licking my chops since the 2011 schedule was released. Could this game be any bigger? College Game Day–coming. National spot-light–got it. Big Ten championship preview–likely. Seriously, I’m shaking just thinking about it.

Like Sam stated, it’s been well-documented that the vaunted “blackshirts” have yet to completely show up. I will counter, however, that this will be Nebraska’s first game with a completely healthy defense. And something tells me Bo Pelini’s boys won’t have much trouble getting jacked for this one. They’ll make some stops and test the Badgers, sure, but ultimately, the Badgers have too much star-power at all levels of the offense to be completely shut down. The Badgers will score, mark my words.

On the flip side, the Husker offense is none-to-shabby, themselves. Martinez and Burkhead will give the Badgers headaches. Early on, I think we’ll definitely be in store for a slug-fest as both offenses move the ball effectively. As the game draws on, though, I see the Badgers begin to pull away, forcing Martinez to go to the air. It’s here, after a Martinez mistake, that I see the Badgers putting the game on ice.

Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 28

-Mitch Larson

Four Big Things vs Nebraska: Day Two

28 Sep

What does the “N” on the side of Nebraska’s helmet stand for? Knowle–err, never mind. I did, you know, promise myself I wouldn’t make any Husker jokes this week. But man, it’s been tough…

Anyways, all sad attempts at humor aside, let’s jump right into it. Yesterday we discussed how important it will be for the Badgers to contain Taylor Martinez. For today’s Big Thing we turn our focus back over to Wisconsin’s offense.

The Big Uglies: Wisconsin’s Offensive Line

Russell Wilson gets all the media attention. James White slashes defenses and Montee Ball is a scoring juggernaut. And nobody gets a stadium to scream in unison like Nick Toon. But what these play-makers have in common is that all of their success starts in the trenches with the offensive line.

Week One of the NFL saw three of last year’s Wisconsin offensive lineman start for professional teams. A pretty amazing stat. What makes it more amazing? So far, this year’s version of the Badgers haven’t seen much of a drop off. Yet. Gabe Carimi played phenomenally last year against elite B1G players like Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State’s Cam Heyward. This upcoming game against the Huskers will once again test the Badgers. Nebraska’s Jared Crick is a monster-of-a-man and Wisconsin’s interior lineman will have their hands full.

With Nebraska’s secondary being its biggest concern (so far, at least) look for the Badgers to once again feature a very balanced air vs ground attack–but one that’s willing to take some deeper shots at the Huskers. This means it’s going to be crucial for the offensive line to hold its own pass-blocking the Huskers as wide-outs work longer routs. Protecting Wilson must be paramount. Also look for Nebraska to bring some of their talented linebackers on a variety of twists and stunts to attempt to slow down the Badgers.

But let’s not forget about that running game. And oh yeah, the Badger running backs are only as effective as their blockers up front.

So the Badger offensive linemen will have their hands full as they face their first real challenge of the year. Between run-blocking for Ball and White, slowing down Crick and Company, and picking up the Huskers’ very athletic linebacking corps, the Badgers’ Big Uglies–as the coaching staff calls them–will have quite the hand in how the Badgers fare on Saturday. Here’s to hoping they’re up for the challenge. That is all.

Go in peace, Badger fans. May the force of Carimi and Moffit be with you.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Four B1G Things vs Nebraska

27 Sep

My Nick Toon jersey is washed, pressed, and folded. My Nebraska vs Wisconsin ticket lays precisely on the counter where I left it a month ago. My preferred pre-game beverages? Chilling in the refrigerator.  All that’s left to do is watch the remaining minutes tick by as Moses’s War creeps closer and closer.

But as the hype and anticipation continue to grow, so does the anxiety that die-hard fans sometimes feel in the waning days before their team squares off with a heavy-weight contender. So, in a (probably futile) effort to help stem the nerves, we’re going to cover one key area per day that the Badgers need to focus on in order to send Nebraska home with a losing B1G record.

Let’s get ‘her crackin’.

One of Four B1G Things: Contain, Contain, Contain

T-Magic, Tres Martinez, T-Mart, Taylor Martinez, whatever you call him,containing the Husker quarterback will be paramount to the success of the Badgers. Sam Oleson said it perfectly when he stated, “The Husker offense goes as Taylor Martinez goes.” He is the life and focal point of the Nebraska attack–both through the air and on the ground. Running the option alongside running back Rex Burkhead, Martinez is a beast in the open field. In space, Martinez is one of the top runners in the country. Don’t believe me? Check the highlights from Martinez vs Kansas State last year during Martinez’s freshman campaign.

That being said, it’s not like Wisconsin has never faced a running, dual-threat quarterback before. Seems to me they did just fine about a year ago in another home-game of epic proportions…

So to stop Martinez, I predict the Badgers to follow a similar game-plan as last year vs Pryor and the Buckeyes. For as dangerous as Martinez is running the rock, he still has a ways to go before mastering the art of the aerial attack. Look for the Badgers to keep a spy (Borland, anyone?) on Martinez and to focus on shutting down the run by stacking the box–forcing Martinez to beat them through the air.

If the Badgers can limit T-Magic’s production on the ground, prevent the big play, and force Martinez to go to the air, Wisconsin will be one step closer to defeating the Huskers.

So sleep tight, Badger fans, and may dreams of Jump Around dance in your heads.

More to come tomorrow.

Mitch Larson

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska: Scouting the Cornhuskers

26 Sep

In case you didn’t know (I pray to God that isn’t actually the case), No. 7 Wisconsin (4-0) hosts No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) in the Cornhuskers’ first Big Ten game and one of the most-anticipated games in Badger football history. Not only is this the first Big Ten game for both schools this season, but it’s also a top 10 match-up that could have serious national title implications.

Moral of the story: this is a national championship elimination game for both teams.

So, here’s a scouting report for the high-powered Huskers.

Offense

Quarterback:

Using a spread option attack, Nebraska has one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The key to that specific attack, more so than many other offensive schemes across the country, is the quarterback. A system like this relies on the quarterback to make plays with his feet and if he can’t, the offense becomes extremely limited.

This is the case with Taylor Martinez and Nebraska. The way Martinez goes is the way Nebraska goes. And so far, it’s been going pretty well. The Huskers are averaging close to 43 points a game and Martinez has been the key.

He leads the team in rushing with 421 yards on just 63 attempts and has already scored seven touchdowns. If he gets out in space, he’s one of the most dangerous players in the country and Wisconsin will need to keep him bottled up. They did it to Chandler Harnish, there’s no reason to think they can’t limit Martinez as well.

And, if they can limit Martinez on the ground, it bodes well for Wisconsin. Martinez, only a sophomore, still hasn’t mastered the passing game, completing only around 50 percent of his passes this season with 647 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Running Backs:

Other than Martinez, Nebraska’s primary force on the ground is running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead, like Martinez, is having a fabulous season, rushing for 420 yards already on 63 carries with seven touchdowns.

If Martinez can’t get it going, the Huskers will rely on Burkhead to power the offense. Other than Burkhead, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green have also received a number of carries this season.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Although they don’t get a ton of action, Nebraska does have a number of receivers capable of making some big plays. Freshman Jamal Turner leads the team with 8 catches for 139 yards with a long of 43. Quincy Enunwa also has 8 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.

The Huskers also use the tight end, with Kyler Reed chipping in with 5 catches for 137 yards.

Although certainly not featured, Wisconsin can’t afford to sleep on this receiving corps.

Offensive Line:

Clearly, with the Huskers having already rushed for 1,090 yards as a team, the offensive line is doing a pretty good job. When Martinez has dropped back to pass however, the line has allowed 5 sacks. If Wisconsin hopes to shut down Martinez, they’ll need to penetrate this tough line.

Defense

Defensive Line:

Despite a very talented defensive line, Nebraska has been somewhat vulnerable against the run this year. Opponents are averaging 133 yards a game on the ground and if Wisconsin likes to do one thing, it’s run.

However, after missing last week against Wyoming, the Huskers get back senior defensive tackle Jared Crick, who already has 14 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 1 sack this year. Containing him will be huge.

Russell Wilson will also need to be on the lookout for defensive end Cameron Meredith, who already has 3 sacks on the year.

Linebackers:

The Nebraska linebacking corps is led by senior Lavonte David, who leads the team with 38 tackles, 2 TFL and an interception. Will Compton (True Blood, anyone?) has also had a solid season for the Huskers, contributing 22 tackles.

Defensive Backs:

This is where Nebraska has struggled on the year. They’re giving up over 216 yards passing a game and have already given up 8 touchdowns.

Wisconsin, under Wilson, has suddenly become quite potent through the air. If given time, the combinations of Wilson-Toon and Wilson-Abbrederis could have big days.

The fact is, as highly touted as the “Blackshirts” were coming into the season, they’ve been quite disappointing so far. They’re giving up 22 points and 350 yards a game and don’t look anything like the defense of last season.

If they play like they have so far, Wisconsin could easily put up 40 points on the Huskers.

Special Teams

Kicker:

Nebraska’s kicker, Brett Maher, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He’s 8-of-9 on field goals with his only miss coming from over 50 yards.

Punter:

Did I mention Brett Maher was good? He’s also Nebraska’s punter and he may be even better here. He’s averaging 49 yards a punt and has already pinned 6 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Kick Returns:

For the most part, Ameer Abdullah has handled the return duties for the Huskers. And, he’s good. On the year, he’s averaging 42.5 yards a return and has a touchdown.

Punt Returns:

Again, Abdullah. He’s averaging 12 yards a return and has a long of 28. Look out for No. 8.

 

 

Grading the Defense: Week 4

26 Sep

Just another day in the life for the nation’s third-best scoring defense.

The Badgers played well enough up front and essentially made the Coyotes one-dimensional. The secondary was stellar, the linebackers made plays, the front four brought pressure, and the collective defensive unit finally began recording take-aways. Here are the individual grades:

Defensive Line: A-

I’m a bit torn about the line’s performance. While they did bring constant pressure and recorded three sacks, they seemed unable to stop the run game, at times. Granted the Coyotes were very one-dimensional in their play-calling and ran the ball 37 times, it still hurts to see 124 rushing yards under the Coyotes’ stat line. Call me a perfectionist, but while it only averages out to 3.4 yards per rush, I think the Badgers front four can improve. And they’ll need to next weekend against the dynamic rushing attack of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

Linebackers: A-

This would be a straight A, but I pass part of the blame for South Dakota’s 124 rushing yards to the linebacking corps. But besides that, the linebackers were effective. Borland continues to demonstrate his knack for making big plays while recording his first interception of the year. The unit also featured the Badgers’ top three tacklers of the day in Mike Taylor, Borland, and Kevin Claxton.

Secondary: A+

Any team who can hold their opposition, no matter how bad, to less than 50 yards through the air deserves mad props. When Nick Toon can out-gain the Coyotes in one play, you know the secondary was on top of their game. Cromartie seems to be fitting in well with the unit and they collectively appear confident to move on to their next challenge.

It’s awfully hard to complain about a defense that has given up 8.5 ppg through the first four match-ups, but the Badgers must continue to improve before their anticipated match-up with the Huskers. Can’t wait.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Week 4: Wisconsin’s Offensive Grades

24 Sep

59 points. 612 yards on offense. 25 first downs.

Yawn.

The Wisconsin Badgers put up huge numbers once again on Saturday against South Dakota, yet Badger fans have seen this before. True life: you know an offense is playing well when 59 points doesn’t even seem out of the ordinary.

Here are the grades:

Quarterback:

If Russell Wilson isn’t seriously being considered for the Heisman Trophy at this point, then there’s something wrong with America. On Saturday, he was 19-of-25 passing for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Simply unreal.

However, Joe Brennan, though he had minimal playing time, certainly didn’t shine. He was 0-for-2 and had an interception.

Grade: A-

Running Backs:

As a team, the Badgers rushed for a “pedestrian” 267 yards on Saturday. At this point, a monster number like that feels average for Wisconsin fans.

James White led Wisconsin with 95 yards on nine carries and scored a season-long 49-yard touchdown. Montee Ball chipped in with 88 yards and two scores, while both Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon each got significant playing time, recording their first collegiate touchdowns.

Grade: A

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Simply put, Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis were phenomenal on Saturday. Both finished with over 100 receiving yards, while Toon had a couple scores and Abbrederis chipped in with one as well.

Just another solid all-around performance from Wisconsin receivers.

Grade: A

Offensive Line:

Other than the one sack they gave up, Wisconsin’s offensive line was impenetrable on Saturday. They opened up huge holes and gave Wilson ample time in the pocket.

Grade: A

Overall: A

 

 

How the Players Feel: Travis Frederick’s Take on the Offense

22 Sep

Listen in as Paul Bunya–er–Travis Frederick–gives his take on why Wisconsin’s offense has been so effective. But seriously, Frederick’s beard deserves some credit. And its own zip code. Grow on, Frederick. Grow on.

And as always, nice job Mike Lucas and UWBadgers.com

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. South Dakota

22 Sep

As Wisconsin takes on South Dakota in their final tune-up before their showdown with Nebraska next week, they’ll need to do a couple things.

First off, they need to stay sharp. Although I can’t say I’m worried the Coyotes will pull off the upset (although they did defeat Minnesota last year), the Badgers can’t afford to play sloppy. This is their last chance to get anything fixed before they embark upon the Big Ten season. And, South Dakota won’t be coming into this game just expecting to get blown out. As probably the biggest game of many of their players’ lives, the Coyotes will be pumped up and ready to play. South Dakota has a few playmakers on both sides of the ball, so Wisconsin will need to neutralize them from the start and erase any hope.

Secondly, the Badgers need to stay healthy. If they get up big, the back-ups should come in at halftime. We don’t need Russell Wilson staying in until the fourth quarter like last week. The scheduling of South Dakota was meant for the very purpose of tuning the Badgers up for Big Ten play and any injuries would completely erase the good that comes out of this matchup.

In the end, a win is a pre-drawn conclusion, but it’s how the Badgers play and how many of their players walk off the field healthy that will determine the merit of Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday.

Prediction: Wisconsin 52, South Dakota 10

-Sam Oleson

I wrote a book on what I expected out of last week’s match-up, and frankly, it was a waste of time. In that essay-of-a-prediction I was, for the most part, completely wrong. So here I will take the opposite approach and predict the game in three sentences:

The Badgers have far more talent than the Coyotes on both sides of the ball, that much is clear. They do, however, need to address the at-times sloppy play and penalties from last week. If they do this and maintain the past efficiency of their first-team units, the back-ups should have plenty of time to shine, come Saturday.

Prediction: Wisconsin 63, South Dakota 17

-Mitch Larson

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