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