Well, we're getting closer and closer to the big game and it's time to learn a little bit more about Nebraska.
As we do every week, we exchanged questions with our sister SBNation blog, which this week is Corn Nation. You can find my answers to their questions here. But instead of just getting one perspective, we got three, as Jon Johnston, Aaron Musfeldt and Ricky Smith all provided answers to our questions:
B5Q: Give us a little detail on how the Nebraska offense is run. At first glance, this appears to be a good matchup for the Wisconsin defense because they are good at stopping the run (third fewest rushing touchdowns allowed since start of 2009), but the Badgers have had some problems with option offenses in the past. Which team do you think has an advantage in that matchup?
Ricky: When Tim Beck (OC) said during the offseason that his offense really couldn’t be labeled, he wasn’t kidding. We’re not completely option. We’re not power just yet. We’re not West Coast (mercifully, I might add). I do know that we dusted off of our fullback this year and that we haven’t heard much from the tight end...yet. I think Beck is still trying to determine what his offense is good at. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to figure that out in a hurry. I do like the fact that he sticks to plays that work and he continues to the run them. He’s Bizarro Shawn Watson! If Wisky loads the box and forces Martinez to throw, God have mercy on Husker souls.
Aaron: So far this year, the offense has felt a lot like it did ten years ago, only with more "options". They have worked hard at developing a solid run game while still utilizing the weapons they have in the passing game. It’s still in it’s early stages and Husker fans do expect speed bumps along the way.
Jon: Ricky had it right - I don’t think anyone really has a handle on what exactly this offense is supposed to be yet. Given all the young players, it appears Tim Beck spent the non-conference games figuring out the same thing. About the option - Taylor Martinez runs the speed option well, but his pitches have been an adventure. I don’t think you’ll see it much unless it’s in the right situation, i.e., set up by successful inside power plays. Passing - Martinez's biggest gains have been bombs, literally, throwing the ball into the air and letting speedy receivers run under the ball. Sounds like a prayer, but it’s been effective.
B5Q: There's been a lot of talk about about how the Nebraska defense has been underwhelming this season. How worried are you about Wisconsin's potent offense?
Ricky: Very worried. Especially if Wilson is as good as advertised when it comes to rolling out and moving that offense (see Fresno State’s Derek Carr). The running back tandem worries me, too. If you haven’t noticed, Pelini defenses aren’t stellar when it comes to stopping the run.
Aaron: It’s hard to say. Carl Pelini has been playing a lot of younger guys to get them experience, especially in the secondary. This weekend the Huskers should be at full strength and I expect a good performance out of them.
Jon: IN BO WE TRUST! Most Husker fans would say that Bo and Carl can come up with a defense that will stop Wisconsin, so we’re not worried. Having said that - if you’re not worried about it, you’re not paying attention. Wilson gives the Badgers great balance - hard to defend. Expect one or two extra players to commit to stopping the run, and the secondary to rely on man coverage. If the secondary breaks down, that’s where the Badgers win the game.
B5Q: Give me one lesser known player on offense and one lesser known player on defense that will have to step up for Nebraska to win this game.
Ricky: Technically, this guy is special teams, but I’ll put him on offense. I’m going to go with Brett Maher, NU’s kicker/punter. He’s going to need to have ice in his veins for field goals and be able to flip the field when punting. The more I think about the defense, Will Compton (LB) is going to have to have the game of his life. He’s going to have to be able to sniff out play action and be ready for a downhill running attack. And he’s going to have to make extremely quick decisions. He’s ready for a big game.
Aaron: On offense I going with Tyler Legate, the fullback. He has been solid for us this year, but we really need him to get his blocks down to get the run game going. He needs to be the bowling ball fullback that helps to wear down the Badgers defense. On defense, I’m going to go with whomever lines up opposite of Alfonzo Dennard this week. That might be Ciante Evans, Andrew Green or someone else. We need both corners to be lockdown so that the blackshirts can make Wisconsin one-dimensional on offense. I like our chances if we know that Wisconsin has to run the football.
Jon: On defense, it’s Daimion Stafford. I expect Nebraska to play a 4-2-5 with Stafford as the guy who’s going to handle extra run responsibility. He’s a hard hitter, a darned good tackler and he seems to know where the ball is all the time. On offense - either Kenny Bell or Jamal Turner, both first-year players at receiver, both speedsters (see: Martinez, bomb). You didn’t mention special teams - and Nebraska’s special teams have been pretty darned good. Returner Ameer Adbullah set a single game kickoff return record in only his second game in college, and on punts he always makes the first man miss. If there’s a guy who can make a huge difference - he’s it.
B5Q: You Nebraska fans are certainly not being quiet about how you are going to take over Madison this weekend. In what ways do you plan on taking over Madison? And I know you guys always travel well, but is this is a special occurrence because it's the first Big Ten game?
Ricky: Notre Dame was "special". This game is a whole new level. First game of the B1G era, Barry Alvarez, beer, brats...it’s on. The road games that I’ve been to have been awesome. We invite everyone to our tailgate...friend or foe, we cheer loud, we’re proud of our team and we’re very...I mean very...intense about it. It’s all in good fun, though. Except for at Colorado...eff them. P.S. - Wisconsin should have been Nebraska’s permanent crossover game. I was never consulted, though. I must have been on vacation and missed Commish Delaney’s call.
Aaron: I’m not sure how many Husker fans will actually get into the game, but there will be a lot of people that want to be in Madison because of the significance of the game. It’s the first Big Ten game and they want to see how we line up against the best the conference has to offer.
Jon: I’m going, and I have a ticket. I have always wanted to attend a game at Camp Randall. That it’s Nebraska and our first Big Ten game is like... well, I just can’t believe it. I don’t care if we take over Madison or not, really, I just want the experience of being there. I’ve done a lot of work in Wisconsin over the years, always enjoyed the state and the people. This whole thing is like a bizarre dream come true.
B5Q: The spread is heavily favoring the Badgers and there are a lot who don't think this game will be all that close (including me). What do you think about that and what is your prediction?
Ricky: I don’t know. I just don’t see NU getting blown out. It doesn’t happen that often. I’m not a Husker Kool Aid Drinker by predicting a win, but I think NU has a fighting chance if they can get out of the gate fast on offense. I’m clinging to the notion that UW hasn’t seen team speed or physicality like NU yet. And I’m clinging to that like grim death.
Aaron: If Nebraska keeps turnovers down then they will stay in the game. I don’t think that happens, though. I think Taylor throws at least one pick and the offense loses at least one fumble. Being on the road in a hostile environment will create some issues. When I look at Wisconsin, I see an untested team that has a lot of potential. I also see a team that will be expected to win this weekend. There will be a lot on the shoulders of those players. You still line up your eleven best against our eleven best and we see what happens. It’s why we play the game.
Jon: Nebraska spent the first games shuffling people around, particularly in the secondary and offensive lines. Tim Beck spent it running different plays to see what his offense could do. Those might be not entirely true, but they’re certainly not entirely false either. I expect it to be a close game because I believe our defense will be at full strength, be ready, and the offense to make enough plays to keep Nebraska going. Everyone thinks Nebraska is going to lose this game. I don’t. I expect to win because of special teams. Nebraska 31, Wisconsin 28. Game winning field goal as time expires - Nebraska’s Brett Maher.