One of my favorite Badger quotes of the year thus far came from Bret Bielema after Wisconsin's season opener against UNLV. When talking about his program's ability to produce NFL caliber offensive linemen, Bielema had plenty to say (via Jeff Potrykus/jsonline.com):
"I always used to laugh," Bielema said. "Last year, we had so many scouts coming through and a lot them would gravitate to the O-line.
"I'm watching them work out, and they would be like, 'Coach, these guys look better than our guys.'"
The work offensive line coach Bob Bostad and the other Badger coaches have done to develop elite offensive linemen on a yearly basis has been appreciated by NFL scouts and Badger fans for a long time. Now, the rest of the college football nation is taking notice. The "Big Uglies," as Bielema calls them, have been and continue to be the driving force behind Wisconsin's occasionally unstoppable run game.
Russell Wilson and Montee Ball both identify the offensive line as key reasons they chose to play for the Badgers. I don't blame them. The Wisconsin offensive line is the third heaviest in the nation and is heavier than all but three NFL offensive lines. They allowed Wisconsin backs to rush for 5.5 yards per carry in 2010, the seventh highest figure in the nation. This season, that number is up to 5.7.
There are a ton of good quotes in the Sports Illustrated piece about the Big Uglies, but once again, Bielema stole the show when asked to explain his consistently gargantuan linemen:
"We simply have a lot of big people in Wisconsin," says Bielema. "Maybe it's from eating all those cheese curds."
Elsewhere, Jeff Potrykus has a scouting report on Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' defense features three potential All-Americans and should be the biggest test for the Wisconsin offense all season.
Also, be sure to check out the video preview over at Madison.com, featuring two columnists from the Lincoln Journal-Star as well as Tom Oates and Tom Mulhern.
This game might come down to Wisconsin's ability to defend the run. The Cornhuskers' Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead provide a very tough one-two punch for the Huskers' offense.
Don't be surprised if a lot of the red you see on game day is being work by diehard Husker fans. The city expects 20,000 to 40,000 Nebraska fans to make the trip Saturday.
Martinez had some of his biggest games of the season on the road as a freshman in 2010. He says he's looking forward to playing in another hostile environment Saturday. Also notable: the Huskers have been pumping in music (Jump Around, duh) during practice to prepare for Camp Randall.
Andy Baggot also wrote a piece on Martinez, who seems like a pretty cool customer. Either that, or he doesn't like talking to media types.
I'm sure you've read a ton of Russell Wilson features at this point, but here's another one from an outside perspective.
Finally, the Omaha World-Herald identifies several keys to the game for Nebraska, including ball security, creating turnovers and attention to detail.