The Big Ten Conference season continues with a significant road test with divisional implications for the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin (4–0) travels to Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3–2) on Saturday evening inside Memorial Stadium.
Both teams come off wins before competing for the Freedom Trophy yet again. The Huskers defeated Illinois 28–6 on Sept. 29, while the Badgers fought off a feisty Northwestern squad in a crazy fourth quarter to win 33–24 last Saturday.
Nebraska will be returning some players who could influence the outcome of the Big Ten West contest, so it should be interesting to see how Wisconsin responds.
Here are the TV/radio/streaming options for the game, as well as the Wisconsin players and positions to watch.
When and where is the game?
Wisconsin and Nebraska will kick off at 7 p.m. CT at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast on BTN, with Kevin Kugler assigned to play-by-play duties, Matt Millen as the analyst, and Lisa Byington reporting from the sideline.
How can I stream the game online?
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual team of Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, and Patrick Herb. Head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
This match-up will also be broadcast nationally on the radio via Westwood One. Ted Emrich will provide play-by-play, with Al Groh as the analyst. On satellite radio, you’ll find the broadcast on Sirius 81/XM 81. Also check out WestwoodOneSports.com.
Wisconsin players to watch:
Leon Jacobs, Garret Dooley, and the Wisconsin pass rush vs. the Nebraska offensive line
Now, there’s a caveat to this, and that’s stopping Nebraska’s rushing attack, which is averaging 156.2 yards per game. Tre Bryant will not play this week, with Huskers head coach Mike Riley also stating on Thursday that Mikale Wilbon could be available as a rotational back. Devine Ozigbo has averaged nearly five years per carry in three games (215 yards), including 106 yards and a touchdown against Illinois last week.
“I think everything for them starts through the run game,” defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said this week. “Their backs are big, physical. They run very hard. Guys that you got to tackle. You got to have your pads on, you got to run your feet, otherwise they’re breaking tackles. They’ve put it on tape, you see it week in and week out. Their play-action game off of that is very good, so in order to help limit that, you got to stop the run and get yourself in favorable second downs, favorable third downs so you can try to get off the field.”
The good news for Wisconsin is that the Badgers rank fourth in the nation against the run, allowing only 74.3 yards per contest. If they can replicate last week’s performance against Northwestern, in which they held the Wildcats to 25 rushing yards, it could allow the likes of Dooley, Jacobs, and Wisconsin’s pass rush to light up the Nebraska sky.
Last week, the defense pressured quarterback Clayton Thorson all day to the tune of eight sacks by six different players after containing running back Justin Jackson. That included redshirt senior outside linebacker Garret Dooley registering 3.5 sacks.
If Wisconsin gets to quarterback Tanner Lee, similar results could surface on Saturday night. Lee already has nine interceptions, with three of them returned for touchdowns in games against Northern Illinois and Rutgers. Badgers safety Natrell Jamerson intercepted two passes, including his 36-yard return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of last week’s win.
Nebraska will start freshman Brenden Jaimes at right tackle, though the insertion of Michael Decker at center has appeared to help the Huskers’ offensive line play.
If they hold up and nullify Wisconsin’s rush, that could allow Lee, who completed 17 of 24 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win at Illinois, to find talented wide receivers De’Mornay Pierson-El and Stanley Morgan. Both Pierson-El and Morgan combined for 190 of those receiving yards last Friday.
“I think he’s starting to get confident,” Leonhard said of Lee. “Early in the season, he looked a little bit unsure and making some questionable decisions. Last couple of days you just see, and not necessarily just the big plays, but just the consistency. You see him drop back and have more conviction on where he wants to go with the football and make better decisions. They have very, very skilled receivers, and he’s trusting them and letting them make plays for them.”
Zach Hintze vs. kickoff returner J.D. Spielman
Spielman has returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and has averaged 36.1 yards per return, eighth in the nation. Take away that big score in the season opener against Arkansas State, and the redshirt freshman has averaged 25.7 yards per attempt this season.
Despite starter P.J. Rosowski being out the past few games, redshirt sophomore Zach Hintze has performed very well, registering 14 touchbacks in 19 kickoffs.
Road tests can be decided by this third phase of the game, and it will be important to limit any extra momentum special teams can bring.
Key point: Wisconsin’s offense cannot turn the ball over
Wisconsin has hurt itself over the first half of the season by turning the ball over, leading to opponent points. Utah State and Florida Atlantic capitalized with touchdowns in the first two games, while the Badgers’ defense held Northwestern’s offense to a field goal after the early fumble by Jazz Peavy on UW’s first offensive possession last week.
On the season, Nebraska has eight takeaways (six interceptions, two fumble recoveries). Wisconsin’s offensive line must keep quarterback Alex Hornibrook upright in the pocket against the Huskers’ new scheme under Bob Diaco, and the running game cannot cough up the ball on the ground.
Jake Kocorowski: Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 13
Owen Riese: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 23
Neal Olson: Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 17
Kevin O’Connell: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 10
Ryan Mellenthin: Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 10
Andrew Rosin: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 21
Drew Hamm: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska -