On paper to begin the season, this match-up looked like it could be the best home game for the Badgers. However, both teams come into the weekend heading in very different directions. Nebraska is 0–4 and looking to salvage something from what already appears to be a lost first season under Scott Frost. Wisconsin comes in fresh off its best game yet, with a bye following the win at Iowa, and is rested up to make a push for the Big Ten title.
Despite the differences, Nebraska will look to play spoiler and try to salvage its season in Madison. What do the Badgers need to do to avoid another home upset?
Get Linebackers in the Backfield
It’s easier said than done, but Wisconsin will look to have its linebacking core of Andrew Van Ginkel, T.J. Edwards, and Ryan Connelly in the backfield early and often. With Nebraska’s freshman quarterback, Adrian Martinez, being the lone bright spot to the Huskers so far this season, putting the clamps on him will be critical for the Badgers’ defense. Martinez is the definition of a dual-threat quarterback and had a tremendous amount of success both through the air and on the ground last week against Purdue.
While Purdue’s defense is nowhere near Wisconsin’s, Martinez’s performance still shows his ability as a playmaker. The defensive line has yet to create any pressure this season, and if it isn’t going to, somebody else has to. Look for Connelly and Van Ginkel (who is still a bit banged-up) to try and blow up the QB runs and make Martinez one-dimensional. You can’t let dual-threat guys beat you both ways, so look for a focus on pressure to hurry throws and contain runs.
Grind it Out
I know you could put “run the football” as a key for Wisconsin each and every week, as that’s what this program is about. It will be even more important this week.
Nebraska’s defense has been atrocious to start the season. The Huskers’ offense has not done the team any favors either, as they are 103rd in the country and last in the Big Ten in time of possession. The Huskers’ defense has been on the field a lot and has looked gassed of late. The Badgers should be licking their chops at the opportunity to wear them down punch by punch with Jonathan Taylor and Taiwan Deal in the same way they did last time out against a much better Iowa defense. While Iowa didn’t allow big runs until late, the Badgers should be more primed to bust a few carries against this weaker front seven. They currently rank seventh in time of possession, so pounding the football has not been an issue
Also, to build on the previous point, one way to help the defense defend a dual-threat quarterback is to keep him off the field. If the Badgers dominate the time of possession the way they want to, it will be tough for Nebraska to keep up on its limited opportunities. Let’s run the ball on Nebraska like its 2014:
This one’s for the fans. There were some interesting comments made by Nebraska quarterback coach Mario Verduzco earlier this week about the communication with his quarterback. When talking about going on the road to a loud stadium, he said he doesn’t feel Camp Randall will cause problems for Martinez in terms of communication with the rest of the offense.
Apparently it wasn’t an issue at the Big House either, although a 56–10 rout makes me think otherwise. To me, it felt like a jab at the stadium atmosphere of Camp Randall itself. If that be the case, I suggest all fans in attendance give the Huskers a warm Madison welcome and let their voices be heard. Don’t just get loud on third down, be so on all four. Camp Randall is such an underrated tough place to play, and it feels as though the Huskers need to be reminded of that. College football is one sport where home-field advantage makes such a drastic difference. The players feed off it, and it truly does go a long way.
A run at a Big Ten title continues here, so let’s make it again known you don’t get to come into the Camp and have an easy time.