The No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (7-2 overall, 4-2 B1G) are back on the road this weekend to take on the reeling Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-5 overall, 2-4 B1G) in Lincoln. UNL has lost three games in a row, most recently to an injury-decimated Purdue Boilermakers squad on their 15th choice for quarterback.
Now the resurgent rushing attack of the Badgers comes to town and, if history is any indicator, they should have some success against the Blackshirts.
A trio of Huskers from our SB Nation cousins Corn Nation were kind enough to answer our questions before the battle for the Freedom Trophy commences on Saturday morning. Here is what they had to say. Judging by their answers I feel bad making them talk about the team.
1) Catch us up to speed on how Nebraska’s season is going. There was a lot of hype over the summer about the Huskers but how are people feeling now?
Nate M: The funny thing is that, around here, we were trying to push down a lot of the hype. There were a lot of Nebraska fans doing the same thing. However, there were a couple members of the national media that were saying things like dark horse playoff contender. With that said, the season has gone worse than even some of the most pessimistic Nebraska fans. The people are trying to scratch their heads over how we have gotten to this point.
Jill: Husker fans overall were much more cautious than national media, but even so, I think seven to nine wins were very common predictions here. Obviously, it hasn’t gone as planned and many are feeling like Frost needs to make some changes in his assistants. I am not sure that will happen - if I had to bet, I would put money against it. As far as this Saturday, I think Husker fans are hoping for a shootout because no one feels good about the chances to hold Jonathan Taylor to even an above-average day for him.
Andy: Welcome to the rollercoaster! To seriously believe we were in contention for a division title, one would have had to ignore the fact that we had zero seniors on the offensive line two-deep, both centers were redshirt freshmen and the starter was a tight end the year before coming off knee surgery. And believe that we could wipe away an ingrained culture of BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again) in a year. Yep, we’ll be the champs.
Myself, I steam up during games as we constantly step on our own johnsons, but overall, I’m fine. I have always believed this was a minimum 4-year turnaround. Frost demanded seven years for a reason. But the red-ass is starting to show.
2) Any injuries that we should be aware of? How is Adrian Martinez feeling?
Nate M: Scott Frost doesn’t talk about injuries. However, one thing we do know is that it sounded like last week we only had one healthy quarterback on the roster...and that was Adrian Martinez. By “healthy” they mean able to play. He obviously isn’t 100% and neither are the rest of the crew.
Jill: Most teams have a lot of bumps and bruises at this time of year. All three of the top quarterbacks have been hurt/out at various times, but going to No. 2 (Vedral) and No. 3 (McCaffrey) didn’t seem to hurt the Huskers much. The lack of depth at running back has necessitated Wan’Dale Robinson playing more there than at receiver. He’s more dangerous in open space than through traffic, but pretty fun to watch either way. Cam Taylor-Britt (safety) missed the last game, but we were told it was illness not injury, so we hope he is back.
Andy: Hah, you tell us. With Trump constantly blundering away classified info, our injuries are protected much tighter than the nation’s secrets. And I’ve got to be honest - I realize the NFL cares far more about gambling lines than any player’s health, so that is what it is but I’ve never understood why opponents of a college player should be told exactly what body part to target to get that player out.
We’re all fine and anyone not playing is just being held out for precautionary reasons.
3) Who are the players Badger fans should be looking out for on offense and defense?
Nate M: Wan’dale Robinson on the offensive side of the ball. He’s almost all we have at this point. You might have to let us score. On the defensive side of the ball….maybe Jojo Domann? It has been a rough year.
Jill: Offense. Wan’Dale for sure. Defense? Cam Taylor-Britt is a great athlete. Darrion Daniels (nose guard) got an interception and nearly housed it for a fat guy touchdown in the last game. What you will probably be watching a lot of are the big holes where our linebackers should be.
Andy: Wan’Dale, JD Spielman, Adrian (if healthy and I don’t think he’s been 100% all season). I still believe Dedrick Mills is close to a breakout game.
On defense, Lamar Jackson - the last of the “Calibraskans” - has gone from “overrated and bad attitude” as a freshman to potential 1st round draft pick (he has actually appeared there on a couple mock boards). Challenge him at your own risk when there are so many easier places to pick the defense apart. Jojo Doman is also fun to watch and is our charter member of the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.
4) What sort of schemes is Nebraska running on offense and defense this year? Anything new and exciting?
Nate M: Nothing that works.
Jill: On offense there seems to be a lot of perimeter passing coupled with poor blocking that leads to tackles for loss. I’m not sure what the coaches call that one. There is also “Wan’dale runs around, avoids some people and gets a big chunk of yards” sometimes. On defense as of late, they seem to be calling “leave the tight end open and hope the QB overthrows him”. That one has become a staple.
Andy: With every QB dinged up and an inexperienced offensive line, Frost has been extremely limited in his normally wide-open play-calling.
Defensively, Eric Chinander has game-planned extremely well as we have had some impressive first quarters and first halves. He apparently needs a full six days to do so because as soon as the opposing OC makes his adjustments, we get rolled like a pile of dimes at the local bank while he stands there looking like Lt. Gorman in Aliens when the Marines get ambushed.
5) Who (non-Jonathan Taylor division) are Huskers fans most concerned about on the Badgers offense and defense?
Nate M: Your offensive line. I think it could get ugly.
Jill: See above. Is Jack Coan capable of getting it to open tight ends? If so, you can give Taylor occasional breaks from running through linebacker-less holes from time to time.
Andy: The fact you guys actually appear to have a QB capable of keeping us honest is terrifying. Remember the Russell Wilson rental? I mean we were getting rolled by you guys when the biggest threat was Alex Hornibrook. Uncle Rico put more fear in our hearts and we still got trounced.
6) What is your score prediction for the game? Who will be the MVP for Nebraska?
Nate M: I expect Wisconsin to win by 28. MVP for Nebraska? A running clock.
Jill: I expect an ugly score for the Huskers too - I can’t disagree with Nate’s margin. MVP for Nebraska? JD Spielman or Wan’Dale Robinson seem most likely to have some big plays, but if the Huskers make a more respectable showing than we think - it will be because some of the non-Spielman receivers (Chris Hickman, Kade Warner) or the tight ends make some key blocks to create the room for those plays.
Andy: Me, really drunk and sarcastic by brunch. Wiscy 38 NU 17