Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.
After steamrolling Rutgers and Northwestern in consecutive weeks, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers (7-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) will welcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7 overall, 1-6 Big Ten) this weekend for the final home game at Camp Randall this season.
In an attempt to preview what to expect on Saturday, let’s take a look at how Nebraska has looked so far this season.
- Loss at Illinois 30-22
- Win vs. Fordham 52-7
- Win vs. Buffalo 28-3
- Loss at Oklahoma 23-16
- Loss at Michigan State 23-20
- Win vs. Northwestern 56-7
- Loss vs. Michigan 32-29
- Loss at Minnesota 30-23
- Loss vs. Purdue 28-23
- Loss vs. Ohio State 26-17
Status of the offense:
Nebraska has had a rough year, and they will miss bowl season for the fifth consecutive season, but they have been able to move the football this year. The Cornhuskers rank No. 16 in total offense and have a balanced attack with both their rushing and passing offense ranking No. 34 nationally.
The primary player that opponents must worry about with Nebraska is quarterback Adrian Martinez who has seemingly been in Lincoln forever. The dual-threat signal-caller leads the Cornhuskers in both rushing and passing, with over 3,000 total yards and 25 total touchdowns on the year.
While Martinez is a talented player and can hurt teams with his ability as a passer and as a runner, he has a flair for turning the ball over in crucial situations. In 10 games this season he has thrown eight interceptions and has also fumbled the ball seven times (three of which were turnovers), an area that has haunted him his entire career. In 38 games with the Cornhuskers, he has 34 fumbles with 18 of them lost to the other team.
Beyond Martinez, redshirt freshman running back Rahmir Johnson has seen the bulk of the carries in the backfield. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has managed 495 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He was a good recruit coming out of high school, and he has definitely emerged as their top back.
Montana transfer Samori Toure is the primary receiving threat for Nebraska. At 6-foot-3 he is a longer receiver who has shown the ability to generate big plays. He enters this weekend's contest averaging nearly 22 yards per reception and he has over 700 yards and four touchdowns on the season.
The rest of Nebraska’s receiving corps is also taller. Standing 6-foot-9, tight end Austin Allen is a physically impressive receiving thrseat. He is second on the team with 29 receptions and he averages just over 40 yards per game. Opposite Toure is Omar Manning, who is 6-foot-4 and is third on the team in receptions and yards. How Wisconsin accounts for the length of Nebraska’s passing attack will be interesting to watch.
Status of the defense:
Nebraska has been much better defensively this season. They received unfortunate news this past week when senior leader JoJo Domann went down with a season ending injury, but the Cornhuskers still have an incredibly young linebacking corps led by Nick Henrich, Garrett Nelson and Luke Reimer, all of whom are listed as sophomores or freshmen, to fall back on.
As a unit, the Nebraska defense ranks No. 53 in total defense, No. 27 in scoring defense overall. However, the Cornhuskers have been better against the run (No. 39 in FBS) than the pass (No. 64 in FBS).
While Nebraska’s defense only ranks No. 97 in the country at getting to the quarterback, they do have 10 different players that have recorded at least one sack this season. Outside linebacker Garrett Nelson leads the team with four this year, and he also leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Beyond their linebacking group, the player to keep an eye on is senior safety Deontai Williams. He is fifth on the team in tackles and leads the team with four interceptions this season. Williams has played particularly well the past two weeks, with 15 tackles and two interceptions. He is a player that Graham Mertz will need to monitor come Saturday.
Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt and defensive lineman Ben Stille are also key players that Wisconsin will need to account for on this experienced Nebraska defense. Stille does not put up gaudy stats, but he is a good player that plays his role very well. Taylor-Britt leads the Cornhuskers in pass breakups with nine, and was a Second-Team All-Big Ten performer a year ago.
On a down to down basis, Nebraska is a much better football team than their record states. However, special teams, poor coaching decisions, and bizarre turnovers at the most inopportune times have haunted this football team. Their defense is greatly improved and their offense still has firepower at times. Nebraska has kept all of their losses close this season, regardless of the opponent, but the fact of the matter is their only wins have come against Fordham, Buffalo and Northwestern.
Nebraska completely overhauled their offensive coaching staff before their bye week and gave Scott Frost a vote of confidence for at least one more season. The Badgers have yet to lose the Freedom Trophy under Paul Chryst’s watch and with Senior Day at Camp Randall this Saturday the Badgers need to avoid a letdown.