Look we’re all going to be rooting for Wisconsin Saturday but we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to Nebraska. It helped cultivate one of the greatest Badgers of all time in Barry Alvarez who in turn took what he learned at Nebraska and built the Wisconsin program we’ve grown to love, hate, and celebrate for the last three decades plus. Thanks, Nebraska, and thanks Barry!
That being said, we hope the Freedom Trophy will remain in Madison by the time the final whistle blows. The Huskers have had a rough couple of years in regard to their football program. They’ve fallen from the graces of the upper echelon of college football. While Nebraska does seem to be active in changing its direction there’s still a lot to be desired.
The Cornhusker's passing attack has been fairly successful if you look at what they’ve produced on paper. They’re actually more successful than the Badgers when it comes to passing yards per game. Casy Thompson has had an up-and-down season, he’s been able to sling 12 touchdowns through the air. He’s also pretty mobile and has been able to rush into the endzone five times this year. However, he is usually running for his life as the line hasn’t really been able to give him the protection he’s needed to be successful or confident in the pocket.
Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, it’s unclear who will be in at quarterback Saturday. Thompson has been practicing after missing the last two weeks, but its up in the air whether he will be able to go. Behind him, the backup is also hurt, so the Huskers could be down to their 3rd or 4th string quarterback.
The team’s rushing attack is led by one man, Anthony Grant. While he hasn’t shined in every game Grant has done more than his fair share of carrying the team with 188 carries on the year or just over 18 carries a game so far. He’s averaging just under 5 yards through it all. But the lack of a solid offensive line and respectable passing attack have made it easy to keep him contained.
Linebacker Luke Reimer leads the Husker's defense with 77 total tackles; 35 solo and 42 assisted. Defensive end Garrett Nelson is an enforcer up front who’s been able to have success breaking through lines and getting to the quarterback. He has 5.5 sacks on the year going into Saturday. The team as a whole has been able to cause moderate pressure pulling down 17 sacks on the year. While Reimer and Nelson have played well this year, Nebraska as a whole defensively has allowed more teams to enforce their will.
On average the Huskers have allowed just short of 200 yards a game, 191.0 yards per game. Including a 67-yard run and 20 touchdowns. When it comes to the teams passing defense the safeties and corners aren’t bad but they’re not anything phenomenal. Sure, they can cause a little chaos in the occasional fumble or interception every couple of games but it’s nothing like what the Badger's defensive unit has been able to establish. They’re giving up
almost 250 yards a game and 16 touchdowns on the year. It’s nothing that Mertz should fear but it’s certainly an opportunity for him to grow and rebound from last week’s performance.
Four, or more than half, of Nebraska's losses were within one possession. The Huskers have found ways to compete in a majority of their games but are still unable to find ways to close, regularly. In the new world of college football Nebraska has been able to make itself an attractable location for both recruits and transfers using the portal. But much like Wisconsin, nothing has been set in stone as to who will lead the Huskers going forward. There is no permanent replacement for the recently terminated Scott Frost.
Will the Huskers take their chances going with another Nebraska guy like Scott Frost? Or will they be able to attract and secure another upward-trending coach; Lance Leipold of Kansas or even a young Garrett Riley from TCU? The school might not win a bowl game bid but with their money, infrastructure, and influence they will have a chance to win almost whoever they want to lead their Huskers going forward.