For the second year in a row, the Wisconsin Badgers make the conference championship game, but this time as underdogs. Nebraska (10-2) finished the season in excellent form, and are looking to book their first trip to the Rose Bowl since becoming a member of the Big Ten.
This is also a rematch from the week 5 drama in Lincoln, when the Badgers squandered a 27-10 lead, losing 30-27. They are a very disappointing 7-5 this season, 4-4 in conference play; luckily for them, both Penn State and Ohio State are on bowl probation, so they get to play for a title they probably don’t deserve.
Nebraska aren’t that much of a better team than Wisconsin as the record shows, but they still have plenty of advantages over them. Wisconsin’s biggest asset is Montee Ball, who has run for 1528 yards this season, a big drop from his Junior year, in which he averaged 1.4 more yards per carry. He had a nightmare of a game vs the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, limited to only 93 yards on 31 carries.
Nebraska have an experienced and solid (yet not very deep front 7), and their only fear from the Wisconsin offense is Jared Abbrederis who had a huge game (142 yards, 1 touchdown) against them back in September. Still, Nebraska are likely to be betting Montee Ball, good for more than 25 carries a game, will be the main weapon Wisconsin try to use; expect to see one safety with and eight man box formation on Nebraska’s defense.
A big plus for Nebraska is the return of Rex Burkhead to 100% fitness, which means a much more varied offensive game for the Huskers. Taylor Martinez is a run first quarterback, running for 833 yards so far this season, but the return of Burkhead takes the pressure of his legs in obvious running plays, setting up more options for quarterback draws and play-actions. While Martinez’ arm isn’t the strongest and most reliable in the land, he’s pretty good with the PA.
What are Wisconsin’s chances? The play of their linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor to get to Martinez and block the path of Burkhead. Nebraska have a very good blocking fullback, but their offensive line is suspect to mistakes and gaps, which the Badgers will look to take advantage of. Will it be enough?
Prediction – Whoever wins the conference game, it’ll be one of the weakest champions in the history of the conference. Still, Nebraska have a good enough defense for what Wisconsin have to throw at them, while the return of Rex Burkhead should give them enough of an edge to book a trip to the Rose Bowl.