It’s a four headed race at the moment to see who comes up as the winner in the Big Ten West division, and Nebraska visiting Wisconsin, the two favorites to walk away with the ticket to the conference title game, might be the most important game remaining in the division schedule.
Wisconsin are 5-0 at home this season, but they have only one really convincing win in Madison over a Big Ten team (52-7 over Maryland). They are on a four-game win streak, which includes winning the last two on the road against Rutgers and Purdue, relying on Melvin Gordon to get most of the job done.
Gordon has already run for 1501 yards this season, scoring 19 touchdowns. The Huskers have a prolific runner of their own, Ameer Abdullah, rushing for 1250 yards this season. It’s a toss up between them when there’s an argument about the best running back in college football. Wisconsin average 325 rushing yards per game, fifth in the nation, and Nebraska average just over 280, 10th in the nation. It’s safe to say we’re not going to see the teams put the ball in the air a whole lot.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. might be the slightly more experienced quarterback and has better numbers, but he completes only 53% of his throws, and Nebraska aren’t exactly planning on building their win on his arm. With Abdullah leading the nation in all-purpose yards per game (187.9 yards), Gordon counter by being the most productive rusher (166.8 per game). It’s easy to expect both players taking center stage for each offense.
Both teams are also very good when it comes to stopping the run: Wisconsin are 5th in the nation through nine games, allowing only 94.3 yards per game on 2.9 yards per rush. Nebraska aren’t as good but still among the best in the nation at 19th, giving up 123.8 yards on the ground each game and 3.74 yards per attempt.
Winning big games on the road seems to be Nebraska’s big problem since moving to the Big Ten and overall for over a decade. They lost narrowly to Michigan State in East Lansing earlier this season. Part of trying to be the first team to win in Madison this season is also the opportunity for Bo Pellini and some of his players to erase the memory of that night in Indianapolis from almost two years ago, which was something of a low point for the Huskers despite being on a prestigious stage.
Until Nebraska moved to the Big Ten, there were very few meetings between the two schools. Since the realignment, they’ve gotten together three times: Wisconsin winning twice, including 70-31 in that infamous Big Ten championship game (divisions were changed since then), and Nebraska winning once, playing at home in 2012.