As we welcome the start of the conference season, we have questions about the Nebraska Cornhuskers NCAA sanctioned football game with the Wisconsin Badgers, which both teams happen to be members of the Big Ten Conference by golly!
You have questions about Wisconsin, and gosh, we get you some answers. For those answers, we asked Mike Fiametta from SBNation's Bucky's 5th Quarter.
We wondered about Montee Ball, the rotating Quarterback seat, and if the defense is ready for the Nebraska offense. These were the answers Mike gave us, and we thank him for his help with this.
1. First question that everyone is asking: Montee Ball. Is he a go for Saturday night in Lincoln? Or is there still a worry about concussion issues, considering this is the second one he’s had in 2 months time.
Ball is almost assuredly a go. Without hesitation, he told reporters this week he is ready to play. Ball also said he doesn't believe he suffered a concussion, though Bret Bielema did tell Yahoo! Sports Radio on Wednesday that Ball has to be cleared by doctors outside the program so that he can play. In essence, Ball will be playing Saturday night in Lincoln. Whether it's ever "official" before kickoff remains to be seen.
At this point, I'm tempted to answer "yes" to both of those questions. Since O'Brien was benched, Stave is 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Fair numbers, sure, but hardly stellar.The reason I think it's still Stave's job to lose is that Wisconsin had endured more adversity than I ever think it expected for this non-confernece slate. Continued waffling with the quarterbacks would not only force additional adjustments onto the offense, it would signal a lack of confidence in the important position group on the team that you have to imagine would permeate throughout the roster.That said, if Stave struggles, I do not think it would take a lot for Bielema and offensive coordinator Matt Canada to send O'Brien back out there. By all accounts, O'Brien -- and Stave, for that matter -- seems to be a high-character guy that will continue to battle for his spot. Knowing the expectations for this team -- and yes, a Rose Bowl is still well within reach, despite the 3-1 record -- if Bielema thinks O'Brien all of a sudden is the better option at QB, he won't hesitate to make another change.
I don't think the staff has necessarily been set back as much as the growing pains were widely overlooked by fans. Simply put, Bielema replaced six assistant coaches this offseason. Even if he hit on each replacement, there would be a transitional period. Reality has shown that he already missed on at least Markuson, and the widespread calls for Markuson's job that preceded his firing seemed to indicate everybody thought the offense would pick up right where it left off last season, despite losing Russell Wilson, Nick Toon and several offensive linemen.
This defense absolutely is ready for Nebraska. Granted, the Huskers will undoubtedly be the best offense the Badgers' defense has faced. Sure, the defense has had some odd struggles with wheel routes -- especially linebacker Mike Taylor -- and little things like that, but it's clear the whole team needs more time to get into midseason shape than was expected. The defense is deep and experienced, especially among the linebackers and defensive backs. The biggest issue will be the health of the defensive linemen, as four of the five ends sustained injuries against UTEP. Most of them are expected back for Saturday, though Brendan Kelly (hamstring) and Pat Muldoon (broken hand) are questionable.
In terms of the jerseys? Yeah, I think most Wisconsin fans didn't like them. This is also a fan base -- and, usually, a program -- that is typically adverse to any untraditional changes. Frankly, I think the uniforms are inherently ugly -- the stripes are too much, and while I like the old-school 'W,' it's not really much of a logo. Add in the odd number placement, and you can understand why several Wisconsin players were seen laughing in the video of the uniform release.
Oh man, talk about taking away some options. Wisconsin hasn't made many big plays this season, though wide receiver and punt returner Kenzel Doe did have a critical 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter of the Week 3 win over Utah State. Doe, a smaller guy at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, is the closest thing the Badgers have to a lightning-rod, quick-strike weapon, though the sophomore is still mostly unproven. The other option is Melvin Gordon, a redshirt freshman running back that have fans have been clamoring to see get more carries.
I think Wisconsin will be able to keep this game close, and if the team had done a better job of living up to preseason expectations to date, I would say they'd win. But I have Nebraska winning this one, 41-34.