Nebraska needs a marquee victory after dropping in the College Football Playoff polls and Wisconsin a. The game in Madison looks to be Nebraska's best chance to get that playoff impressing win, but it will not come easy. Playing Wisconsin alone is difficult enough, but playing them in Madison is a whole different animal. Nebraska will have its hands full on Saturday, and here is why things may not go the way Husker fans are hoping.
Wisconsin's Rushing Attack
Everyone knows about Melvin Gordon and his accomplishments, but people tend to overlook backup Corey Clement. Clement is putting together a pretty impressive campaign himself with over 700 yards rushing and seven touchdowns while averaging 6.32 yards per carry. Add one of the best running backs in the country in Melvin Gordon, and Wisconsin's rushing attack is a nightmare for any defense. Gordon leads the country in rush yards with over 1,500 yards and has 19 rushing touchdowns, which is good for second in the country. Gordon is averaging 7.05 yards per carry and is a legitimate big play threat every time he touches the ball.
There has been some controversy over who should be Wisconsin's starting quarterback; Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy. They are two very different quarterbacks, each with a different type of threat. Tanner McEvoy is far superior to Stave with regards to the rushing game. McEvoy runs for a mediocre 50 yards per game, but when he takes off he gets big yards, averaging 9.4 yards per carry. There is no shortage of firepower for this Wisconsin rushing attack, as it ranks in the top three in rushes of over 60 yards (3rd), rushes of over 50 yards (1st), and rushes of over 40 yards (1st). There is no doubt Nebraska is going to have to stop the running game first.
Wisconsin will line up and run it straight at you until you force them to do otherwise. If Nebraska can't force Wisconsin to throw the ball, then it could be a long day for the Husker defense.
Wisconsin's Pass Defense
Wisconsin's defense has been so good I chose to separate rush and pass defense into different categories.
Overall, Wisconsin allows just 251 yards per game, the best in the country. They are giving up only 14.3 points per game; third in the country and they have allowed a combined 23 points in their three previous games. Wisconsin's pass defense has been one of the best in the country allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 46.3 percent of passes (1st) and they have given up just seven touchdown passes all season (5th).
The difference in this game could very well be quarterback play. While the Huskers have the better quarterback in Tommy Armstrong Jr, it is likely that the Badgers have as good or a better passing defense. The scary part about Wisconsin? Their numbers against the run are more impressive than the pass numbers.
Wisconsin's Rush Defense
Offenses can't throw on Wisconsin, so they must be able to run on them, right? Wrong. Wisconsin is giving up just 94.3 rush yards per game (5th) and gives up just 2.9 yards per carry. Against Purdue Wisconsin had ten tackles for loss, marking the third time they have had double-digit tackles for loss.
Nebraska has reached double-digits just once. If Nebraska has trouble creating holes for Ameer and company to run through, the Huskers don't stand a chance.
Camp Randall Stadium
Typically I wouldn't say an away environment will affect the Huskers, but Camp Randall is a different story. Camp Randall is the loudest stadium Nebraska will play at this year, and one of the loudest in the Big Ten. Their fans are notoriously rude and sometimes confrontational towards opposing team's fans.
Camp Randall is not overly big, seating just over 80,000. Not only do the fans scream the entire game, but some of the traditions themselves are intimidating. The Jump Around song played between the third and fourth quarter is one of the coolest things I have seen, and is extremely important to the fans. In 2003 Wisconsin did not play the song at the first home game of the season after playing it at games since 1998. An entire section sat down and began to chant "Fuck the sound guy." Needless to say, the song returned the next week.
There is another tradition, if you could call it that, which the student section participates in every week. It is called the ESFU chant. It's similar to the HUSKER... POWER chant in the fact that one side of the student section yells "Eat Shit" and the other half yells, "Fuck You".
The stadium and fans shouldn't easily affect Nebraska, but if they start to struggle on offense and begin to get frustrated with each other, the crowd will be relentless and add salt to the wound.
More evidence? Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, Wisconsin is 23-3 at home.
Wisconsin's Offense Plays to Nebraska's Defensive Weakness
If there has been one main concern with the Nebraska defense, it has been the big plays. You can almost count on one or two big plays against them. 27.5 percent of Wisconsin's drives average 10 or more yards per play, which is second in the country. Defensively Nebraska's opponents drives average 10 or more yards per play 10.9 percent of the time, which ranks 44th in the country. If Wisconsin is able to break off a couple of big plays early in the game, it could end this game rather quickly.