Nebraska is largely unproven this season. Regardless of who they have played, they are a top-10 team with a 7-0 record.
However, this is the week Nebraska can prove themselves. Here is why Nebraska moves to 8-0 on the season with a win vs. the Wisconsin Badgers.
Nebraska’s Defensive Line:
The Nebraska defensive line is not getting a lot of publicity this season because of the secondary’s improvement. But it should be stated that the d-line has played extremely well after losing the amount of talent they did. They are getting big production from some surprising places. Many people said preseason (me included) that Ross Dzuris was not the answer at defensive end. Boy was I wrong. Dzuris leads the team in sacks with five and ranks second on the team in pressures on the quarterback among defensive lineman. Nebraska has picked up where it left off in the running game last season, ranking 27th in the country giving up just under 125 yards per game on the ground. If the Huskers want to win this game, they are going to need the defensive line to continue to play well. They have yet to play an offensive line like the Badgers this season, so this could be the most important matchup of the game.
Good Tommy Armstrong:
Good Tommy Armstrong is as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten, and one of the better Quarterbacks in the country. Thats “good Tommy” not “YOLO Tommy”. When Tommy is not under pressure in the pocket he is dominant (makes sense). According to Pro-Football Focus, Armstrong is 74 of 123 for 994 yards six touchdowns and just one interception. The problem has been keeping the pocket clean for him. Good Tommy also includes Armstrong’s legs. He has been the most effective runner the Huskers have this year. in 56 designed runs, Armstrong has 351 yards, over six per carry, and has made 15 defenders miss. (More than any other running back.) If Good Tommy shows up, the Huskers will have a huge advantage in this one, that is a big if however.
Wisconsin’s Redzone Offense:
Nebraska’s defense has been the definition of bend but don't break. That will play a big factor this week as Wisconsin has struggled to score one it gets to the redzone. Wisconsin is scoring on just 75% of redone trips, which ranks 111th in the country. When they get to the redzone they are only getting touchdowns 53% of the time which ranks 106th in the country and kicking a field goal just over 21% of the time. This plays into Nebraska’s defense. While they are middle of the road in allowing opponents points once they get in the redzone, they rank near the top in touchdown percent. The Huskers give up six just 47% of the time which ranks 14th in the country. The team that is able to convert redone chances into touchdowns will be the winner of this one.
The Absence of Jack Cichy:
This Wisconsin defense is good. Very good. They give up just 14 points per game and just over 100 rushing yards per game. They did take a big hit however, as leading tackler Jack Cichy will be out versus Nebraska. Cichy ranks in the top-75 in the country in tackles and is 11th in solo tackles. Cichy is a guy who makes plays in the open field, and will be a huge loss for the Badgers. Wisconsin’s defense is still incredible without their leading tackler, but his loss could play a huge roll in this one.
A year ago you would have laughed at me for putting turnover margin on this list. Well, here we are, and here it is. The Badgers have only forced eleven turnovers this season (61st in the country) and have turned the ball over 12 times (70th in the country). Nebraska has will need to force a turnover or two to win this one, and it could come in the secondary again. Nebraska has 13 interceptions on the season which ranks fifth in the country. On the other hand you have Wisconsin who ranks 90th in the country with eight interceptions lost. Look for a big play out of the secondary during this one to give Nebraska a big boost.