The Nebraska Cornhuskers face a big test this week. If there has been one knock on the Cornhuskers, it has been the weak schedule. But, the meat arrives for the next 2 games, first in Madison then Columbus.
Here is why Nebraska won’t add to an undefeated season.
We have seen Nebraska struggle against some pretty bad defenses this year. Last week, against Purdue, Nebraska managed just 157 yards rushing and just over four yards per carry. That was against a team that gives up 250 yards per game on the ground and ranks 121st in the country in that category. They now take on a Wisconsin defense that ranks 10th in the country, giving up just over 100 yards per game. Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Badgers front four. It is very reasonable, with the depth issues of the Nebraska offensive line, and the inconsistency on offense, that the Badgers defense absolutely dominates the Huskers running game. Wisconsin also ranks inside the top-30 in pass yards per game and have given up only four passing touchdowns as well. If Wisconsin puts up 17 plus points they will have a very good chance at ending the undefeated season of Nebraska.
When does YOLO Tommy come out? When he is under pressure. Armstrong is completing just 45% of his passes when under pressure and has thrown four of his five interceptions in those situations. Wisconsin ranks 35th in the country with 19 sacks, but when you consider their opponents, that number is pretty impressive. If Wisconsin can force Tommy out of the pocket they will have a lot of success on defense. Tommy has not shown the decision making ability to tuck and run or throw the ball away this season, and Wisconsin should bank on that. If I am calling plays for the Badger defense I am bringing a lot of pressure throughout the game to get Armstrong’s rhythm off.
Nebraska’s Offensive Line:
This goes hand in hand with YOLO Tommy. The Nebraska offensive line has struggled this season. The numbers look pretty good on the surface, but when you consider Armstrong’s ability to make defenders miss you see the real problem. Armstrong is constantly running for his life, the running backs are not consistently finding holes, and the offensive line lacks depth. Nebraska is one injury away from total catastrophe on the offensive line, and that could result in a red shirt being burned. This is the best defense Nebraska has faced this season, and the offensive line has not done much to prove it is worthy of this test. Look for Nebraska to struggle to move the ball on the ground and for Tommy to have to make several plays with his legs to keep Nebraska in this one.
Wisconsin is Tested:
Nebraska’s biggest question mark is the lack of tough opponents. That is not the case for the Badgers. They have been tested throughout the season, and competed in every battle. This is Wisconsin’s fifth top-10 opponent this season. Incredible. The Badgers know they can compete with anyone in the country and that is going to prove important in this matchup. The Badgers know, but do the Huskers? They have been told all year that they haven't been impressive against bad teams, they don't deserve to be ranked where they are. If things go bad for Nebraska the doubts may creep into their mind. If Wisconsin falls behind early, they know they are talented enough to compete with a team like Nebraska. I’m usually not a big intangibles person, but this is a big one that shouldn't be ignored.
Nebraska on the Road:
Nebraska has not only its first real road test of the season, but its first real road test in quite some time. Last year the Huskers played on the road against Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, and Miami. Add in the road games this season against Northwestern and Indiana, and this is a team that has not played in an environment like this in a long time. Camp Randall will be bumping on Saturday night and WILL play a factor in this one. If Nebraska can pass this road test, it will give them a HUGE confidence boost for the following week, but if they fall flat, it could be a snowball effect.