Jake Kocorowski from the SBNation site Buckys5thQuarter joins me this week for a Q&A so you can learn more about our RIVAL before this RIVALRY game this weekend. Jake is a really good dude, but I hope that Jake is doing multiple facepalms Saturday night as he watches his beloved Wisconsin Badgers fall down and go boom against my BELOVED CORNHUSKERS.
I reviewed Jake’s book about Walk-Ons at Wisconsin earlier this year. He spoke about Kevin Cosgrove with respect. What the hell?
I see Husker fans saying about Wisconsin... “OH OH OH, We want to be more like them! We want to be more like them!”
Such crap. It’s crap. We don’t want to be more like them. We want to be more like the myth we’ve built about ourselves.
Q: Jonathan Taylor leads the Big Ten in rushing and rushing touchdowns. Alex Hornibrook is tops in pass efficiency and is third in that category amongst Power Five quarterbacks. How does Nebraska shut this offense down? Or do they?
JK: I think the biggest thing right now is to force Wisconsin to beat itself with turnovers. Against Utah State and Florida Atlantic, an opponent takeaway in each game led to a touchdown that kept the games closer game than what they should have been. Two interceptions in the first half by Hornibrook against Northwestern last week killed any type of rhythm in the offense. That’s the key--keep the Badgers from building that positive momentum into a rhythm.
Wisconsin’s offense is the most balanced it’s been in year with playmakers in the rushing and passing attacks, but if you can put a little bit of pressure on Hornibrook to throw him off or put a helmet on the ball with a Badger carrying it, Nebraska can nullify a lot of that potential.
Q: Name a player on offense and one on defense that flies under the radar, but Nebraska fans should watch out for on Saturday.
Offensively, “under the radar” is a hard sell with the first or second-year contributors like Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus, A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis making plays early on this season. You mentioned the true freshman in Jonathan Taylor, but the three young receivers have combined to catch 27 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns (all have caught passes 33 yards or greater already). I will say redshirt senior Jazz Peavy is due for a big game, as during this season, he’s only caught five passes for 55 yards. He led the team in receiving yards last year, as well as became a dangerous weapon in the run game. This year, he really hasn’t done much, and it’s not necessarily on him because of the young receivers’ emergence and preseason All-American tight end Troy Fumagalli.
There’s also fullback Austin Ramesh, who is versatile as a lead blocker and short yardage back.
Defensively, I would say the defensive line as a whole. The most underappreciated part of that unit, senior ends Conor Sheehy and Alec James, along with junior nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, are experienced and have allowed the linebackers to make the plays by plugging up gaps in the run game. I’m intrigued by what James can do not just in run defense but rushing the passer this season, as he’s registered a sack and a quarterback hurry. I cannot speak highly enough about redshirt junior T.J. Edwards as well, as he can play well against the run and can cover (already two interceptions through four games).
Q: Paul Chryst. Wisconsin gets a lot of out their players (doesn’t seem to matter who the coach), but never seems to have high-ranking classes, recruiting wise. Does he have a ceiling? What is expected from him on a yearly basis from Badger fans, and what would be considered failure enough for dismissal?
I think the ceiling is putting Wisconsin in the College Football Playoff, honestly, at least this year. Covering him now for the third season, he’s not the most charismatic coach by any stretch when the cameras are on him, but you can tell the players love and respect him.
Chryst has assembled a coaching staff that can recruit and develop players over time not just for college but for the professional game. Yet, they’re not afraid to play the true freshmen or sophomores like Taylor, Cephus or Davis if they’re confident and can make plays.
On a yearly basis, they should be able to compete for a division title every year and put themselves into consideration for the conference championship. A failure this season would be three or more losses, but I’m not sure about what would be cause for dismissal. Chryst is a former player and assistant who’s now taking over the program. He knows Wisconsin and what it takes to win in Madison. It would take years of losing or something unexpected to see him depart, in my humble opinion.
Q: The Badgers have started slowly on offense for at least a couple games this season. What do you think is the cause and can Nebraska hope for more of the same?
Definitely goes back to the turnovers and getting pressure on Hornibrook I feel. An early fumble allowed Utah State to gain a 10-point lead in the first quarter in the season-opener, and Hornibrook’s interception in the second quarter gave Florida Atlantic the opportunity to pull within seven in the second quarter.
Left tackle Michael Deiter said after Saturday’s game that he felt like confidence was a key and that they need to play confidently for all 60 minutes. If they can build that momentum up offensively and keep Nebraska’s defense on its heels, it will go a long way during the Saturday night affair in Lincoln. That’s cliche, but it’s true.
Q: Can your defensive backs catch the ball (asking for a friend)?
*Checks stats that five of Wisconsin’s seven interceptions in season have been by defensive backs* Yes.
Q: Prediction? How’s this game turn out at night in Lincoln?
This is tough. It’s a Saturday night game and the atmosphere should be electric. Nebraska seems to be finding itself more with two conference wins after the disappointing loss to Northern Illinois. It should be interesting, when speaking with some of Wisconsin’s offensive linemen on Tuesday, how UW matches up with the Huskers’ 3-4 scheme. I do feel like the Badgers’ offense is better than the Huskers’ defense, but that unit needs to string together more successful drives and not be its worst enemy. If preseason All-American tight end Troy Fumagalli can go this week (currently questionable with a left leg injury), that can only help Wisconsin’s offense be more consistent and more explosive.
You saw during last week’s win that Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard mixed in some intriguing pass rushes against Northwestern which resulted in eight sacks. I really feel like the Badgers could make Tanner Lee’s day miserable, as they’re currently tied for fourth in the nation in sacks per contest. The run defense for the Badgers is stout, and if it can contain the Huskers’ rushing attack of Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon and force them into third-and-longs, it could lead to another impressive outing.
I’m going to go Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 13. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was a lot closer, however. Should be quite the fun match-up, as the Huskers keep it close most of the game.