The teams: The No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers (7-3, 5-2) vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7, 1-6)
The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
The TV coverage: ABC with Dave Pasch and Dusty Dvoracek on the call, and Tom Luginbill on the sideline.
The last time: Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor ran for 204 yards in a 31-17 win in Lincoln in 2019.
The series: Wisconsin leads 10-4
The line: Wisconsin -9
THE BREAKDOWN: 3 THINGS TO WATCH
1) Keeping it rolling
No team in the country has run for more yards over the last six games than Wisconsin. During their six-game winning streak, the Badgers have put up 1,618 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. More than half of that yardage belongs to Braelon Allen, who has the chance to become the fourth true freshman at UW to run for 1,000 yards in a season since 1996.
Traditionally, Wisconsin has owned the trenches against Nebraska. The Badgers have run for at least 200 yards in seven of the nine games the teams have played since the Huskers entered the conference in 2011. But this is one of the better run-stopping units that Nebraska has fielded (132.5 ypg, 3.7 ypc) and it figures to provide a stiffer challenge to what has become a dominant Wisconsin ground game.
2) Dealing Adrian Martinez
Wisconsin’s defense will be tested in multiple ways by a Nebraska offense that has largely struggled to put up points against Big Ten opposition but has moved the ball well enough. It starts with Adrian Martinez at quarterback and his ability to beat teams with his arm and legs. In two previous matchups with the Badgers, Martinez has had success in the air (604 yards, three touchdowns) and on the ground (146 yards, two touchdowns).
But the senior has lacked consistency this season, especially of late. He has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions in the last three games, and outside of a 21-yard run against Ohio State, he has not been effective on the ground due to a sprained ankle. Still, the Badgers haven’t faced a true dual-threat quarterback for an entire game this year and Martinez has shown the ability to move the ball against Wisconsin’s defense in the past.
3) Graham Mertz stepping up
Graham Mertz has flourished in recent weeks as the offense has caught fire, putting together balanced efforts against Rutgers and Northwestern. In the last three games he has thrown six touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 65.5% of his passes. He has been able to spread it around, too, especially last week when nine different guys caught at least one pass.
Nebraska’s defense is coming off a game in which it allowed Ohio State to throw for 405 yards. Obviously, Mertz and Wisconsin will not be putting up a similar number, but it suggests the Huskers are vulnerable if the quarterback can continue playing the way he has the last few weeks.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
Nebraska has produced eight plays of 50 or more yards this season and five plays of 60 or more yards. The figures rank second and first in the country, respectively. Wisconsin’s defense, meanwhile, has allowed just two plays of 50 or more yards and is one of only 10 schools in the nation to not have allowed a play of 60 or more yards.
Wisconsin and Nebraska play for the Freedom Trophy. The Huskers have touched it zero times since it was introduced in 2014, with the Badgers winning the seven meetings since by an average of 16.2 points per game.
The Badgers’ defense has allowed just 7.3 points and 194.5 yards per game in their six-game winning streak. For the season, Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in the country in total defense, run defense and third-down defense.
Nebraska will come to Madison with four fewer offensive assistant coaches than it had the last time it played. That’s after coach Scott Frost saved his own job by restructuring his contract and firing four of his assistants. The Huskers kept on tight ends coach Sean Beckton, while promoting three other offensive analysts to replace the fire assistants.