Preview: Wisconsin at Nebraska


The teams: The Wisconsin Badgers (5-5, 3-4) vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7, 2-5)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

The TV coverage: ESPN with Mark Jones and Robert Griffin III in the booth, and Quint Kessenich on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns to help hold off Nebraska in a 35-28 win.

The series: Wisconsin 11-4

The line: Wisconsin -10


1) Facing adversity

It’s been a trying season for Wisconsin on and off the field. Former running backs coach Gary Brown died in the offseason, coach Paul Chryst was fired at the beginning of October and then tragedy struck again this week when former wide receiver Devin Chandler was one of three Virginia football players shot and killed on Sunday. The product on the field hasn’t lived up to expectations, with the club sitting at .500 and coming off a loss to Iowa that effectively ended its chances of winning the Big Ten West. The team hasn’t gone this deep into the season without becoming bowl eligible since 2008. What kind of energy and pride do the Badgers play with after all the punches they’ve taken in the last six months?

2) Offense back on track?

It appeared Wisconsin’s offense had taken big steps in wins over Maryland and Purdue. The question going into last week was whether it would carry over against a good defense like Iowa’s. That overwhelming answer was no, as the Hawkeyes smothered the Badgers, shutting down their running game, forcing turnovers and putting a beating on quarterback Graham Mertz.

But Nebraska’s defense is not at that level. It currently ranks 112th in the country in total defense and rushing defense. The unit has played slightly better in recent weeks, but the Cornhuskers have rarely been able to slow Wisconsin’s offense. That’s especially true on the ground, where the Badgers have run for at least 200 yards in nine of the last 10 meetings, including 252 yards last year.

A lot of Braelon Allen, Isaac Guerendo and maybe even some Chez Mellusi should be in the forecast on Saturday.

3) Casey Thompson returns

Nebraska will welcome back quarterback Casey Thompson on Saturday after the starter missed the last two games with a hand injury. It’s a significant addition, seeing as when Thompson starts and finishes a game the Cornhuskers are averaging 424.1 yards per game and when he doesn’t they are averaging 220.3 yards. The presence of the transfer from Texas gives offensive coordinator Mark Whipple confidence to be aggressive, especially throwing the ball down the field.

The Badgers secondary, which has played at a high level since cornerback Alex Smith returned, will have its hands full with Thompson and some talented receivers, especially Trey Palmer (831 yards, 5 TDs).

4) Trophy Game

This is the second week of three that Wisconsin will play for a trophy. The Badgers lost the Heartland Trophy last week to Iowa and the trophy case for Paul Bunyan’s Axe inside their locker room sits empty for at least one more week. The Freedom Trophy they’ll play for this week is the newest of the three and doesn’t have the same draw as the others. Some of that has to do with Nebraska not beating the Badgers since it the trophy was first introduced in 2014. Wisconsin hasn’t been without one of the three rivalry trophies in its possession since 2003.

5) The Weather

For a third straight week the weather could be a factor in the game. The forecast is calling for temperatures in the mid-20s with winds of 20 miles per hour and gusts of more than 30 miles per hour. That will make it feel more like 10 degrees, which could make it difficult for the passing game and the kicking game.


Wisconsin has beaten Nebraska eight straight times. The Badgers have lost to the Cornhuskers just once since they entered the Big Ten in 2011.

Nebraska has sealed its sixth straight losing season, meaning the Cornhuskers haven’t gone to a bowl game since 2016. Wisconsin has one losing season since 1996 and has gone to a bowl game for 20 straight years, the third-longest streak in the country.

Nick Herbig leads the Big Ten in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (15.5). Though he won’t challenge Tom Burke’s single-season sack record of 22, the junior is just three shy of Tarek Saleh for the second-most in Wisconsin history.


Zach Heilprin’s (6-4, 5-5 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 27
Ebo’s (4-6, 4-6 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 10
Nelson Raisbeck’s (5-5, 4-6 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 17
RJ Brachman’s (5-5, 2-8 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 17
Ben Kenney’s (6-4, 4-6 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 12