The Wisconsin Badgers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) are preparing to head deeper into the Midwest to face the unranked Cornhuskers (4-5, 2-4) in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Huskers are 4-5 so far this season, with wins against other unranked teams including South Alabama, Northern Illinois, Illinois and Northwestern. As for the No. 14 Badgers, who are 7-2 with losses to Illinois and The Ohio State University, this matchup to Nebraska may cause some concern.
Earlier in the season, Wisconsin suffered a soul-crushing loss to Illinois in the final seconds of the game, as Illinois’ James McCourt launched a 39-yard field goal to seal the victory 24–23.
For Wisconsin’s sake, all Badger fans hope history won’t repeat itself in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Since then, things are looking up for the Badgers at this point. Star running back Johnathan Taylor ran for his season-high record of 250 rushing yards against Iowa last week. Quarterback Jack Coan is also at an impressive 73.2% in pass completion for the season.
Coming off a win for the Heartland Trophy against the Hawkeyes, the Badgers may have the confidence needed in order to win out and finish the road to the Big Ten Championship.
The odds are stacked against the Huskers on paper. There exists little doubt that the Badgers will alter their strategy of slow, methodical drives that depends on the consistent accumulation of first downs. Wisconsin has racked up a total of 203 first downs for the season compared to Nebraska who comes short at 178.
Of those first downs, Wisconsin tops Nebraska in both passing and rushing. Effectively, this demonstrates the Badgers’ ability to move the ball in a balanced manner despite Taylor’s running prowess in short yardage situations.
This matchup will inevitably be another test to see if the Badgers can find success at their own game of methodically driving down the field.
Besides coming home with a win against Nebraska, Wisconsin’s future in the Big Ten Championship will depend on defeating Purdue in Camp Randall for the last time this season, and taking back Paul Bunyan’s Axe as the Badgers face the No. 7 Minnesota Gophers the following week.
Yet a full clinch of the Big Ten West still relies on the Gophers losing once before they play the Badgers. The most likely opponent to pull off this upset is the Iowa Hawkeyes. Wisconsin fans may very well find themselves rooting for a conference rival that they recently conquered.
There is still hope for Wisconsin to land a spot in the Big Ten Championship, but the Badgers have to take each matchup one step at a time. Every game is important and every win even more so.
With that being said, this weekend in Nebraska could have the potential to either pave the road for the Badgers or crush their chances to come out on top in the Big Ten West.