The teams: The No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 1-0) vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-4, 0-1)
The time: 6:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
The TV coverage: BTN with Kevin Kugler and J Lehman in the booth and Rick Pizzo on the sideline.
The last time: Jonathan Taylor ran for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-17 win last October in Lincoln.
The series: Wisconsin leads 8-4
The line: Wisconsin -17
The Badgers injury report:
ILB Griffin Grady (leg)
DL Garrett Rand (achilles)
OL Blake Smithback (leg)
LB Mason Platter (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
WR Quintez Cephus
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) Keep it going
Wisconsin needed the week off after a physical game with Iowa, but there’s probably some Badgers that would have liked to keep the momentum going from a strong finish to that contest. The offense scored touchdowns on its final two possessions and the defense ended the game by forcing a pair of punts and picking off a pass. It was the best stretch of play from both units this season and they’ll look to build on that against Nebraska.
2) Is Nebraska really this bad?
Nebraska had never been 0-4 in its history, but that’s exactly where the Huskers are right now. And to be fair, if their season opener with Akron hadn’t been canceled, they could very well be 0-5. Scott Frost’s first year has not gone as planned, obviously. Sure, it was unlikely that he would turn Nebraska into a contender right away, but they have been historically bad. The offense has been inconsistent, the defense has been horrendous and it’s among the most undisciplined teams in the country. It’s obviously way too early to make any judgements on Frost, but even the most pessimistic Huskers’ fans have to be concerned at what they’ve seen so far.
3) Going jumbo
Against Iowa, the Badgers didn’t hide their game plan. For the first time this season, they rolled out a seven offensive linemen formation with Jason Erdmann and Logan Bruss joining the five starters. Wisconsin told the Hawkeyes it was going to pound away with the run and that’s exactly what happened. The Badgers ran for 210 yards against a defense that was allowing 42 per game coming in. It was probably the best effort of the year from the offensive line, which now faces a Nebraska defense ranked 80th in the country against the run. With tight end Zander Neuville, a key run blocker, set to miss the rest of the year, expect to see the Badgers trot out the same six and seven-man lines against the Huskers.
4) Getting it done late
Alex Hornibrook hasn’t been great all year, but he was against Iowa, especially in the fourth quarter. He led Wisconsin down the field on a 10-play, 88-yard drive to beat Iowa a week after putting the Badgers in position to kick a game-tying field goal against BYU. According to UW, Hornibrook is 18-for-23 for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter this year. His numbers during the rest of games isn’t bad, but Wisconsin’s offense has a chance to reach its potential if the Hornibrook that shows up in the fourth quarter can be around in the first three quarters as well.
5) Secondary hurting
No position group has been hit harder by departures and injuries than Wisconsin’s secondary. They saw cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams transfer out before the season, while safety Patrick Johnson also left the team. Both likely would have played important roles at some point this year. Now, two of their top cornerbacks — Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks — are listed on the injury report as questionable. Hicks was seen wearing a cast on his right hand, though defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard expects him to play. Williams has a leg injury and was asking for prayers on his Twitter account this week.
All of this is to say that an already young secondary may have to turn to true freshmen cornerbacks Donte Burton and Rachad Wildgoose at some point against Nebraska.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
— This will be Nebraska’s fourth trip to Madison since joining the Big Ten in 2011. Combined, those teams had one loss coming into those games, while the team visiting this year already has four.
— 2018 marks the 25-year anniversary of former coach Barry Alvarez’s first Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship team. More than 70 members of that team will be honored at halftime of Saturday night’s game.
— Wisconsin is 18-1 in its last 19 trophy games, including its win over Iowa two weeks ago. The Badgers and Nebraska will play for the Freedom Trophy on Saturday night, a trophy the Huskers have never won.
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 35, Nebraska 17
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 34, Nebraska 14
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 10
Danny Cunningham’s prediction: Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 10