NCAA Week 9: Previewing the Wisconsin-Nebraska Match-up

October 29, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Big Ten, Front Page, NCAA

The annual trophy game against the Iowa Hawkeyes was re-taken by the Badgers last Saturday, and the Heartland Trophy is now back in Madison. Now, the second trophy game of the season, the Freedom Trophy, will be played as the Badgers take on the seventh-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in Camp Randall Stadium. I know that back in September when the season began, this game was probably seen as some sort of afterthought, with unranked Nebraska coming into Madison after the Badgers recently plowed through a rough schedule. However, this is the Badgers’ fifth game against a Top 10 opponent this season, and despite Nebraska maybe not playing quality competition, they are still pretty darn good.

Now that Oregon is 2-5 and last in the Pac-12 Conference, Nebraska’s best win of the season comes against either the 5-2 Wyoming Cowboys, who are among the frontrunners in the Mountain West Conference, or on the road in Northwestern when they were struggling. I’ll go with Wyoming, simply because Nebraska literally crushed them.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin put a similar beat-down on MAC foe Akron, who is still in the running for the MAC East title, and they also have wins against Michigan State (which looks less impressive, even though they started the downfall), at Iowa, and LSU at a neutral site. The two losses, a combined 14 points, and against two of the best teams in the nation. Nebraska’s résume isn’t even close, which is why despite a two loss difference, they are only four spots away in the polls.

So who truly has the edge here? Is Nebraska overrated, are the Badgers overrated, or maybe Nebraska really is this good, and just hasn’t had a chance to prove themselves yet. Well, they have two chances now, with a game at Ohio State next weekend. Oh, and the conference title is not clearly Nebraska’s yet, either, as the Badgers just have to win out, and have Nebraska lose either at Iowa or Ohio State. It’s definitely reasonable. As for the Badgers’ wins, at Iowa is a nice victory, and the LSU one is looking much better than it was a few weeks ago, as LSU is ranked again and climbing. They are actually the last “chance” at an Alabama loss this season.

Nebraska has a good defense, a veteran quarterback who has gotten better each season, and the general “toughness” mentality surrounding them. Although Wisconsin lost inside linebacker Jack Cichy for the season with a torn pectoral, I don’t think that is enough to tear the defense apart. Outside linebacker Vince Biegel is back, and the Badgers rarely lose in Camp Randall Stadium. Plus the running game has started to show up again, and if the Badgers ever get any resemblance of an offense, the nation better look out. I like the Badgers in Camp Randall, in yet another low scoring game. Final score: Wisconsin 20, Nebraska 14.

Photo: Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

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