The start of Big Ten conference play is finally here for Nebraska. The Huskers will take on Wisconsin tonight in Lincoln in their new alternative uniforms specially produced by Adidas for this game.
As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory over Wisconsin. The Huskers enter tonight's game as an 11 ½ point favorite over the Badgers. It is only the third time since 2007 Wisconsin has been a double-digit underdog.
Control the tempo
A big part of this game tonight for Nebraska is they need to control the tempo both on offense and defense. Last year in Madison the Badgers dictated the terms and made the Huskers play at their pace.
If the Huskers want to win tonight, they can't let that happen again. This can't be an old-fashioned slowed down Big Ten game. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck needs to tempo the Badgers with his no-huddle offense.
Last year Beck made the mistake of playing a slowed down physical game early against Wisconsin, which plays right into their hands because they see that type of offense every day in practice. I expect to see a lot of spread sets forcing Wisconsin out of the box and allowing more running lanes for Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah.
Make offensive adjustments
How will Wisconsin defend Martinez and the offense tonight? That's the million dollar question. A year ago the Badgers came out in a look they've never shown before, which really threw Beck off. The Badgers played a zone based scheme and their players bragged after their blowout win they ran the same five defensive calls the entire game.
NU has to be ready for zone or man. Beck needs to be on his toes tonight and ready to make the quick adjustments if the Badgers come at him with another new defensive look. NU also needs to get their passing game going early to loosen up the box and allow Burkhead more running room.
Win the early downs on defense
Wisconsin won't do anything exotic on offense. They'll come at Nebraska with an old-fashioned two-back or two tight end set and just pound the football on first and second down. Nebraska has to be ready to stop this. They cannot let the Badgers play "3 yards and a cloud of dust" football where they can have a third-and-short every time.
The Huskers need to win first and second down so they can force redshirt freshman quarterback Joel Stave into obvious passing situations. If they can do that, it will allow head coach Bo Pelini to dial up some blitz looks the Badgers haven't seen before since the Huskers will be in a 4-3 base for the first time all season.
Play with sounds fundaments on defense
Wisconsin is going to run right at Nebraska and they are going to force the Huskers to stop them. They are going to test NU's tackling and fundamentals.
In their eyes Nebraska is an unproven team and they feel like they can exploit some of the things UCLA did a few weeks ago. NU has to prove that theory wrong tonight and tackle and play with solid fundamentals.
The 12th man
Last year the 12th man killed Nebraska in Madison. This year Husker nation needs to pay back the favor. 85,000 Nebraska fans need to make their presence felt.
With the night game atmosphere and alternate uniforms, there is plenty of motivation for the crowd to get up for today's game. The Huskers also have to give them something on the field early to cheer for.
Callahan's weekly predictions
As long as Nebraska can dictate the tempo and control the pace of this game, I see no way they lose at home. Wisconsin is just not explosive enough to keep up with the Big Red if Nebraska is able to get some early points on the board and force Stave into some tough throwing situations. I'll take the Huskers, but I don't think they'll cover the 11 ½ points.
Nebraska 31 Wisconsin 21
Ohio State 24 Michigan State 20
Penn State 23, Illinois 16
Iowa 31, Minnesota 27
Texas 45 Oklahoma State 37
Season Record: 12-7 overall; 12-7 vs. points