No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0 SU, 0-4 ATS) at No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS), Saturday October 1st, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 5
Camp Randall Stadium Madison, WI
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Neb +9.5/Wis -9.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The no. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to Madison, Wisconsin in what is expected to be an epic showdown with the no. 7 Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday with Big Ten bragging rights on the line. The Badgers and Cornhuskers appear to be obvious leaders in each of their divisions in the Big Ten this season and this game just may be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game that will take place on December 3rd.
Of course this will be the first meeting between the Cornhuskers and Badgers in conference play. Something seems to point in the direction that these two schools will soon become bitter rivals as both programs are poised to stay on top of the Big Ten for years to come. Wisconsin will have the luxury of hosting the event in Madison which should give them a clear advantage and one of the main reasons the Badgers are rather sizeable 9.5 point favorites.
It would be an upset if the Cornhuskers won the game despite both teams being separated by just one spot in the AP Polls. The reason it would be an upset is based primarily from how both teams have played against competition through the first few weeks of the season. Wisconsin has simply demolished the competition by a combined score of 194-34 through the first 4 games. Nebraska on the other hand has looked ‘so so’ against some averaged opponents.
Still, the Cornhuskers will bring one of the nation’s top rushing offenses into Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday. Nebraska currently owns the 8th best rushing offense in America averaging 272 yards per game on the ground. QB Taylor Martinez leads the Cornhuskers rushing attack with 421 rushing yards on the season which also ranks 2nd in the Big Ten. Teammate running back Rex Burkhead is just one yard behind Martinez to rank 3rd in the Big Ten with 420 rushing yards on the season. Both Martinez and Burkhead have near identical numbers carrying the ball 63 times while averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 7 touchdowns a piece on the year.
The unique option rushing attack tends to foil opposing defenses and that is one reason that you should not pay attention to all the numbers on paper when judging Nebraska’s offense. Martinez will also attempt some passes down field to keep the Badgers’ defense honest. So far this season, Martinez has completed just 50% passing for 647 yards with 4 scores and 2 picks. WR Niles Paul led the receiving core last year but has since departed to the NFL. Unfortunately, the offense has yet to find a receiver that could fill his shoes as they continue to search for a playmaker in the passing game to help take some of the pressure off the running attack.
The Wisky defense will definitely not back down from the challenge that the Nebraska offense presents. In fact, the Badgers defense has been very impressive their selves through the opening weeks of the season. The Badgers currently own the 7th best defense in the country allowing just 246 yards per game. The Wisconsin run stop unit ranks 22nd in America allowing just 89 yards per game. Still, this Nebraska rushing unit is not your typical rushing offense and it will be interesting to see how the Wisconsin defense handles this different style of rushing from the Cornhuskers.
Offensively, the Badgers have one of the most explosive offenses in America. QB Russell Wilson has been absolutely outstanding completing 75.8% passing for 1,136 yards with 11 scores and 1 pick. Wilson has truly taken the offense to new heights and allowed Coach Bielema to open up the playbook. Wilson has not only been ery accurate with his arm, but has made throws on the move which is extremely difficult to defend. WR Nick Toon has emerged as the playmaker in the receiving game. Toon has caught 21 passes for 353 yards with 5 touchdowns on the season.
Additionally running backs Montee Ball and James White have held up the ground attack. Both running backs have over 300 yards on the season and Ball leads the team with 360 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. Therefore, it is easy to see that Wisconsin is loaded with playmakers on every level of the field and can beat defenses in numerous ways. Therefore, this will easily be the Cornhuskers defense biggest challenge to date as they look to find a way to slow down this dangerous Wisconsin offense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m sure the Cornhuskers look appetizing receiving 9.5 points in this game, but Wisconsin is still the play here. The Cornhuskers are not playing extremely well especially on defense and Wisconsin just may be the best team in the country this season. Nebraska will get better as the season progresses but they are catching Wisconsin at their best. Take Wisconsin -9.5.
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