MADISON — As Big Ten football gets set to kick off this week when the Northwestern Wildcats come to town, the vibes inside the McClain Center were just like any other day. After practice, players were relaxed and goofing around with each other.

One reason the Badgers have to be relaxed: they are coming off of their bye week and have had over two weeks to prepare for the Wildcats. In the last 26 meetings with Northwestern, the series is tied between the two Big Ten West teams.

When asked what he felt the secondary needed to do to make sure the Badgers came away with a win, Natrell Jamerson answered, “Just make our plays when they come our way. Capitalize on every opportunity. If we get turnovers like we expect, we gonna be in a real good position.”

Nick Nelson also emphasized communication was important for the secondary, which seemed easy to do. The secondary, as a group, has naturally meshed together, despite having so many new faces (such as Nelson) and losing senior leadership last year.

“Off the field we are like really connected so once we get on the field it’s a big connection. We all brothers off the field so once we get on the field we fight for each other. It’s fun playing with those guys,” Nelson said.

Because they are so close off the field, that translates into chemistry on the field. Being so close, they hold each other to even higher expectations on the field.  “[We hold ourselves to] very high expectations. We always talk about being the best secondary in the country or the best defense in the country. Period,” Jamerson noted. 

And when asked if he believed that this was the best secondary in the country, Nick Nelson confidently answered “Yes.”

Despite having the confidence that they are the best secondary in the nation, stopping Northwestern on Saturday will still be a challenge. “The toughest part? Stopping that running back. That running back, he’s pretty good.”

Nelson is referencing star running back Justin Jackson, who already has 248 yard and four touchdowns on the year. But when it comes to QB Clayton Thorson and WR Bennett Skowronek, Jamerson added that “We preparing just the same as we prepare for everyone else. We don’t see them as anything special so we’re gonna make our plays.”

This group oozes confidence and they like to express themselves on the field, rather than vocally. When I asked Jamerson and Nelson to describe their defensive back group using only a few words, they answered “exciting, strong, tough, and dependable.”

The Badgers have a fairly easy schedule compared to last year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t face their fair share of tough tasks. And when those tough tasks do come their way, you can count on Jamerson, Nelson, and the rest of the secondary to play Badger football and make their plays, because they are exciting, strong, tough, and dependable.