Wisconsin will head to Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday to take on the unranked Cornhuskers in a primetime showdown. The past few meetings between the Big Ten West rivals have been extremely close. And I wouldn’t expect anything else from the two teams, who are fighting for the Freedom Trophy and dominance in the Big Ten West. Here is what to watch for in the 7 p.m. CT matchup:
Wisconsin has recorded 16 sacks already, but their dominance of the offensive line may be halted on Saturday. If anyone can vouch for how intense the Badgers pass rush is, it is Clayton Thorson. The Badgers were able to sack Northwestern’s quarterback seven times on Saturday. But the Cornhuskers have been able to hold off the pass rush well against their opponents thus far in the season, having only allowed nine sacks this season. Wisconsin might need to get creative in order to bring Tanner Lee to the ground.
The Badgers were able to show how greedy they can be on defense against Northwestern, and are looking to do the same thing against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska QB Tanner Lee has proven to be quite carefree with the ball early this season. Lee has thrown nine interceptions already, and three of them have been returned for touchdowns. With ballhawks in the secondary like Natrell Jamerson, Derrick Tindal Jr, Nick Nelson and D’Cota Dixon, it could be a long day for Lee. Nebraska will likely have to rely on the pass game with one of their best running backs, Tre Bryant, being added to the injury report.
With Nebraska allowing a low average of rushing yards per game, the Badgers may need to rely on Alex Hornibrook. Nebraska’s defense doesn’t like to allow teams to move the chains by rushing. The Cornhuskers allow a low average of 105.8 rush yards per game. The Badgers typically rely on their backfield, and average 224.5 rush yards per game. Luckily for the Badgers, Hornibrook has been impressive thus far. He has thrown for nearly 900 yards, nine touchdowns, and thrown only three interceptions. So if the Badgers are forced to rely on just him, fans can rest easy.
Wisconsin could prove that the Freedom Trophy belongs here. Since being created in 2014, the Freedom Trophy has yet to be placed in the hands of the Cornhuskers. And the Badgers are looking to keep the trophy for yet another year on Saturday. The last few meetings between the two teams have been decided by one score, and last year’s meeting ended in an overtime touchdown by Dare Ogunbowale to win it. The Badgers are looking to hold onto the trophy for a fourth straight year, and trying to avoid surrendering it to the Cornhuskers for the first time in its existence.
The winner of this game could determine the winner of the Big Ten West. These two teams are the top in the Big Ten West. Minnesota suffered an embarrassing loss to Maryland at home last week. Iowa has lost to both Penn State and Michigan State. Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue already have losses against the conference, and have already fallen behind. Wisconsin and Nebraska are the only two teams in the West to be undefeated in the Big Ten, and winning this game will only help each team’s quest for the Big Ten championship.
Saturday’s matchup between the Big Ten rivals will be a fun one, with a lot of passing, stout defense, and competitive play as both teams try to prove why they deserve the nod for the Big Ten West’s best team and the Freedom Trophy.