And Nebraska fans want redemption for one of those ugliest and hardest games to watch and take last year. And while it's another year and the game this year has absolutely to do with last year there is always a revenge factor.
The make-up of the game tonight is different too. No Russell Wilson. Nebraska's offense looks improved. There is a little "bizarre-o world" going on between this year's game and last year's game. Here is what I will be watching tonight:
1. Stopping Ball - When I have heard the words "stop ball" before it's usually been about basketball. Tonight the word ball is capitalized and refers to Wisconsin's running back Montee Ball. From the sounds of it Ball is healthy and will play tonight. The Nebraska defense has struggled against the run, but there are some things about tonight that don't look the same. Ball is a bigger running back and the smaller, scat backs have created big match up issues in the passing game against Nebraska. Nebraska has also rolled out some different defensive fronts and while defensive coordinator John Papuchis has said that Nebraska will roll out in a 4-3 don't be surprised when you see some odd man fronts tonight.
2. Nebraska's passing offense against Wisconsin's pass defense - Wisconsin is going to be tough against Nebraska's rush offense. They are stout up front and in an effort to soften them up Nebraska needs to throw the football. I know that at least one of the members of the Wisconsin defense is not a Taylor Martinez believer (skipping rocks). Martinez has improved this year though. He's on target. He's comfortable. He distributes the ball well. Where Nebraska will be able to exploit Wisconsin on defense tonight is with their speed between their wide receivers and Kyler Reed at tight end. Expect Nebraska to have players like Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Kyler Reed on the field a lot tonight and all at the same time.
3. The X-Factor: Turnovers - There won't be a lot of categories tonight that I will be keeping an eye on more than the turnover column. I firmly believe that this one statistic will seal the deal for the game. It's going to sew up momentum to put the game in one team's hands and it's also going to continue to plague a team as they try to get back into the game. Which defense is opportunistic? Which offense doesn't test the waters too many times through the air and is more on target than not? Finally, which team just doesn't fumble the football and put the possibility of a turnover out there?
I think that the game comes down to two things. The first is experience. I wasn't at the game last year in Madison, but I can tell you this from watching on T.V. that Camp Randall seems like a tough place to play especially if you are behind and trying to come back. I believe that the home field tonight is good for some points in Nebraska's favor.
Second, I love the way that Nebraska's passing game matches up against Wisconsin's secondary. I just don't think that there is a tremendous amount of team speed in the Wisconsin backfield that will allow them to stay with guys like Reed, Bell and Turner. It's going to be a track meet and after a couple of long hits the run game and passes underneath will really soften things up. I also think that tempo plays into tonight's game.
In the end, Nebraska wins because of too much offense. I also think that the time Tom Osborne announcement this week sets some things up. Yes, I said timely. It's an incentive to the team to send Tom Osborne out with his first Big Ten title as Athletic Director. That road starts tonight…the table is set. Huskers win going away, 37-17.