Which of these hold true for the Nebraska rematch with a Rose Bowl bid on the line?
1, The Defensive Line Must Step Up
Against Nebraska the first time around, the UW defensive line could not contain Cornhusker QB Taylor Martinez's running game. Martinez's ability to throw the ball is still suspect when playing superior defenses. It was his running talent, on both designed and broken plays, that allowed a Nebraska comeback victory in the second half of the first meeting of these two teams. Against Penn State, the Badgers defensive line allowed a record day by unknown tailback Zach Zwinak. Defensive end and tackles need to have a better game as a foundation for a UW win.
2, Inside Heavy Technique
BadgerNation has highlighted this before. Nebraska adjusted to the Badgers offensive line by switching to a direct rushing technique. Instead of playing to the gaps in the Badgers O-line, the Cornhuskers defensive linemen attacked their opponent directly, mostly UW's left and right guard. The idea was to push the guard back into the running lanes and to disrupt a QB with less mobility. Since then, UW offensive line coach Bart Miller has worked to restore basic technique. This improvement was mostly clearly seen against Ohio State where the Badgers had success running the ball. Against Penn State the running was mildly successful. The point being neither OSU nor PSU could adopt the very basic "inside heavy technique" as Nebraska easily had earlier in the year. A more mobile QB, in this case Curt Phillips, also helps limit the effectiveness. The Badgers should be able to run the ball on Saturday. This is especially true if reports of Nebraska's leading defensive tackle, Baker Steinkuhler, missing the game are correct.
3, The Badger Kicking Game
BadgerNation may seem like a broken record, but poor place kicking was key determinant in the losses to Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State while one errant punt allowed the Buckeyes a quick touchdown. The Badgers offense is not strong enough to overcome missed opportunities in this department.
As mentioned above, Nebraska will be down one defensive starter. Will Wisconsin's star linebacker Chris Borland be 100 percent ready? One reason PSU's Zwinak ran wild was because UW middle linebacker Derek Landisch – subbing in for Borland – was far too easily blocked. UW will need a healthy Borland to win.
UW has been consistent in holding on to the ball, while Nebraska has fumbled quite a bit for a team with a winning record. Last week the Badgers had several opportunities for interceptions against PSU but came up just short. On the season Nebraska has fumbled 32 times but has only lost 20 of those (UW fans will remember a fumble by Ameer Abdullah that bounced directly to Martinez). A combination of luck and desire might be enough to tip the balance.
This looks to be yet another closer game for the Badgers. If Kyle French can hit his field goal chances, if Chris Borland can play and if UW can convert one interception opportunity they will win 30-20. Miss a kick and miss a pick? Maybe we see one more overtime game?