Know Your Foe - Nebraska

Winners of four straight, No.22 Wisconsin needs a victory over No.11 Nebraska to remain in the driver's seat of the Big Ten West Division. Badger Nation gets the inside scoop on this week's opponent from Big Red Report publisher Josh Harvey.

1,How much of Nebraska’s offense is centered around what Ameer Abdullah can do with the football? Where have his big improvements been this season?

Harvey: I wouldn’t say that necessarily the offense is tailored around Ameer, but instead a strong rushing attack in general. No matter who is in the backfield, offensive coordinator Tim Beck is going to try to get a strong running game established. When it comes to his health, Bo Pelini is very optimistic he will play, but admits he is not a doctor. I really think it will be a game time decision. Abdullah has done a great job this year (he was already good) staying patient and waiting for his hole to open up. I have covered a lot of solid running backs during my career, but his vision is one of the best I have seen. He’s really a master at cutting back around the line of scrimmage. ”

2, How much did playing last year help Tommy Armstrong’s development? How is he a different quarterback than Taylor Martinez?

Harvey: Well first off, Armstrong doesn’t have the ability to do something like this.

But, the sophomore is a threat to run the football and has picked up quite a few yards on the ground doing it. He’s honestly a better passer than Martinez, but probably doesn’t know the offense to the level Martinez did at this point in his career. I think last year really helped Armstrong identify areas of his game he needed to work on coming into the season, but he’s still definitely developing as a quarterback. Week to week he’s shown some inconsistencies at times. He really needs to learn to progress through his reads and check down.

3, The Cornhuskers are averaging over 40 points per game. What’s been the big reason why Nebraska has been so successful on that side of the football?

Harvey: The easy answer is Abdullah, similar to Melvin Gordon, when he finds a hole he’s a home run threat. But, Beck also likes to pride himself on the offense being multiple, and Nebraska has done a really nice job this year sneaking something unordinary in the game plan to surprise defenses. It’s not necessarily a trick play, but more of a play where Beck has been setting up a defense for.

4, The last time Wisconsin fans saw Nebraska was the Big Ten championship game. How have the Cornhuskers improved their defense since that 70-31 affair?

Harvey: Well it’s a completely different group and one that has a lot of speed. There also isn’t a position on defense that doesn’t have an upgrade in the speed department when it comes to 2014. The group is young, so they are a little more prone to making big mistakes, but their athleticism makes up for it at times. The coaches made speed a premium in Pelini’s system and recruited for it. When breaking down positions, I think the defensive line is a lot better and it starts there and just trickles backwards. There is not one defensive starter left from the 2012 squad.

5, Nebraska leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense. Is that mostly a result of solid pressure from the front seven or the Cornhuskers having a shutdown secondary?

Harvey: It’s a combination of both. If you go back and look at Pelini’s squads, they are always high in this category. Pelini knows how to develop DBs and it’s evident by how many he’s put in the league. But, the defensive line’s efforts can’t be ignored. Defensive end Randy Gregory is a potential No. 1 pick and the other three lineman, in my opinion, all have All-Conference ability. Gregory demands double and sometimes even triple-teams, which has opened things up for the other three.

6, Cornerback Josh Mitchell had two of the Huskers’ three sacks against Purdue and is second in the league in passes defended. What is his biggest strength?

Harvey: Mitchell is tenacious. He’s a bit under-sized, but don’t tell him that. I wouldn’t say he’s the biggest hitter or the faster guy on the team, but just overall he is solid football player that has a high defensive IQ – his father played in the NFL for a short stint. There isn’t a guy who’s got a bigger chip on his shoulder for Nebraska than Josh Mitchell.”

7, With Purdue holding Nebraska under 300 yards, was that mainly because Abdullah went on or was there more to it?

Harvey: Armstrong didn’t have a good game and he would be the first one to tell you. He didn’t hit many of his receivers and looked out of sync. I think the loss of Abdullah greatly hurt Nebraska because Purdue is a team that can be run on. The game plan was to feed him early and often and establish a pass off the run. It’s hard to lose a potential All-American early in the first quarter when the offensive game plan of the day featured a lot of him.

8, Is Bo Pelini finally off the hot seat in Lincoln or could a late season skid end his tenure?

Harvey: I don’t think he’s on the hot seat, unless Nebraska was to get blown out by Wisconsin and drop games to Minnesota and Iowa by a couple scores. Even then I would sort of doubt it. How do you fire a coach who features a .725 win percentage and has been to three conference championship games in seven years while maintaining a clean program? The answer is you can’t. Nebraska has an athletic director who didn’t hire Pelini, but he’s attached his cars to the train for now.

9, Where do you think the Cornhuskers have the edge over the Badgers? Where do you think Wisconsin has the edge?

Harvey: I think these two teams really mirror each other and are pretty close in a lot of categories.”

Quarterback – Nebraska
Running back – Wisconsin (slight edge because I feel Clement is better than Newby and Cross. I also don’t think Abdullah will be 100 percent)
Wide receiver – Nebraska
Offensive line – Wisconsin
Defensive line – Nebraska
Linebacker – Wisconsin
Secondary – Nebraska
Kicking game – Wisconsin
Return game – Nebraska
Coaching – Draw

10, What is the one thing Nebraska needs to do well in order to win Saturday? Prediction?

Harvey: I’m refraining from posting prediction until we know more about Abdullah’s injury situation. That being said, I think even if he does play, Tommy Armstrong is going to need to hit on a few passes to soften up the Badgers defense and they are going to have to find a way to slow down Gordon and Clement a bit.


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