BadgerNation had made a solid prediction for UW’s win over Purdue, highlighted by the observation: Living in Purdue’s Backfield: Dave Aranda’s defense was built for this type of offense; Witness the demolition of Maryland and Rutgers; Now factor in Purdue’s offense as a lesser version of Maryland or Rutgers; The Boilers rank 102nd in points scored; Expect the Badgers’ defense to harass presumed Purdue starting QB Austin Appleby all day long.
Now on to the game with Nebraska, the probable decision-maker in the Big Ten’s Western Division
1, No Stupid PassesIt could hardly be stated more bluntly. Wisconsin quarterbacks have made some very poor decisions this season. Against Northwestern the inability to throw the ball away with a first-and-goal from the 3 certainly contributed to a loss against a poor team. Last week Joel Stave made a poor decision that resulted in an interception against Purdue by forcing a ball into triple coverage. Fortunately Purdue had no ability to move the ball. We can assume that Nebraska will be able to capitalize on similar mistakes.
This point is purposely intended to differentiate bad decisions versus random turnovers. A defensive back can make a good play on a pass, a Badgers quarterback might not have quite enough arm strength for a long third-down pass from near midfield or a ball might ricochet to a defender. These are all mishaps that can hardly be planned against them. Instead the call here is for the Badger QBs to be completely cognizant of the situation and throw the ball away as needed. A forced pass against Purdue might be harmless; a forced pass against Nebraska can cost UW a chance to play in Indianapolis for the fourth time in five years.
2, Ameer Abdullah, Healthy or Otherwise:
Abdullah’s health has been a topic all week since getting injured against Purdue. What hasn’t been discussed as often is that Abdullah also had two poor games in which Nebraska struggled. He gained 54 rushing yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry, in a 31-24 victory over McNeese State, and he was held to 1.9 yards per carry (on 24 rushes) in a 27-22 loss to Michigan State. Abdullah’s resume does not contain a marquee game in 2014 such as Melvin Gordon’s 140 yards versus LSU.
3, Tommy Armstrong Jr. gets the Austin Appleby Treatment:
UW’s 3-4 defense guided by Aranda has been building to this moment. The scheme emphasizes speed of the linebackers on the edge and disrupt plays in the backfield, especially against an offense that relies on dual-threat QBs. An offensive line that emphasizes pocket protection would be a more significant challenge for UW. Expect UW linebackers Derek Landisch and Vince Biegel to apply the same type of pressure against Armstrong that disrupted the offenses of Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue.
The success of this key for the Badgers relies greatly on Abdullah’s effectiveness. If he can allow Nebraska to keep drives moving by presenting achievable third-down opportunities, Armstrong will be more of a threat. Wisconsin linebackers have accounted for 19 QB sacks and 13 hurries in 2014. This group has only improved its play as the season has gone on and that spells misfortune for Armstrong and NU.
4, Past the Line of Scrimmage
UW’s top four tacklers have roughly twice the number of TFLs (40 vs 23) as Nebraska’s. This indicates the points two and three above will turn in UW’s favor and additionally signals a strong day for Gordon. Teams that can make first contact against Gordon near the line of scrimmage can limit his gains. Once Gordon has a chance to make any sight adjustment, the defense is at a supreme disadvantage. Key match-up: NU defensive end Randy Gregory (No.4) against the Badger tackles.
5, Catching On
UW’s wide receivers finally seem to be ready to offer significant contributions to the passing game. Jordan Fredrick doubled his season totals by having a good game at Purdue. If this truly does indicate UW now has two wide receivers that can catch the ball, Wisconsin may finally be close to fielding a division-championship worthy offense.
Fearless Prediction: Starting out I did not expect to find the match ups so favorable for UW. Now I see an easy 28-14 victory.