First Big Test for Husker Offense
In years past we've seen Nebraska's offense look strong through the nonconference portion of the schedule. Once the conference schedule began, things would sometimes appear quite different. Saturday's game with Wisconsin may tell us whether the the offensive show we've seen so far is something that will continue or whether expectations should be tempered.
The Huskers find themselves 13-point favorites going into the game with the Badgers. By about every measure, U-Dub has been a bad offensive football team. The main reason Wisconsin has tallied three wins has been their defense. They've been outstanding at stopping the run, giving up just 81 yards a game. They've been good enough against the pass to be among the top third of teams nationally in total defense and scoring defense. Chances are, that when NU's fifth ranked rushing offense (318 yards per game) meets the Badger's thirteenth ranked rushing defense, the result will land somewhere between the averages for the two teams. Split right down the middle, you might expect Nebraska to rush for around 200 yards.
The passing game is even more intriguing. Wisconsin's defense has been only middling against the pass while NU has been tenth nationally in pass efficiency. The Badgers have sacked opposing passers fewer than twice a game. Taylor Martinez has shown that he can be deadly when given time. If those trends continue, it could be a long night for UW.
The other trend of concern for Wisconsin's defense has been their lack of turnovers. They've generated just a single turnover all year. Should that trend continue, then it's hard to imagine a Badger victory. In the vast majority of losses by Nebraska in the Bo Pelini era, NU has had a negative turnover margin. Take away that advantage and what hope will UW have? Discipline will be the name of the game (as usual) for the Huskers. Take care of the ball and avoid penalties and the game should belong to the men of corn. Wisconsin has been among the better teams at avoiding penalties and similarly they've turned the ball over a fairly modest five times in four games.
Last year, NU got off to a good start before it was all Badgers. This year, expect to see some payback.