Wisconsin needs something to happen for them quickly in order to save this 2012 season. After losing to Oregon State and struggling with teams such as Northern Iowa, Utah State and UTEP, it is fair to say that this is not the same Badgers team from last year.
This weekend, Wisconsin will have a chance to right the ship, as the team travels to Lincoln to take on the No. 22-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. And although Wisconsin gave Nebraska a 48-17 beat-down last season, these teams are heading in completely different directions this year.
The Cornhuskers have a Top 10 scoring offense and have looked like one of the better Big Ten squads early on. Wisconsin has struggled with every opponent it has played and can't seem to score points whatsoever.
Still, the Badgers do have a chance to win this football game and save their season before it’s too late.
Here are three things Wisconsin must do to earn a victory this weekend and get back into the Big Ten title picture.
Slow Down the Running Game of Nebraska
Although running back Rex Burkhead has missed majority of the season, Nebraska still has the fifth-best rushing attack in college football. The Cornhuskers are averaging more than 300 yards on the ground, as a total of five players have at least 100 rushing yards through the first four games. Burkhead left Week 1 with an injury and missed a couple of games, but he returned last week, rushing for 119 yards on only eight carries.
In last year’s meeting, Nebraska was held to just 159 yards on the ground and fewer than four yards a carry. If Wisconsin is going to have any chance in this game, the Badgers must do a terrific job of containing the running game once again. Right now, Wisconsin has the third-best run defense in the Big Ten, allowing only 80 yards on the ground.
Wisconsin is big and physical up front, which should help in slowing down this high-powered rushing attack.
Generate Pressure Up Front
While stopping the run is the key for the defense of the Badgers, Wisconsin also must do a great job of forcing pressure on quarterback Taylor Martinez. As of right now, the junior quarterback is completing 70 percent of his passes, but he isn't that accurate with the football. After all, we are talking about a quarterback that has completed well under 60 percent the last two seasons.
Martinez, like any quarterback in the country, is effective when having time in the pocket and is able to control the tempo of the game. However, if a team is able to get pressure and force him into throwing the ball when he doesn't want to, it will only result into good things for this defense.
Despite the great start by Martinez, he is still not a quarterback who is comfortable throwing the football consistently. Wisconsin must generate pressure up front and force mistakes in the passing game.
The Badgers are 12-3 since 2009 when sacking the opposing quarterback at least three times.
Feed Montee Ball the Ball
Heisman candidate Montee Ball has played nothing like what we saw last season. The running back that we saw run for 1,923 yards in 2011 is averaging fewer than four yards a carry through the first four games and has scored only three touchdowns. A lot of that has to do with injuries he suffered during the offseason, as he hasn't exactly been right since suffering a head injury.
Good news for Badgers fans is that the senior running back has been cleared to play and is ready to take off, according to Dave Carey of CBS Sports. Ball has shown what he is capable of when he gets going, especially against Nebraska, as he rushed for 151 yards and scored four touchdowns in last year’s meeting.
With a freshman quarterback who will start his first game on the road, this is a time to rely on your veteran and proven players. It doesn't get much better than Ball, as that is the guy who can give Wisconsin the spark it is so desperately lacking in 2012.