Wisconsin and Nebraska will battle it out for the Big Ten title on Saturday at 8:17 p.m. ET on Fox. The Badgers are being treated like heavy underdogs in what should be a hard-fought game for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
One of the reasons Wisconsin isn't being given much of a chance is because the team actually finished third in the Leaders Division behind Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin was selected because both teams are ineligible for the postseason.
Another reason is that Nebraska has already beaten the Badgers earlier this season by a score of 30-27. The Cornhuskers were able to put together 440 total yards and really shutdown Wisconsin's running game.
With so much on the line this weekend, here are the keys to victory for head coach Bret Bielema and company.
Force Taylor Martinez to Throw the Ball
It is no secret that Nebraska is going to want to run the ball in this game.
The Cornhuskers are ranked eighth in the country in rushing yards and were able to put together 259 yards on the ground in their earlier meeting with Wisconsin.
That number must be cut in half in order for the Badgers to have a chance. Allowing the Cornhuskers to run wild once again will turn this ballgame into a complete disaster. Wisconsin must be able to take this unit out of its comfort zone and force Martinez to make plays with his arm.
The junior quarterback has only topped 200 passing yards in four games this season. And while he has improved his completion percentage to 63.3 percent on the year, he has had a couple of games where he has thrown three interceptions. He does make questionable decisions with the football at times and would much rather hurt you with his legs.
The good news for Wisconsin fans is that the team will get linebacker Chris Borland back from a hamstring injury. Borland and fellow linebacker Mike Taylor will play a big role in limiting big plays in the running game and keeping the defense disciplined on play-action passes.
Wisconsin is ranked 12th in the country in rushing yards allowed (111) and has held six teams to under 100 yards on the ground. But this will be a tall order for the Badgers, with the combination of Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead.
If Wisconsin can do a god job of clogging up running lanes and forcing Martinez to throw the ball more than he would like, the chances of an upset increase greatly.
Let Montee Ball Carry the Load
Wisconsin has its own weapon that is capable of gashing defenses for big runs. Running back Montee Ball is back to his old ways, scoring five touchdowns and rushing for a combined 500 yards in the last three games.
He has bumped up his average to five yards a carry and is looking very much like the runner Badger fans fell in love with last season.
Nebraska is likely going to stack the box, much like it did in the previous meeting when Ball was held to only three yards a carry on 31 touches. However, Wisconsin does have the advantage with its massive offensive line, and I wouldn't bet against the senior running back with him running the way he has lately.
It also isn't quite clear how much leading wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is going to play. Although he has been cleared to play on Saturday, you can never be too cautious when it comes to concussion-like symptoms.
Let's be honest, Wisconsin isn't going to light anybody up throwing the football.
Much like Nebraska, the Badgers want to stick to the running game and move the chains with a power offensive attack. The Cornhuskers have allowed over 180 yards in five games this season and have also allowed 17 rushing touchdowns.
If Ball can continue to build on his recent momentum, then there is no stopping this Badgers offense. You will then be able to pencil Wisconsin in the BCS Rose Bowl come January.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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