Big Ten Championship 2012: Keys for Nebraska and Wisconsin to Claim B1G Title

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 29: Running back Rex Burkhead #22 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs through the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska won 30-27. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

A spot in the Rose Bowl is on the line on Saturday night in Indianapolis when the Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin Badgers (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) do battle at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The last time these two teams met, on September 29 in Nebraska, the Cornhuskers erased a 17-point deficit and held on for a 30-27 victory.

While Nebraska is the heavy favorite to emerge victorious, Wisconsin isn't about to go down without a fight.

Let's take a look at what each team needs to focus on in order to make the trip out to California in January.


Keys For Nebraska

Getting a body on Wisconsin defenders, who don't shed blocks all that well, will allow Nebraska RBs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah to pound the ball against the Badgers defense, both between the tackles and on the edge.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, a dual-threat option who accelerates very quickly, needs to pick and choose his spots to take off carefully.

Wisconsin's front seven is incredibly talented, but they are also aggressive and that makes them vulnerable to play action.

Martinez needs to take advantage of mismatches with wide receiver Kenny Bell and tight end Kyler Reed, who are big, athletic players capable of burning Wisconsin defenders when faced with one-on-one coverage.

Defensively, the Huskers need to stop Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, which is easier said than done.

Nebraska has struggled mightily to stop opposing teams from running the ball this season, allowing more than 166 rushing yards and nearly two rushing touchdowns per game.

Montee Ball picked up three touchdowns against the Cornhuskers in their previous matchup, but it took him 32 carries to rack up 90 yards, which is only an average of 2.8 yards per carry.

Since then, Ball has been running the ball like the Heisman Trophy candidate we all thought that he was entering the season, with 87 carries for 1,075 yards and 12 touchdowns in his past seven games.

That's an average of 5.75 yards per carry, more than 150 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game.

If Nebraska is unable to slow Ball down, he is more than capable of carrying Wisconsin to the win.


Keys For Wisconsin

Wisconsin's offensive line has been shaky at best, and Nebraska figures to stack eight in the box, but their success lies in Ball's ability to run the ball effectively.

The Badgers do an excellent job of mixing misdirection and deception into their offense by getting backup RB James White on the field at the same time as starter Montee Ball and getting WR Jared Abbrederis involved in the ground game as well.

Abbrederis, who gave Nebraska fits when last they met, is a matchup issue for the Huskers because of his quickness. With the team's attention fixed on stopping Wisconsin's ground attack, Abbrederis will have an opportunity to beat Nebraska's corners downfield.

Defensively, Wisconsin needs to take advantage of the fact that Nebraska's starting center, Justin Jackson, is out of action with an ankle injury. The Badgers must win the battle in the trenches to get into the backfield to slow down Martinez, Burkhead and Abdullah.

Blowing up Nebraska's running game before it can get going would alter things significantly.