Big Ten Championship 2012: Taylor Martinez Holds the Key to Nebraska Victory

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Big Ten Championship 2012: Taylor Martinez Holds the Key to Nebraska Victory
Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Taylor Martinez is the answer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship game.

For one, his experience is arguably the most crucial because he has been under center for Bo Pelini since 2010. And he has added experience from playing in the Big 12 title game that season as well.

Throughout his career, Martinez has developed and improved with each new season. 2012 was no exception. Plus, in an article by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com:

Martinez is far from perfect. No player epitomizes the 2012 Huskers more than the junior signal caller, who can go from terrible to incredible in a flicker. He can be maddening and masterful.

To a certain extent, Martinez has been an enigma.

Then again, the ability to play better as games progress despite rough starts is the worst-case scenario. Especially considering that Nebraska is playing in a second conference championship game with Martinez at the helm.

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Decision-Making Factor

This aspect has clearly gotten more consistent with each season.

As for 2012, Martinez enters the Big Ten title game with 21 touchdown passes to only eight picks. Interestingly enough, six of those eight picks have come in two games: Ohio State and Michigan State.

On the year Nebraska's signal-caller has a 63.3 completion percentage and 2,483 yards passing. Each are career highs along with the touchdowns.

It's no secret that his maturity has kicked in.

Take the first meeting against Wisconsin. Nebraska won 30-27 by overcoming a 17-point deficit in the second half. But Martinez didn't have a good first half. He fumbled. Twice. And the Badgers simply dominated the first 30 minutes as a result.

Martinez didn't throw an interception and finished the day 17-of-29 for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Once you include his 107 yards rushing and one score, it's obvious that his ground game ability remains a significant threat.

 

Running Game Dynamics

Eric Francis/Getty Images

The rushing attack is Nebraska's forte and Martinez must impact against Wisconsin.

Nebraska averages 252 yards per game on the ground, which ranks No. 8, and the Badgers are No. 12 in rush defense. In short, controlling the line of scrimmage is the strength for each team: And that gets amplified when Sconnie's defense takes the field.

The Badgers are well aware of Martinez's athleticism and ability to extend plays. Martinez accounts for 833 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. His presence also allows Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah to produce more effectively.

Burkhead and Abdullah combined for 1,545 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, so the Badgers have a lot to prepare for. Still, Martinez is also key here, because his improved passing threat can set up play-action and maintain balance.

Against a stout defense like Wisconsin's that allows an average of just 18 points per contest, keeping the Badgers honest is vital to controlling the tempo.


'Huskers Offense Assisting the Defense

Eric Francis/Getty Images

Balance, ball control and winning the field position battle will significantly enhance Nebraska's odds of winning. In addition, that also will prevent against any shortcoming (potential turnovers and extra scoring opportunities) benefiting Wisconsin in the first half.

Martinez and the offense must keep the Badgers defense on the field. It's how any offense wears down a strong opponent.

Then as the game progresses, the Cornhuskers' ground game can take over and win the time of possession battle. This is important because Wisconsin's offense averages nearly 28 points per game and Nebraska allows 22.

Although a shootout may still favor the 'Huskers, the Badgers defense is capable of accumulating sacks and forcing turnovers. Therefore, provided Martinez and Company shorten the game and minimize the chances for Montee Ball, Nebraska will go to the BCS.

 

Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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