Big Ten Championship 2012: 10 Things We Learned from Wisconsin's Win vs Nebraska
Wisconsin is smelling roses—again.
For the third straight year, Bret Bielema and the Wisconsin Badgers are Pasadena bound after winning the Big Ten championship. They earned their ticket this year with a 70-31 demolition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten title game. And yes, that sound your hearing is, in fact, the Badgers scoring another touchdown.
Wisconsin will play the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day while Nebraska may have stumbled further down the bowl-pecking order with its abysmal performance Saturday night.
Before we look ahead to the bowl matchups, though, here's 10 things we learned from Wisconsin's 39-point victory over Nebraska.
1. Nebraska was overrated.
Everyone can probably agree that losing by more than five touchdowns isn't something the No. 12 team in the nation should be doing.
That's what happened Saturday night, though, as it looked like Wisconsin was playing a high school football team at times. The Badgers toyed with the Cornhuskers the entire game, and if it weren't for two garbage-time Nebraska touchdowns, the margin of victory would have been even more inflated.
2. Wisconsin was underrated.
It was easy to poke fun at the Badgers for basically backing their way into the game because of Ohio State and Penn State's postseason bans, but the Badgers certainly played like a team that was tired of hearing they didn't belong.
Wisconsin proved that despite finishing third in the division, they could handle themselves just fine against Nebraska. Four of the Badgers' five losses this season came by a margin of three points, so it wasn't like the team was getting blown out.
At least, Dan Wetzel agrees:
I know an unpopular sentiment, but Wisconsin is better than it's record. Lost lot of close, emotional games— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) December 2, 2012
3. Nebraska's close victories leading up to this game made them soft.
The Cornhuskers came into the B1G title game riding high on a six-game winning streak, but five of those games were very close victories.
Nebraska rallied from 12 points down late in the fourth quarter against Northwestern, beat a Michigan team that was led by some guy named Russell Bellamy at quarterback and defeated Michigan State and Penn State after some questionable calls went their way.
Regardless, close victories usually have a way rallying a team, but the Cornhuskers came out flat against Wisconsin. They had no fight in them when things started turning ugly. It certainly didn't look like the team that rallied to beat the Badgers earlier this year.
4. Wisconsin's close losses leading up to this game made them angry.
The Badgers suffered three losses in four games coming into Saturday's matchup, all of which came in overtime. That seemed to have the reverse effect that winning close games had on Nebraska.
Wisconsin came out the angrier football team and that translated well to the the field. The Badgers completely overwhelmed the Cornhuskers on both sides of the ball. After a number of hard-to-swallow losses, you could tell Wisconsin wanted to redeem themselves, and their season, with another trip to the Rose Bowl.
5. Taylor Martinez is actually a quarterback from the Tecmo Bowl video game.
It was a rough night for Nebraska fans, but they did get to see their quarterback zigzag through the Wisconsin defense like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl:
Watch that highlight, then watch this and tell me if there's a distinguishable difference between the two.
6. Wisconsin's offense desperately needs to find some consistency.
The Badgers have rushed for an average of 552 yards in their last two victories.
That number is astounding.
But in their last three losses, the Badgers have only averaged 128 yards on the ground. For an offense that relies so heavily on the running game, those up-and-down numbers have directly impacted the outcomes of their games down the stretch.
Nebraska's run defense wasn't great, and in fact, it was ranked No. 73 in the country after giving up 166 yards per game on the ground through 12 games. But the Badgers shredded even that inflated number with 373 yards Saturday night.
Wisconsin will need to carry over the success it found against Nebraska into the Rose Bowl against Stanford's top-ranked rushing defense.
7. Taylor Martinez has a lot of work to do this offseason.
Of course, the 2012 season isn't over, but Saturday night's game showed just how far Martinez is from being a complete quarterback.
The junior quarterback has improved his mechanics a bit, but when he faces pressure from the defense, Martinez still has a knack for reverting back to habits that are perfectly broken down by YouTube user Jrinchen123.
Martinez's natural athleticism showed against Wisconsin, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns, but his 52 percent completion percentage and two interceptions against the Badgers also showed that he has a long way to go as a passer.
If he can just get to the point where it doesn't look like he's punishing his shoulder for some unknown transgression every time he throws a pass, it would be a step in the right direction.
8. Wisconsin did historically amazing (and awful) things against Nebraska.
It's crazy to think that Wisconsin's 539 rushing yards fell shy of setting a school record, or even a season-high for the Badgers, who rushed for 564 yards against Indiana a few weeks ago.
The Badgers did make history though with their eight rushing touchdowns against the Cornhuskers, a new school record for Wisconsin.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, the school made a different kind of history on Saturday night:
McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) December 2, 2012
The game was still in the fourth quarter when that tweet was posted. It was a rough night to be a Cornhusker.
9. Bo Pelini officially has a big-game problem.
When it comes to big games, Bo Pelini hasn't had much luck.
In Nebraska's two biggest games this year (against Nebraska and Saturday against Wisconsin), the Cornhuskers lost both games by an average of 32 points.
It's not just a problem this year, but every year. Pelini's team dropped three of Nebraska's biggest games last year (against Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl) by nearly 25 points per game. During Nebraska's last year in the Big 12, Pelini lost three of his four matchups against ranked teams and lost his bowl game to a six-loss Washington team.
Pelini has to get this figured out.
10. Bret Bielema hasn't lost his I don't care gene.
Back in 2010, Bielema's Wisconsin team had just scored a touchdown against Minnesota to give the Badgers a 25-point lead. There was under seven minutes on the clock and the game was well in hand, but Bielema called for two-point attempt that his team ultimately didn't convert.
Later that year, his team scored 83 points against Indiana and 70 points against Northwestern.
So it didn't surprise many people when starting running back Montee Ball was in the game late in the fourth quarter, despite holding a 46-point lead.
The part of the brain that tells us to stop beating the poor, unconscious thing on the ground doesn't exist in Bret's brain. Despite recent progress, it's safe to say it's still missing.
That rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but that's just the way Bret is.
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412
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