This weekend marks a historic moment for two of the country's most storied programs: the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams are beginning their Big Ten Conference schedules this Saturday, with the winner to remain one of the top 10 teams in the nation and the loser left to pick up the pieces and move on.
A battle of the Big Reds, this Saturday night-game under the lights of Camp Randall Stadium will certainly have the attention of college football fans everywhere. Vegas has picked Wisconsin to win, and each fan has his or her opinion on how it will all play out.
Here are the three reasons why I believe the Huskers will come out on top this weekend in Madison.
Taylor Martinez and Russell Wilson are two very talented quarterbacks for a number of very different reasons. All physical and athletic abilities aside, it is the experience as starting quarterback in big games that will be a factor this Saturday night.
Martinez's experience at Nebraska has been a trial by fire. Starting at the quarterback position as a true freshman for a team like the Cornhuskers can be a blessing or a curse.
What that experience did provide Martinez with is plenty of nerve-racking, highly televised, high-pressure games against ranked opponents. An experience Russell Wilson would not be able to empathize with.
Four network-televised games against ranked opponents, with one being a Conference Championship game, gives Taylor Martinez an extreme edge coming into Madison this Saturday. The pressure will be squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Wilson that night.
The Wisconsin Badgers have been nothing short of impressive since the beginning of this season. However, when one takes a look at the few times their opponents had any form of offensive success against the stingy Badgers defense, two things stick out: speed to the edge (or lack thereof) and the inability to recognize and diagnose new offensive formations.
It's obvious that the Huskers this year, as they have traditionally been, are a run-based offense. That being said, it would be hard to imagine the Huskers not running more than a few sweeps, options and slot passes in this game, hoping to stretch this "laggy" Wisconsin defense out and beat them with raw speed.
The problem of course is it is all too obvious that the Huskers are a run-first team. Wisconsin should be expected to stack at least eight defenders in the "box" against this formidable running attack. Does this mean Martinez will be forced to pass frequently? I'm not so sure.
Instead, look for Tim Beck (offensive coordinator) to make attempts at confusing the Wisconsin defense by running new (no doubt interesting) offensive formations. Look for as of yet mostly unseen formations such as "Diamond Back," or some different variations of the "Rex Cat/Wild Husker" we saw against Wyoming last week.
Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard are all healthy and listed to play this Saturday night. There is no doubt the Pelini brothers have all of their defensive talent back, and just in time.
Having these three decorated defensive stars back in a coach's lineup means more than just a higher comfort level and better sleep at night. It means a bigger and more complicated playbook. The first four games of the Nebraska schedule this year have shown lackluster defensive performances, and there are probably a number of reasons why.
With the confidence that each level of their defense has a pro-talent player starting, Carl Pelini and head coach Bo Pelini can now afford to throw many different, more complicated and confusing defensive looks at the Badgers offense in hopes of causing mistakes and turnovers.
This will be the best the Huskers defense is expected to play this season so far, and it is my belief that that will be the case.