As the No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers prepare to take on the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers in Madison on primetime television this weekend, the anticipation continues to climb sky high.
With College GameDay in town to add some flavor to an already-electric atmosphere, the stage is set for one of the biggest showdowns of the season.
The huge game will provide a big opportunity for head coach Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers, who are looking to make a splash as newcomers to the Big Ten conference. The only question is, will the Huskers seize that opportunity?
The way I see it, the game could go one of three ways on Saturday.
First, the overrated Huskers could walk into Madison and get their butts handed to them by a Wisconsin team that has looked very impressive to date.
To be very frank, the Huskers could get dominated by the Badgers if they play like they did against any of the first four opponents. Nebraska had its moments and looked very good in certain quarters, but a great football team must be able to play well all four quarters, which will be essential against a team as solid as Wisconsin.
Second, the gritty Huskers could battle the Badgers to the last play and lose by one score or less.
During the last two years of the Bo Pelini era, the Huskers have seemed to show up in big games and give great team fits. Examples include Oklahoma and Texas in 2009 and Oklahoma State and Missouri in 2010. If Nebraska can simply show up and play with more intensity than we've seen the past four weeks, the game should be close.
Third, the Huskers could make an enormous leap from the first three games and gloriously strut out of Madison with a close victory.
With Taylor Martinez steadily improving his game-management skills, the mercurial sophomore need only throw accurate passes and take care of the football to have a successful game. That is, however, much easier said than done. Martinez has not been very accurate to date, and if he can't find a rhythm in the passing game, the offense will become one-dimensional.
On the other side, the defense must find a way to prevent big plays and stop the run. The Blackshirts have struggled with inconsistency throughout the beginning of 2011, but with Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard all in the lineup at the same time, there's a chance for considerable improvement.
Perhaps most importantly, the Huskers' freshmen must be able to go in and perform well in a very intimidating environment. Nebraska is a very young team and relies on a lot of freshmen, and if mistakes start happening, they could snowball on the youngsters. Guys like Martinez, Crick, David, Dennard, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Kinnie and Mike Caputo must step up and be vocal leaders.
When looking at these three possibilities, the most highly expected seems to be the second, and I would have to agree at this point. The Huskers simply don't seem quite ready to take down a Badgers team that I believe has a legitimate shot at the National Title.
But that's where the statement comes in. If Nebraska can steal a victory out from under Bucky's nose, the Huskers will rocket into title contention themselves.
As the effects of the "mediocre" performance against Wyoming have worn off, Husker fans have been packing some hope along with their black.
Will that hope translate into success? We'll find out Saturday night.
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