Wisconsin Football: Why Badgers Should Want to Play Nebraska in B1G Title Game

Dave Radcliffe@DaveRadcliffe_Contributor IIINovember 23, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 29: Running back Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers powers through linebacker Will Compton #51 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Before the season even began, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Wisconsin Badgers would be representing the Leaders Division in the B1G title game.

That notion became official after the Badgers took care of business against Indiana a few weeks ago, but we're still awaiting the Badgers' opponent, which will be decided over the next couple of days.

Both Nebraska and Michigan hold a 6-1 conference record, and depending on what happens Friday, both may have an opportunity to take the Legends Division crown.

Michigan will be rooting heavily for Iowa to pull off the upset against the Cornhuskers on Friday, but if Nebraska does in fact defeat the Hawkeyes, it will put an end to the Wolverines' Rose Bowl dreams.

Granted, even if Nebraska finds a way to lose against lowly Iowa, Michigan will be forced to knock off the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. 

Whatever the scenario may be, Wisconsin should be rooting for Nebraska to come out of the weekend as the Legends Division champ.

In the Big Ten opener, the Badgers traveled to Lincoln as a team struggling to do what it did best—run the football. Even though Wisconsin blew a 27-10 lead in the second half, it gave Nebraska all it could handle and went on to win its next three games, finding success on the ground.

Since losing to Nebraska, the Badgers have lost two games in overtime to Michigan State and Ohio State, both of which could have gone either way. 

But enough about Wisconsin.

Even though Bret Bielema wouldn't admit it, the Badgers have their eye on the two games involving Nebraska and Michigan in the following days. 

Since Wisconsin didn't play the Wolverines in conference play, Michigan is a bit of an unknown, and it may not be in the Badgers' best interest to play them in Indianapolis next week. There are several reasons why this is the case.

Recently, Michigan has experimented with a two-quarterback approach, allowing Denard Robinson to essentially play running back as Devin Gardner keeps defenses honest with his dual-threat ability, while mainly throwing the ball.

Michigan had massive success with this strategy last week against Iowa, with Gardner completing 18-of-23 pass attempts for 314 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Meanwhile, Robinson ran for 98 yards on 13 carries and also caught two passes for 24 yards.

Talk about a lot for opposing defenses to account for.

Robinson is suffering from a hand injury, and his two week absence prior to the Iowa game allowed Gardner to get some extended playing time. It appears the Wolverines have found a more legitimate passing option in Gardner, and now Robinson can be utilized in different ways out of the backfield.

That's a scary proposition for Wisconsin, not to mention the stifling Michigan defense, ranked 12th in the country just behind the Badgers.

There would still be plenty of unknowns about Michigan's offensive execution come Dec. 1, but with Nebraska, Wisconsin already knows exactly what it will be getting.

Speaking of dual-threat quarterbacks, Taylor Martinez gave the Badgers fits in their meeting earlier this season, rushing for over 100 yards while throwing for 181 and two touchdowns.

But Wisconsin recently stopped limiting Braxton Miller, another Big Ten dual-threat QB, to the point where he wasn't the least bit effective. Miller only averaged 2.1 yards per carry and didn't even pass the century mark through the air.

It's possible the Badger defense, a unit that has progressed throughout the season along with the run game, has found a formula for slowing down running quarterbacks. This would bode well for its attempt to shut down Martinez.

Running back Rex Burkhead has been dealing with a knee injury, and it's uncertain what his status is moving forward. Ameer Abdullah has performed admirably in his absence, but without Burkhead, Nebraska lacks the additional weapon it had in its first meeting with Wisconsin.

Nebraska also has the No. 19 defense in the FBS, seven spots lower than Michigan.

On Wisconsin's side, it will showcase its third different quarterback against the Cornhuskers in Curt Phillips. There wouldn't be much tape of Phillips for Nebraska to review, not to mention the fact that Phillips is starting to build some confidence after a relatively successful performance against Ohio State.

Yes, the Badgers lost to Nebraska already this season, but that shouldn't discourage them from the possibility of facing the Cornhuskers in the B1G title game.

In fact, they should be encouraged by the opportunity for revenge. 

Last season, Wisconsin lost to Michigan State during the regular season, only to beat them in the championship game. The Badgers will be looking to follow that same blueprint if they find themselves in a rematch with Nebraska on Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.


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