If there is one team that has been a thorn in the Huskers’ side since they joined the Big Ten, it is easily the Badgers.
After all, Wisconsin has won 10 of its’ last 11 games against Nebraska, including nine-straight, and one of those victories was for a Big Ten Title. It’s mind-boggling that the Badgers have kept the streak going with different coaches too. Bret Bielema, Gary Andersen and Paul Chryst all defeated Nebraska.
Now Luke Fickell will try to accomplish the same feat as his predecessors Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium. It’s no mystery that the Huskers haven’t won in Madison since 1966. However, first-year Coach Matt Rhule is trying to change the narrative.
Both teams are sitting at 5-5, and need a win over their next two games to become bowl eligible. This is arguably Nebraska’s best chance to finally take down Wisconsin and end the streak. The Badgers have lost four of their last five games, including three-straight. Fickell’s boys don’t really have an identity, and there continues to be growing pains adjusting to Phil Longo’s offense.
Surprisingly, Wisconsin has struggled on defense too, which has been the backbone of the program’s success through the years. The Badgers are currently eighth in the Big Ten, and 33rd nationally in total defense. Those are areas that Rhule can exploit, but the Huskers have to get out of their own way.
Winning on the road is tough, especially in Big Ten play, and that means Nebraska has a slim margin for error. The Huskers are dead last in the Power Five in turnover margin, and don’t stand a chance if they can’t make the right decisions with the ball. All three of Nebraska’s quarterbacks threw an interception in last week’s loss to Maryland. Now Rhule is remaining mum on who’s going to be his starter for this matchup.
Jeff Sims looked clueless in the pocket, and made Husker fans hold their breath every time he threw the ball. Heinrich Haarberg got banged up and made careless mistakes with the ball. Chubba Purdy put together a promising drive, but threw an interception in the red zone.
Regardless of who Rhule places behind center, they have to be in attack mode and play to the strength of the offense. Everyone knows that Nebraska can pound the ball, so it’s just a matter of holding onto the pigskin. If the Huskers can run the ball effectively, it’ll soften up the Badgers’ defense in the second half.
The common denominator in Nebraska’s last three wins, is the fact that it led at halftime in each of those games. Having that cushion helps Tony White’s defense thrive. So it’s going to be important for the Huskers to jump out to an early lead, and let the running game and the Blackshirts take care of the rest.
In the Badgers’ last four losses, they’ve been held under 15 points. It’s going to be up to Rhule and his coaching staff to make the necessary adjustments in the clutch. He has a chance at killing two birds with one stone. Ending the losing streak to Wisconsin, and becoming bowl eligible will do wonders for Nebraska. The Huskers haven’t reached postseason glory since 2016.
There’s no denying that this game has all the ingredients for a defensive slugfest. It’s now or never for the Huskers though, with their backs against the wall. Which is why Big Red Nation is hoping Rhule’s squad comes out of the corner swinging early and often Saturday night.