The Nebraska Cornhuskers will have to deal with Camp Randall Stadium at night during Madison’s annual Halloween bash. This obviously could be a fairly large obstacle to overcome. However, crowds can be silenced, and the more uncertain battles on the field may — emphasis on the word may considering potential alcoholic libation — dictate this one’s volume.
Here are a few major tests that will determine if the Big Red can pull off a win against the Badgers.
- Nebraska’s Offensive Line Versus Wisconsin Linebackers Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt: You’re likely see a feeling out process between Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
The Badgers run a 3-4 defensive alignment and will do so against a badly-battered Nebraska offensive front five. With the Huskers having issues establishing the run between the tackles, it stands to reason that Terrell Newby and Devine Ozigbo may run towards Nick Gates on the left and David Knevel (or his replacement) on the right. That’s where Biegel and Watt come in.
These two bring the pain but will have to play up to their standards. Leading tackler and fellow linebacker Jack Cichy is out for the rest of the year. On running plays, Nebraska will need to get a handle on Biegel. Regardless of who holds down the right tackle spot, both of the noted Wisky linebackers will be a handful.
- Nebraska Linebackers Versus Wisconsin Tight End Troy Fumagalli: This Badger tight end can drive a defensive coordinator nuts if his linebackers aren’t keeping Naperville’s (Illinois) favorite son in check. Fumagalli did so last year, catching six balls for 60 yards and a touchdown against the Huskers.
He was utilized very efficiently versus both LSU and Ohio State this season. He turned in games of seven catches for 100 yards and seven catches for 84 yards in those contests, respectively.
Depending on formation and how well the Nebraska defensive backs hold things down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Husker safety Nate Gerry try to keep Fumagalli in check. Keep an eye on this fight, folks. It’s a hidden clash that could have major ramifications for both sides.
- Nebraska’s Secondary Versus Wisconsin’s Wide Receivers: The Blackshirt defensive backs have been on a roll lately. Safety Kieron Williams snagged two interceptions versus Purdue, and the crew as a whole claims 13 this season, including two pick-sixes.
Brian Stewart’s charges will have some work to do. Not only will they likely have to deal with Fumagalli a time or two, but UW wide receivers Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelwright will test the Nebraska’s “Lockdown U” moniker with both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston anticipated to play signal-caller.
- Special Teams: Nebraska special teams coordinator Bruce Read is the butt of many a joke, but plenty of Husker fans would be happy to eat crow if his unit shows up big on Saturday.
Following a gruesome injury at the hands (gears?) of an end zone lawn sprinkler at Purdue in 2015, De’Mornay Pierson-El has yet to return to 2014 form. There have been flashes of quality, but the juking and jiving that originally made him a fan favorite have not yet returned on a full-time basis. He admits that a good chunk of the problem is upstairs.
“It’s more mental for the most part,” he said last Monday. “If you can overcome the mental part of the battle, the physical part gets a lot easier.”
On the topic of worsening Wisconsin’s field position, true freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn had a solid outing versus Purdue placing three kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Those who tuned in saw the Big Red break out some rugby-style punts, and Lightbourn looked much better thanks to the change. If there’s a group that can help the Blackshirts’ chances, it’s the kicking game.