Featured Video from Scott Reichel
Two storied programs face off Saturday as the Nebraska Cornhuskers host the Wisconsin Badgers in a Big Ten West division matchup. Nebraska is coming off a much needed bye week after losing at Purdue 31-27 the week prior. Despite quarterback Adrian Martinez's return behind center, the Cornhuskers couldn't get enough points on the board. Much of the blame fell on the defense for surrendering a couple late fourth quarter Purdue touchdown drives that ultimately lost Nebraska the game.
Wisconsin is well out of the playoff picture after back-to-back losses to Illinois and Ohio State, but the Badgers still can play themselves into a solid bowl game. This past Saturday, Wisconsin took down Iowa 24-22 thanks to another exceptional game from running back Jonathan Taylor who put up 250 yards on the ground. Expect Taylor to see a ton of action against a Nebraska defense that's struggled to slow down the run.
Badgers look to run over CornhuskersWith Minnesota beating Penn State last weekend, Wisconsin's chances of competing for a Big Ten West division title all but vanished. The Badgers are left with chasing a New Year's Six bowl game. Step one is to beat a Nebraska team all out of sorts. There's no question who Wisconsin will be turning to; running back Jonathan Taylor is nearing the end of his prolific college career but shows no signs of slowing down. He ran for 250 yards against Iowa last weekend and could put up big numbers against a Nebraska rush defense that ranks near the bottom of the conference in stopping plays on the ground. A season ago, Taylor ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns against the Cornhuskers.
Wisconsin gave Taylor a season-high 31 rushing attempts against Iowa, which left quarterback Jack Coan fewer chances to throw the ball. Coan still connected for a pair of touchdown passes to give him 12 on the year. His 75.0 quarterback rating is 21st best in the nation. The Badgers need Coan to be on target Saturday after throwing two interceptions in the last three games.
The Badgers remain one of the top defensive teams in the country. The group ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (12.6/g) and third in passing yards allowed (147/g). Wisconsin did struggle in its last two road games, giving up 38 points to Ohio State and 24 to Iowa. Senior linebacker Zack Baun has two fumble recoveries and a pick-six.
Cornhuskers look to keep bowl hopes aliveWith Scott Frost's second year in Lincoln winding down, there are plenty more questions than answers. The former Cornhuskers quarterback woke up Tuesday to a front-page ESPN.com article asking if Nebraska has already reached the point of no return with Frost as head coach. The easiest way to silence the critics is with wins, and Frost could desperately use one Saturday. It'll took the best all-around effort of the season from Nebraska, which has allowed between 31 to 38 points in its last three losses.
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez's first game back in nearly month didn't go as planned. The sophomore threw one interception and no touchdowns and ran for two scores against Purdue two weeks ago in an overall sloppy offensive showing from the Cornhuskers. Nebraska's sense of urgency on offense didn't pick up until the fourth quarter, and Martinez's final minute drive never took off. While it helps to have a duel-threat quarterback like Martinez, Nebraska lacks in true running backs. Their top option, Wan'Dale Robinson, may miss Saturday with an injury he suffered late in the Purdue game.
The Cornhuskers don't have a good enough defense to compensate for poor offensive outings. Nebraska sides near the bottom of the Big Ten in most defensive categories. The unit allows 406 total yards and 29.1 points per game. That just won't do in a conference as strong as the one they're in. Sophomore Cam Taylor-Britt is a bright spot with four forced fumbles and two interceptions.
- Cornhuskers are 0-6 ATS in their last six conference games.
- Cornhuskers are 0-5 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- Cornhuskers are 0-6 ATS in their last six games overall.
The top supporting trends for this game, from covers.com, are:
- Badgers are 23-10-1 ATS in their last 34 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are an abysmal 1-8 ATS this year which gives me the confidence to go with Wisconsin even with a line as high as this one. Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor is coming off his best game of the year and should have his way against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska enters Saturday with one of the worst passing defenses in the conference, giving Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan a chance to show off his arm. The downtrodden Cornhuskers will likely need a fourth quarter comeback to make this one a game, but even then I don't see them converting in the clutch.
Prediction: Wisconsin Badgers -14.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The under looks like an awfully good pick here as Wisconsin has one of the best scoring defenses in the nation and face an offense that can't find much success through the air. If this game was in Madison, I'd expect the Badgers to almost single-handedly carry this one over, but it's in Lincoln so Wisconsin's offense may not be as dynamic. The under is 5-1 in the Badgers' last six road games.
Prediction: Under 51