State Journal reporter Jason Galloway breaks down the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
UW’s offense hasn’t lived up to high preseason expectations so far, but the Badgers are coming off a win at Iowa in which they drove 88 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute. Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor leads the country in rushing yards per game with 157, although tight end Zander Neuville, a key piece to the Badgers’ ground attack, suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice this week.
The Cornhuskers rank 119th out of 130 FBS teams in scoring defense, allowing 38.8 points per game, and also rank just inside the top 100 for passing defense and total defense. They surrendered an average of 49 points and 503.5 yards in their first two conference games — losses at Michigan and versus Purdue. Only four FBS teams have forced less turnovers this year than Nebraska’s three.
EDGE | UW
KEY STAT | HORNIBROOK IN THE CLUTCH
UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook is 18-for-23 (78.3 percent) for 246 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the fourth quarter this season, good for a pass efficiency rating of 196.8.
WHEN THE CORNHUSKERS HAVE THE BALL
While Nebraska’s spread offense could present some challenges for UW, the Cornhuskers rank just 116th nationally in scoring at 21.3 points per game.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez has enjoyed a promising start to his career, completing 61 percent of his passes for 532 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s had two of the better receivers in the Big Ten to help him adapt. Senior Stanley Morgan Jr. and sophomore JD Spielman have combined to catch 40 passes for 521 yards and five touchdowns through four games this season. Both rank in the top 10 of the conference in receiving yards per game, while Spielman’s four touchdowns rank in a tie for third.
UW’s defense entered last week’s bye coming off two shaky performances. The Badgers gave up too many big plays in their loss to BYU. They also surrendered 7.48 yards per play at Iowa — the most by a UW opponent since Alabama in 2015 — but made key stops down the stretch to help secure the win. While the Badgers’ seven new starters on that side of the ball continue to adjust, they still rank among the top 20 nationally in both scoring and total defense. Three of UW’s key players — outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (right leg) and cornerbacks Faion Hicks (right arm) and Caesar Williams (left leg) — are listed as questionable on the Badgers’ injury report, although Hicks and Van Ginkel are expected to play at least a limited role.
EDGE | UW
KEY STAT | TURNOVERS
UW’s 29 takeaways in 14 games last season ranked sixth nationally, and the Badgers are forcing two turnovers per game again this year. Nebraska has turned the ball over nine times through its first four games.
Nebraska’s allowed two punt return touchdowns already this season during back-to-back weeks against Troy and Michigan.
Cornhuskers freshman kicker Barret Pickering has made three of his first six field goals, and punter Caleb Lightbourn ranks third in the Big Ten at 42.68 yards per punt.
UW’s Rafael Gaglianone is 3 for 4 on field goals, with his only miss coming in the final seconds against BYU.
EDGE | UW
Scott Frost accomplished an impressive feat at UCF last season but appears to have a long road ahead to turn Nebraska into a contender.
Paul Chryst owns a 37-8 record at UW, and the Badgers have spent 37 straight AP polls in the top 20.
EDGE | UW
Nebraska has lost five straight games to UW and six of the seven contests since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. With Nebraska at 0-4, the Badgers seemingly have more on the line at this point in the season.
EDGE | UW
STATE JOURNAL'S PICK
Nebraska appears to be free falling towards the bottom of the Big Ten in Frost’s first season, and the Cornhuskers likely won’t be snapping their losing streak at Camp Randall.
UW 42, NEBRASKA 20
THE NUMBER (UW)
3 | Losses for the Badgers against Big Ten West Division opponents since the division was formed in 2014. UW owns a 22-3 record against Big Ten West foes over that period.
THE NUMBER (Nebraska)
2 | Full years since Nebraska has defeated a ranked opponent. The Cornhuskers last did so on Sept. 17, 2016, with a 35-32 victory over No. 22 Oregon.