Nebraska hoping to play more consistent game against Badgers

Wisconsin is looking to win the Freedom Trophy for the fourth consecutive year. 

Image By: Brandon Moe

The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into this game sitting at 3-2 overall, and 2-0 in Big Ten play, giving them a share for first place in the West division. However, those numbers somewhat mask the season Nebraska is having this year. The Cornhuskers began the year losing two of their first three games, and looked pitiful in the process. The school fired its athletic director after the second loss of the season, telling reporters that the football program has not been competitive enough since he had taken over in 2012. That puts Nebraska’s head coach, Mike Riley, squarely on the hottest seat in college football. Since then, the team has won its last two games, both against Big Ten teams. But Nebraska’s problems are far from solved, and the team is still searching for answers five games into the season.

Nebraska is led by junior quarterback Tanner Lee, who has thrown for 1,144 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions so far this season. Lee has been erratic thus far, throwing all nine of his interceptions in a three-game span, before then turning around and putting up 246 yards and a more than respectable 198.2 passer rating. Lee has two main targets, Stanley Morgan Jr and De’Mornay Pierson-El, who have combined for 47 catches and almost 700 yards. The tandem is complimented by J.D. Spielman, who accounts for more than half of Nebraska’s remaining receiving yards. When QB Tanner Lee plays well, the passing game has shown flashes of brilliance, however, more often than not, Nebraska has struggled to throw the ball downfield.

The Cornhuskers rushing attack is usually led by Tre Bryant, a dynamic runner who topped 100 yards in his first two games before going down with a knee injury. He has been held out the last three games and his status for Saturday is still murky, so Nebraska may have to rely on Devine Ozigbo for a third straight week. Ozigbo has surpassed 100 yards in each of the past two weeks averaging nearly 5.1 yards a carry. However, it is important to note that the competition Ozigbo has faced has not been anywhere near the quality of the Badgers’ defense, which ranks fourth in rushing yards allowed in the FBS.

The Cornhuskers’ defense has been mediocre all year, ranking 34th overall in the nation. That number may be deceiving however, inflated by their last two games against some of the worst competition in the Big Ten. They tallied only three sacks in their first four games, failing to put any pressure on Oregon who hung 42 points on them in week two. The unit could be in for some rough games ahead, with matchups against Ohio State and Penn State later in the season after facing the Badgers.

Nebraska isn’t the same team it was in years past, with the team now struggling in almost all facets of the game. The road ahead won’t get easier, as they will get tested week after week by a good Big Ten conference. After firing its athletic director, it feels like Mike Riley’s tenure at Nebraska won’t last much longer either. Looking to this week, Nebraska will have to play its best to beat Wisconsin, who is looking to keep the Freedom Trophy in Madison for the fifth straight year.

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