1) Lean on Armstrong
Nebraska has been able to blitz past the likes of Fresno, Wyoming and Purdue, but with the Badgers, the Cornhuskers will meet a new defensive force that will be their biggest challenge yet.
One way to beat the stout Wisconsin defense is with deep passes that put the secondary at risk of making coverage errors.
Even though that is the Badgers’ biggest weakness, the defense, bolstered by big plays from the secondary, has been able to hold the prolific offenses of Michigan and Ohio State to well below average scoring numbers. However, at times, those teams were able to break out deep passes that set up game -changing scores.
Look for Armstrong Jr. to keep up his gunslinger mentality with big throws down the field. He will also use his running ability to exploit the Badgers’ secondary. Specifically he will try to confuse spies by faking a pass and then darting into the open field.
2) Take care of the pigskin
One of Wisconsin’s biggest defensive assets is its ability to constantly cause turnovers to thwart offensive momentum.
With eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries, the Badgers’ defense has been a ball-hawking force all season.
Junior cornerbacks Derrick Tindal and D’Cota Dixon have three and two interceptions respectively, and have been frustrating opposing quarterbacks all year.
Armstrong Jr. has been susceptible to mistakes in the air, as the senior has thrown five interceptions so far this season.
Any turnover will change the dynamic of the game, and with Nebraska on the road facing an electric Camp Randall crowd, the offense will need to silence the Badger faithful by protecting the ball on offense. If the Cornhuskers fail to do so, they could be in for a long night.
3) Force interceptions
Nebraska has a golden opportunity to pressure freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook into making mistakes that have plagued the young quarterback all year.
With six interceptions in as many games—including three in one game--—Hornibrook has shown growing pains that have led to ill-timed turnovers.
After winning the starting job from redshirt senior Bart Houston, Hornibrook saw himself take a backseat to Houston last week. Houston went on to throw the lone passing touchdown for the Badgers against Iowa.
The Cornhuskers’ secondary will have its eye on the freshman all game, looking to take advantage of up-for-grabs throws and create turnovers in the middle of the field.
With a defense that already has five interceptions on the season, Nebraska will throw the kitchen sink at the Badgers’ offense, hoping to force Hornibrook into mistakes and turnovers.
1) Put up or shut up
Wisconsin’s season started with an eye-opening upset against then-No. 5 LSU, followed by a blowout upset of then-No. 8 Michigan State. However, both of these teams have since fallen in the rankings.
Although the Tigers have started to play better, they are not the top-tier team that many thought they would be at the start of the season.
As for the Spartans, they are the owners of a five-game losing streak that began with the loss to the Badgers.
These are Wisconsin’s “statement wins,” which, although impressive at the time, now seem to not be the show-the-committee type of wins they were supposed to be.
Given that the Badgers hung with then-No. 3 Michigan, as well as then-No. 2 Ohio State, Wisconsin needs to earn its Top 10 ranking—and not by just hanging with the higher-ranked No. 8 Cornhuskers, but by beating them.
If the Badgers can pull off a win at home against an undefeated Nebraska team, Wisconsin will be able to legitimize its high ranking.
2) Control possession
Possession for the Badgers will be key against an explosive Nebraska offense which has torched teams for 34.1 points per game with a blistering 447.4 yards of total offense per game.
Except for Ohio State, Wisconsin has won the possession battle in every win this year. The Badgers can slow Armstrong Jr. by utilizing the ground-and-pound game that has become a staple for Wisconsin.
Led by running back Corey Clement, along with Jazz Peavy’s run game and backup running backs Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale, the Badgers have a plethora of options to move the chains.
Each member of this quartet provides a different threat. Whether it’s Clement’s bruising run style, Peavy’s big-play ability, Shaw’s lightning-fast speed or Ogunbowale’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Wisconsin must use all of their unique abilities to keep Nebraska off the field.
3) Bait Huskers into penalties
With how raucous the Badger faithful can get, many opponents can find their pre-snap adjustments drowned out by the noise of the crowd, resulting in costly penalties.
The Badgers have seen opponents commit 38 penalties for 318 yards this year, a whopping 45.4 yards per game. With the Cornhuskers’ prolific offense, the Badger defenders will often find themselves trying to catch their breath as they run up and down the field.
Even with Nebraska likely continuously moving the chains on offense, the Badgers know how to use Camp Randall to their advantage and will try to pump up the crowd, especially on third down.
Wisconsin stood its ground against No. 2 Ohio State the last time at home, fueled by the crowd’s noise every time the Buckeyes tried to make adjustments.
With the Badgers’ Big Ten title aspirations on the line against a perfect Nebraska, Wisconsin must use the crowd to swing the momentum against one of college football’s heavyweights for a key win.