Even in a down year, Nebraska is still Nebraska. As such, the Cornhuskers will likely attempt to establish the run early in the game when they visit Camp Randall. Although they rarely use formations with fewer than four receivers, Nebraska is not a pass-first team and Wisconsin’s inside linebackers will have to make good reads and tackle well to keep the Huskers from having a breakout day offensively.
Early in games the Cornhuskers love to use senior running back Devine Ozigbo in zone read running concepts with freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, which will test the discipline of Wisconsin’s linebackers. Because Nebraska splits out so many receivers, Wisconsin will be forced to spread out their defense out and potentially rely on their nickel package, leaving only one or two linebackers in the box. Because of this, senior linebackers TJ Edwards and Ryan Connelly will likely have to make many one-on-one tackles in space on Ozigbo and Martinez.
If Nebraska’s offensive line can get to the second level and hold blocks at the line of scrimmage — something they’ve completely failed at the past two weeks — the Huskers will move the ball quickly and effectively. But if Connelly and Edwards can stay fundamentally sound, tackle well and put the Cornhuskers in obvious passing situations, Nebraska will struggle to generate any momentum on offense.
Edwards and Connelly can make an impact in the passing game as well. The Cornhuskers’ offensive line has struggled to deal with added pressure, specifically blitzing linebackers from depth. Watch for Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard to make an active effort to confuse Nebraska’s weak offensive line with different blitz packages much like they did late in the game against Iowa. Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez will struggle to get comfortable in his first away primetime Big Ten matchup if Nebraska’s offensive line can’t stop Connelly, Edwards and the rest of the Badgers from getting quick pressure.
Nebraska’s offensive line has to step up for them to have a chance. Against Michigan and Purdue, they were simply dominated by superior linebackers and defensive lines and gave Martinez and the offense no chance to make plays. Their task won’t get any easier this week as they face two of the conference’s best inside linebackers, each of whom possess the ability and experience to change the game.
Connelly and Edwards need to play well for the Badgers put this game away early. If they can tackle well, hold the Cornhuskers to two or three yards on first down and make Martinez uncomfortable on third down, this game could get out of hand quickly.