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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, December 03, 2021
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Red-hot Badgers welcome sliding Nebraska in final home game of the season

The 15th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (7-3) will host the unranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-7) at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Wisconsin, riding a six-game winning streak, will be playing its seventh and final game at Camp Randall Stadium this season after defeating Northwestern 35-7 last week. 

The Cornhuskers were idle last Saturday after falling 26-17 to Ohio State. Each of their defeats had been one-score games before that, so they haven’t played as poorly in 2021 as their four-game losing streak and seven-loss total suggests. 

Nebraska has a very productive and well-balanced offense that ranks second in the Big Ten with 459.2 total yards per game.

Quarterback Adrian Martinez has amassed 2,512 yards (fourth in the conference) and 13 touchdowns while completing 61.3 percent of his throws. The 6’2”, 220-pound junior is in his fourth season as Nebraska’s starter and will almost certainly surpass the 2,617-yard mark he set in 2018. 

He’s no stranger to interceptions, having thrown five in his last two games and eight total this year. Wisconsin’s secondary is fresh off a four-interception game against Northwestern and will surely be aggressive in its pursuit for more. 

Martinez’s top target is receiver Samori Toure, whose 6’3”, 190-pound frame makes him a prototypical downfield threat. The senior has caught 33 passes for 718 yards and four touchdowns, and his 21.8 yards per catch leads the Big Ten by a considerable margin. 

Tight end Austin Allen has hauled in 29 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Omar Manning has added 331 yards on 24 catches of his own, but neither he nor Allen threatens opposing defenses like Toure. 

Wisconsin cornerbacks Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams have played well all season and are fully capable of defending Martinez’s deep passing game. 

Nebraska’s rushing attack averages 194.4 yards per game and heavily features Martinez, who’s accumulated 502 yards (4.0 per carry) and 12 touchdowns in 2021. Running backs Ramir Johnson and Jaquez Yant have rushed for 495 and 250 yards, respectively, with the latter averaging 7.4 per carry. 

None of the Cornhuskers’ runners, not even the uniquely mobile Martinez, is likely to enjoy much success against a Wisconsin defense allowing a paltry 60.6 rushing yards per game. The unit tackles relentlessly on a weekly basis and allows minimal yards after contact. 

Speaking of which, 522 of Badger running back Braelon Allen’s 824 total rushing yards have come after contact. Simply put, the imposing 17 year old refuses to be tackled. His 33-yard touchdown against Northwestern looked like a hopeless play before he broke free from a trio of defenders and had a free path to the end zone. 

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Allen will look to continue his excellent freshman campaign and extend his streak of six consecutive 100-plus yard rushing performances against a Cornhusker defense that ranks seventh in the conference with 132.5 rushing yards allowed per game. 

Linebackers Luke Reimer and Nick Heinrich rank third and fifth in the Big 10 with 96 and 87 total tackles, respectively. However, they and other Nebraska defenders must be at the top of their games to contain Allen. 

If Wisconsin gets a sizable lead, Nebraska figures to see less of Allen and more of backup running backs Brady Schipper, Julius Davis and Jackson Acker. The Badgers need these backs to fill the void left by Chez Mellusi, who ran for 815 yards in nine games before suffering a season-ending leg injury. 

Nebraska fields a similarly mediocre pass defense that has yielded 230.6 air yards per game. They most recently allowed Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud to complete 36 passes for 405 yards, although they did pick off the Heisman candidate twice. This week’s task is slowing down Graham Mertz, who has impressed in back-to-back weeks and appears as confident as ever. 

Even with Minnesota falling out of contention for the Big Ten West, Wisconsin’s mission remains the same. If the Badgers take care of business against Nebraska and Minnesota, they’ll head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

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