The #7-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (4-0) host the #8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0) at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin for a clash 13 months in the making between two of the top-ranked undefeated teams in NCAA College Football. Today’s game makes for plenty of historical significance, as it’s the first time since 1962 that two Top 10 teams have met in Madison, the first-ever Big Ten game for Nebraska, and likely a showcase of the two teams that will be fighting for the crown of the Big Ten conference at year’s end this season. With both teams cruising easily through non-conference play during the first three weeks of the season, it’s now time for both teams to justify their Top 10 rankings in what could be the biggest game of the season for both squads.
Wisconsin comes into this match-up looking like the more powerful team of the two competitors, with one of the most potent offenses in all of NCAA Football. Led by star Quarterback Russell Wilson, the Badger offense ranks 8th in the nation with 532.5 yards per game and 6th in the nation in scoring with 48.5 points per game. They’ve outscored their non-conference opponents by an average score of 49-9, but with a suspect non-conference schedule thus far, you can pretty much wipe the slate clean in terms of offensive production as Big Ten play opens up. Nonetheless, you certainly can’t discount Wilson (1136 yards passing, 11 TDs, 75.8 completion percentage), or the Badgers running game (13th in the nation with 245.5 yards/game) led by Montee Ball and rounded out by James White, as they’ll likely make life difficult for Nebraska on Saturday. Also take into account a defense that is 3rd in the nation in points allowed (8.5), and while considering the competition, consider also that head coach Bret Bielema will have the Badger defense primed and ready for the scrambling Taylor Martinez and the Cornhusker offense.
Speaking of Taylor Martinez, the sophomore quarterback has a lot to prove in his team’s first game in the Big Ten against their biggest foe they’ll face all year. With only one more team currently ranked in the Top 25 on their schedule (#19 Michigan, set for November, 19th) a victory on the road against Wisconsin could make or break a big bowl appearance for Nebraska, who faltered at the end of the season last year and wound up being beat by lowly Washington in the Holiday Bowl. Martinez is simply going to have to improve in his passing game against a tough Badger defense, as he’s throwing completions at just a %50.6 rate, which regardless of who you play for is awful. Though Martinez is certainly a threat on the ground, posting almost identical numbers running as starting back Rex Burkhead (63 carries, 421 yards, 7 TDs, vs. 63 carries, 420 yards, 7 TDs), the Wisconsin defense looks to be very honed in to the sneaky quarterback, and the Cornhusker rushing attack that ranks 8th in the FBS. The passing game may be key in this match-up, as there’s little doubt that Wisconsin can match Nebraska on the ground especially at home.
Betting Lines for #7 Wisconsin vs. #8 Nebraska
The online sportsbook at WagerWeb.com has Wisconsin as the favorite with -365 odds on the money line, while the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers are +305 underdogs to win. Nebraska will get 9 1/2 points on the spread, with Wisconsin giving up the same amount at -110 odds for both. The over/under on this Big Ten clash stands at 55 1/2 points, which could be very susceptible especially if Wisconsin continues to dominate at home the way they are known to do.
Our Pick to Win:
Though neither team can boast a truly impressive non-conference resume coming into this match-up in Madison, the Wisconsin Badgers are clearly the team to beat, with the smarter head coach, a more talented offensive leader in Russell Wilson, and home field advantage behind 80,000 screaming fans (even though Nebraska plans to travel with 20,000 fans of their own). While I expect the game to start a little slow, as has been the case especially for Wisconsin this season, once the Badger offense starts clicking, it’s over for the Cornhuskers who will suffer the home field advantage given to Wisconsin when they have the lead. Wisconsin wins this Big Ten showdown by a commanding margin, 35-21.