Freedom Trophy week is upon us…or as Badgers fans call it, “that week where we find a new way to humiliate Nebraska.”
This season sees two teams that are heading in seemingly opposite directions. Wisconsin comes in undefeated, while Nebraska has slipped down the Big Ten pecking order a few rungs to say the least. But, does that mean an easy win for the Badgers when they visit Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.?
After all, there’s the whole Freedom Trophy on the line too! But let’s get in to the 10 Things to Know, shall we?
1: Wisconsin has only one loss to Nebraska since it joined the Big Ten.
The Badgers have certainly had the Huskers number in this series, winning five of the six contests played between the two since Nebraska joined the B1G. Lest you write this game off as an easy one, don’t forget the lone loss in the series did come in Lincoln, the site of this game in 2017. Can the Huskers use home field to their advantage and pull off the massive upset? That may be highly unlikely, as the Badgers have lost just one true road game under head coach Paul Chryst (9-1 in true road games, 12-3 overall away from Camp Randall).
2: That is the number of pick sixes by the Badgers already this season.
Wisconsin has been one of the most prolific secondaries in the country over the past season and a half. After picking off 22 passes last season (tying for a program record), the Badgers have seven interceptions so far this year. Two of those have been of the pick-six variety.
Meanwhile, Huskers quarterback Tanner Lee has thrown a Big Ten worst nine interceptions already on the season. Even more telling is that Lee has had three of those interceptions returned for touchdowns. That’s a problem UW would like to take advantage of on Saturday.
3: Wisconsin has the third-highest scoring offense in the Big Ten.
Yes, the “boring” Badgers offense has been anything but that so far in the 2017 season. In fact, UW is one of just three Big Ten schools still averaging 40 points or better (40.8) and sits third in the conference in scoring offense. Only Penn State (41.4) and Ohio State (42.6) sit ahead of Wisconsin in the B1G rankings. The Badgers area also No. 22 in the country in scoring offense.
4: That is the number of times the Wisconsin Badgers have trailed at halftime in the Chryst era.
Some will tell you that the halftime score is vital to a team winning or losing. But, under Chryst, the Badgers really have been a second half team. In 31 games, the Badgers have trailed just four times…but, in those four games UW has come back to win three times. So, if UW trails at the break, don’t panic — everything will be under control in that locker room.
5: That is the combined margin of victory between Nebraska and Wisconsin in the two meetings in Lincoln.
Nebraska got Wisconsin in the first ever visit to Memorial Stadium in a Big Ten matchup, winning 30-27 in a wild game. UW looked like it was going to roll, jumping out to a 20-3 lead. However, Taylor Martinez played one of the best games of his career and was able to complete a 17-point comeback in the second half for the win. The 2015 matchup was a 23-21 win for Wisconsin, with Rafael Gaglianone knocking home the game-winning field goal from 46 yards out with four seconds to play. Can this game have the dramatics of the last two?
6: Wisconsin is averaging a healthy 6.44 yards per play this season.
Last season, the Badgers struggled with getting the offense going. That hasn’t been the case in 2017, as the Badgers are besting last seasons paltry 5.4 yards per play average. Just how good is that number? Wisconsin joins Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Washington as the only Power Five programs averaging at least 5.0 rushing yards per carry and 9.0 passing yards per attempt.
7: That is the number of quarters it has been since the Huskers D has allowed a touchdown.
While the Badgers defense has put up some gaudy numbers as of late, Nebraska’s defense has held two opponents out of the end zone for the past seven quarters. It seems as if Bob Diacco may be turning things around in Lincoln…then again, those seven quarters of football came against arguably the two most inept offenses in the Big Ten. You know, Illinois and Rutgers. Wisconsin should provide a much stiffer test for the Huskers on Saturday night.
8: Wisconsin ranks 8th in the Big Ten in passing offense.
While that doesn’t seem good, it is actually a vast improvement for the Badgers. UW is averaging 226.0 passing yards through four games so far this season, while last season, this team ranked 9th in the B1G with 179.1 passing yards per game. This season, Wisconsin already has three games of over 200 yards passing compared to just five all of last season.
9: That is the number of scores Wisconsin has allowed in the red zone…and the number of TD’s Nebraska has allowed in the red zone in 2017.
Something is likely to give here, as UW’s defense has only allowed opponents in to the red zone on 12 occasions so far this season. Nine of them have turned in to scores, but only five of them have been touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Huskers defense has allowed 13 of 17 opponent red zone opportunities to end in scores…nine of which are touchdowns. Wisconsin’s offense has scored on 17 of 20 possessions, with 13 of them coming via TD.
Those stats tell the tale of one offense being efficient enough to take advantage of the opposing defense…and hint, it isn’t Nebraska.
10: (err…20) That is the number of consecutive night games won at home for Nebraska.
Winning in Lincoln isn’t easy for anyone, but the Huskers have been excellent at home in night games to say the least. It has been 20 straight wins at home under the lights, with the last loss coming in 2008 against then No. 4-ranked Missouri. Nebraska has actually struggled in night games at home against Top 10 teams, with all five of its losses coming to teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time of the game. Wisconsin comes in ranked No. 9 in the country (if you want to read anything in to meaningless polls right now).