There are only two undefeated teams in Big Ten play out of the West division. Those two teams meet this weekend as the Wisconsin Badgers will travel to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
However, to hear most of the talk about the Huskers, one would easily believe they are near the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten. Losing a high-scoring affair to Oregon and then laying an egg to Northern Illinois at home will tend to ruin your reputation.
Nebraska may have dropped two non-conference games, but the Tanner Lee that was on display against Illinois last week is the one that should have everyone on notice heading in to this game.
The junior racked up 246 yards and recorded season-bests in completion percentage (70.8) and touchdowns (3). Most importantly he didn’t throw a pick against an opportunistic Illini secondary.
It was a positive step forward for the Huskers, and reason for the Badgers to not take the Huskers lightly this weekend.
“I think that the Illinois game, in just looking at it, it is coming together,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said during his weekly press conference. “I thought he brought a lot to it. I think he’s a really good football player.
They’ve got a lot of skill around him, and therefore that’s a pretty good combination. I think we’ll be tested in a different way then we’ve been all season.”
However, Lee has shown some nervous tendencies against pressure so far this season. It’s led him to completing just 54.7 percent of his passes for 1,114 yards, but also just 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions as well.
Wisconsin’s defense is going to need to turn up the pressure like it has so far in Big Ten play. It will also need some big plays out of the speedy secondary as well. Luckily both have been true to date.
The Badgers defense tops the Big Ten with seven interceptions so far this season, two of which have been returned for touchdowns. UW’s pass defense ranks fourth overall, giving up 172.8 yards per game.
Additionally, Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten with 16 sacks so far on the season. Eight of those 16 came last weekend against a struggling Northwestern offensive line.
Nebraska’s offensive line has had similar struggles, contributing some to Lee’s issues and the inability of the offense to get loose for more points on the season.
While the Huskers have shown signs of offensive life as of late, Wisconsin’s defense turned on the switch from vanilla in non-conference to flat-out terrifying against Northwestern to open Big Ten play. Should that defense show up in Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday night, Tanner Lee and Co. could find things very difficult.
Then again, so could a Badgers secondary that hasn’t faced the level of athlete that Morgan and Pierson-El are.
That battle, more than anything, will likely determine who comes away still unblemished in Big Ten play.
Just don’t buy any of the talk that this is going to be as easy as some of Nebraska’s early season performances made it look like it could be. At least the Badgers and the coaching staff aren’t buying that narrative internally.