The Nebraska Cornhuskers will look to snap a two-game losing streak this weekend when they take on the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison on Saturday evening.
The Badgers have dominated the series between the two programs, winning 12 of 16 matchups including each of the last nine dating back to 2012. Last season, the Badgers won an ugly one in Lincoln 15-14.
The Cornhuskers are 5-5 this season and 3-4 in conference play after suffering back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Maryland. It’s the program’s second two-game losing streak this season, also losing two straight to start the season against Minnesota and Colorado.
Wisconsin’s season started strong with a 4-1 record but has struggled of late as injuries have piled up. Luke Fickell’s program has lost four of their last five including three straight to Ohio State, Indiana, and Northwestern.
Now that the table has been set, here’s what to know about the Buckeyes ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
Head Coach: Luke Fickell
After a very successful stint at the University of Cincinnati, which included taking the Bearcats to the College Football Playoffs, Fickell accepted the job at Wisconsin this offseason. Across six seasons, Fickell was 57-18, including three seasons of 11 or more wins.
His first season with the Badgers has not gone as planned with their 5-5 record, but there is still plenty of hope that the former Buckeye will be able to successfully get the Badgers back to where they were not too long ago.
The Badgers offense under offensive coordinator Phil Longo has struggled a bit this season as Fickell and Longo try to fit the Badgers’ current personnel into their offense. It hasn’t been a perfect fit to say the least, averaging just 22.2 points and 372.3 yards per game this season.
The Badgers have struggled with injuries this season including quarterback Tanner Mordecai and running back Chez Mellusi.
When healthy, Morecai has been decent for Wisconsin this season but has not had the impact that some expected. This season, he’s completed 145-of-224 passing attempts (64.7%) for 1,383 yards and three touchdowns. Not the numbers someone would expect with an offensive coordinator who runs an air raid offense.
Running back Braelon Allen has had a strong season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and totaling over 750 rushing yards this season. He has eight touchdowns from scrimmage. Outside Allen, the biggest playmaker for the Badgers this season has been wide receiver Will Pauling, totaling 56 receptions for 596 yards and three touchdowns. Bryson Green, Chimere Dike, and Skyler Bell are three other receivers to note in Saturday’s matchup. All three have recorded 275+ receiving yards this season including Dike who has 16 receptions for 282 yards and one, an average of 17.6 yards per reception which leads the Badgers.
The Badgers offense overall presents quite a favorable matchup for the Cornhuskers defense.
The Badgers’ defense continues to be a strength of the program. This season, they have allowed just 19.6 points per game, good enough to make them a top 30-scoring defense nationally.
The Wisconsin secondary has been especially strong this season, allowing just 199.2 yards per game this season, They’re averaging an interception per game with Ricardo Hallman being especially tremendous this season with five interceptions and five pass deflections. Safety Hunter Wohler also has multiple interceptions this season with two interceptions and four additional pass deflections.
The Badgers’ run defense this season has been solid as well, allowing 134.5 yards per game and just 3.7 yards per carry. Only two teams this season have averaged more than just 4.5 yards per carry, the Illinois Fighting Illini (5.0) and Purdue Boilermakers (5.4).
When it comes to special teams, the Badgers are quite solid overall. Wide receiver Chimere Dike has shown quite a bit of upside in the return game, averaging 22.6 yards per kick return and 9.0 yards per punt return.
Kicker Nathanial Vakos has been solid this season, making each of his 23 extra point attempts and 13-of-16 field goal attempts which includes 3-of-4 attempts from 40-49 yards. Inside of 40, he’s been automatic this season making 9-of-9 attempts.
Punter Atticus Bertrams’s 41.6 yards per punt may not stand out on the surface but out of 48 punts this season, the Australian punter has had 20 punts downed inside the opponents’s 20 yard line.
While Tanner Mordecai is back for the Badgers, they will still be without running back Chaz Mellusi among others with 12 Badgers considered to be out for the season or indefinitely. Injuries have severely damperred the Badgers’ chances at putting together a promising season this fall.