Welcome to your weekly guide to Nebraska’s next game. You know the drill by now. We tackle the news and notes alphabetically. This week, it’s Wisconsin and their’s plenty of ground to cover from trash talk to uniforms.
BALL, MONTEE – The Badgers star running back suffered a concussion last week against UTEP – his second since August – but all accounts are that he’ll play this week. While far off the pace that made him perhaps the leading Heisman candidate at the start of the season, Ball is still plenty dangerous. In fact, Nebraska fans don’t have to look far for a good comparison. There’s a lot of Rex Burkhead in Montee Ball (or vice versa).
BLACK – Nebraska will be wearing a black helmet for the first time in school history. Reviews have been mixed on the alternate uniform overall, but everyone seems to like the black helmet. Bonus points to Nebraska for keeping the football-N on the sides of the helmet and the same single red stripe.
COLORS – From afar, it’s hard to tell Wisconsin red and Nebraska red apart, but there is a difference. The Badgers, officially wearing Cardinal and White, use PMS 200. The Huskers, officially wearing Scarlet and Cream, use PMS 186. (And here’s a dirty secret: “Cream” is in name only. Nebraska just uses white in the Pantone Matching System.)
FIGHT SONG – It’s impossible for me to be objective about “On Wisconsin.” My high school adopted it as its fight song – modified to “On You Bobcats,” of course, I didn’t attend Wisconsin High – and thus it is my fight song. All of the usual fight song signifiers are here. Plunge through the line, drive the ball down the field, run a play-action rollout pass…again…ok, not the last one but you get the idea. (See Also: Waggle) Where “On Wisconsin” really shines is in the fanfare fandango that bridges the two verses — referred to as a six-measure interlude in 2/4 time in the video above. That’s just plain fun.
And so is this: William T. Purdy, the song’s composer, was about to enter it in a contest to find a new fight song for the University of Minnesota but was convinced to give it to his alma mater. Close call. Minnesota made out alright, however, with “Minnesota Rouser.” But we’ll cover that in a few weeks.
FISHER, SEAN – The senior linebacker waited patiently on the sidelines through most of Nebraska’s non-conference slate, waiting for a team that didn’t want to throw the ball 50 times a game out of a spread formation. No team epitomizes that better than Wisconsin. Middle linebacker Will Compton spent a lot of time, too much really, directing people as Nebraska held what amounted to an open casting call at Will linebacker following the loss to UCLA but that shouldn’t be an issue with Fisher at the Sam spot. He’s a senior, he’s hungry, and he’s smart. If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate to have a big game on Saturday, you could do worse than picking Sean Fisher.
GILBERT, DAVID – The senior Wisconsin defensive end made waves (ripples?) this week when he said that Taylor Martinez, now with new and improved quarterback mechanics, still “looked like he was skipping rocks.” The comments earned the starter a sport on the bench, for one play at least, and served to highlight the fact that Wisconsin and Nebraska need to play every year. Nice little rivalry brewing here.
MARTINEZ, TAYLOR – With Wisconsin throwing down the gauntlet this week (See Also: Gilbert, David), Nebraska’s quarterback has something to prove yet again. So far this season he’s been fantastic, completing passes at a clip few thought possible but this week offers a different test than the past two weeks: A real, actual defense. This game is one giant measuring stick for Martinez and he likely needs to be as good as he’s been against the Arkansas State’s and Southern Mississippi’s of the world if Nebraska is truly going to contend for a Big Ten title.
RUSSELL, JACK – By all accounts, the Badgers are going with freshman kicker Jack Russell going forward. The freshman is 0-for-1 on field goal attempts this year after taking over for sophomore Kyle French who handled kicking duties in Wisconsin’s first three games. If the game’s close, its worth keeping in mind.
SERIES HISTORY – Nebraska and Wisconsin will meet for the seventh time on Saturday with the series currently tied at three wins apiece. The Badgers have never won in Lincoln. The series dates back to 1901 when Wisconsin beat Nebraska in Milwaukee, which, now that I think about it, isn’t a bad idea for the future. Milwaukee’s a fantastic city. Let’s make this happen in 2015.
STAVE, JOEL – The redshirt freshman, Train-singing, talent-show pianist took over for Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien at halftime of Wisconsin’s game against Utah State and made his first collegiate start against UTEP last week. The Badgers have done a good job of giving him manageable passing plays but its Nebraska’s job to ruin that plan. Look for the Huskers to throw some early blitzes at Stave. Stopping the run on first and second down will also be key. Third-and-long situations with a freshman quarterback making his first road start – at night no less – is not where Wisconsin wants to be.
UNIFORMS – Never have uniforms been a bigger part of the pregame discussion than they have this week. Rather than rehash it all, I’ll just say this: The alternates will keep Nebraska and Wisconsin from looking like negative images of one another, which is nice, and the helmet the Badgers will wear in this game is a 200 percent upgrade over what they usually wear. Not that the motion-W is bad, it’s just never felt like a terribly good fit for the stolidly pro-style Badgers. Clean and sans-serif is the way to go, something Nebraska football has been practicing for quite some time.
WAGGLE – Whatever you want to call it – waggle, bootleg, or a simple play-action roll-out – Wisconsin runs this pass play a lot. (I prefer waggle because the word itself is sort of hilarious.) Against UTEP, the Badgers used play action on approximately 90 percent of their pass plays and I wouldn’t expect to see a ton of drop backs this week either. That could make things interesting as Nebraska plays its first game in the Huskers base defense. (See Also: STAVE, JOEL)