NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (10-2)
vs. WISCONSIN BADGERS (7-5)
Big Ten Championship Game - Indianapolis, IN
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EDT
Line: Nebraska -3, Total: 49
No. 14 Nebraska looks for its first-ever Big Ten Championship when it faces a Wisconsin team that has claimed the past two conference titles.
Wisconsin can still win its conference despite five losses on the season and three defeats (all in OT) in its past four games. Nebraska is riding a six-game win streak (3-2-1 ATS) and also beat the Badgers 30-27 on Sept. 29, scoring the final 20 points and outrushing them 259 to 56. QB Taylor Martinez had 288 total yards and 3 TD in that game while Rex Burkhead, who is now back on the field after missing time with a sprained knee, had 86 rushing yards. Wisconsin's Montee Ball scored 3 TD in the loss, but was held to 31 yards (2.1 YPC) after halftime. However, Ball had 151 rushing yards and 4 TD in last year’s 48-17 win over the Huskers.
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Martinez has been throwing well this season with a 63% completion rate, 21 TD and 8 INT, but he is coming off a terrible performance at Iowa where he totaled just 104 yards on 30 plays (16 carries, 14 passes). He is a speedy runner though (5.3 YPC), who will look even faster on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf on Saturday. The good thing about Burkhead missing the majority of five of the past six games is that the Nebraska coaches got to see just how well Ameer Abdullah runs the football. In the past six games, he has rushed for 557 yards (93 rushing YPG). But Burkhead has been strong in two career games against the Badgers, rumbling for 182 yards on 36 carries (5.1 YPC) and a touchdown. No team in the nation has been stingier against the pass than the Blackshirts defense that has given up just 152 passing YPG. The rushing defense has also flexed its muscles in the past two games, holding Minnesota and Iowa to a combined 195 rushing yards on 68 carries (2.9 YPC). The Huskers have also been very opportunistic with 2+ turnovers forced in each of the past five games (12 total).
Curt Phillips will start under center for the third straight game, eager to improve on his 52.6% completion rate in his senior year. He connected on just 12-of-25 passes for 191 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT in last week's loss at Penn State. But it's no secret that the Badgers are going to try to pound the football with Montee Ball. He has 110+ rushing yards and at least 1 TD in six of his past seven games. Ball has scored 18 times on the ground this season, giving him 73 rushing touchdowns for his brilliant career. But teammate James White will also be used on the fast surface. He has three 120-yard rushing performances and 6 TD over his past six games and averages 6.7 yards per carry for the season. Wisconsin's defense surrendered a season-high 30 points at Nebraska, but has been consistently strong all year, allowing less than 17 points in seven games this season. The Badgers also rank 11th in the nation in total defense (308 YPG allowed), able to stop both the run (111 YPG, 12th in FBS) and the pass (197 YPG, 24th in FBS) with nearly equal effectiveness. Wisconsin doesn't have a whole lot of playmakers though, forcing just 12 turnovers (6 fumbles, 6 INT) for the entire 12-game season.