Excuse the Wisconsin Badgers if they don't worry too much about the Big Ten Championship matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. They've done this before.
The Badgers participated in the inaugural contest last year, holding on for a slim win over the Michigan State Spartans. There won't be any big-time stage jitters for those boys from up North.
Not that the Huskers will be shell shocked. Head coach Bo Pelini has taken a team to the Big 12 Championship game before. He'll surely lay out what to expect.
But will it be enough?
When: Saturday, December 1, at 8 p.m. EST.
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN
Live Stream: FOX Sports
Pick Against the Spread: Nebraska (-3) according to bovada.lv
You're really dealing with a coin flip here, and no one would fault you for taking the points. The Huskers squeaked out a three-point win when they had the home-field advantage, and will do so again despite the neutral field.
Both teams deploy fairly stout defenses, so Taylor Martinez over Montee Ball is going to be the difference in this game. His ability to do it with his arm (21 touchdowns to eight interceptions) as well as his legs (833 yards, eight touchdowns) will be too much for the Badgers to overcome.
Over/Under Pick: Over 49
As alluded to above, neither defense is a sieve when it comes to points. The Huskers allow 22.6 per game while the Badgers give up just 18.1. Yet, these teams accounted for 57 last time and that was still early on in the season. There's no reason for them to hold back anything now, so expect all the tricks and gimmicks to be used to find the end zone.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
Cornhuskers: WR Kenny Bell (neck, questionable); OL Justin Jackson (ankle, doubtful); DT Baker Steinkuhler (knee, doubtful); WR Taariq Allen (knee, out); DE Avery Moss (shoulder, out); LB Zaire Anderson (knee, out); WR Tyler Wullenwaber (knee, out).
Badgers: OL Rob Havenstein (knee, questionable); LB Chris Borland (hamstring, questionable); QB Joel Stave (shoulder, out); DL Jesse Hayes (leg, out); LB Cody Byers (concussion, out).
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Nobody is going to threaten for a national championship, although the Huskers have a shot at a Top 10 ranking! All jokes about Big Ten mediocrity aside, the actual stake is a piece of the Rose Bowl, which is what every conference team sets out for in the beginning. There will only be one team from the conference entering the BCS pool, and the impact on the national scene will otherwise be minimal.
Keys to a Nebraska Win
Taylor Martinez must continue to play as he has for most of 2012. He's been a capable leader and has shied away from turning the ball over while increasing his production. Martinez also upped his completion percentage by seven points from 2011. Nebraska needs that Martinez.
Wisconsin hasn't changed its offense much since FDR was fixing the Great Depression. They like to run the ball. Thus, Nebraska needs to plant those feet and not let the the big boys from Wisconsin push them around. Or fill all the gaps and make plays upfield, but it didn't sound as good.
Keys to a Wisconsin Win
The offense is going to need to show something else besides Montee Ball or James White. It might be a painful proposition, but the coaching staff will need to give Curt Phillips, the backup signal-caller, a chance to make some plays down the field. Otherwise, if the run isn't working, the Nebraska defensive line will be in Phillips face all night.
Stop the run. Nebraska loves to run the ball and it sets up Martinez for the play action. Don't let him get comfortable. If he finds himself in third and longs, he's bound to make some mistakes.
Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 21
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