The battle for the Freedom Trophy will be played under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
These two teams have met six of the last seven years since the Huskers joined the Big Ten, including twice in 2012, and the Badgers have won six of the seven games.
Nebraska enters this matchup 0-4 this season and 0-2 in Big Ten play. The Huskers lost by five point to both Colorado (33-28) and Troy (24-19) to start the season, but have struggled against conference play with losses to Michigan (56-10) and Purdue (42-28). Many of their struggles have stemmed from mistake-prone football. Nebraska is 127th in turnover margin and 128th in penalties per game (out of 129).
The Huskers have a true freshman, Adrian Martinez, under center. The Fresno, Calif. native has played well, but has made some freshman mistakes while battling injuries. Martinez is a dual threat when healthy and has racked up nearly 200 yards rushing through roughly two games played this season. Nebraska also features two of the best receivers in the Big Ten, Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman, who have combined for 40 catches for 521 yards and five scores.
Defensively, the Cornhuskers defense has some work to do. They rank 97th nationally in total defense (94th passing, 80th rushing) and 118th in scoring defense, surrendering 38.8 points per game. The Huskers are led by a trio of upperclassmen at the linebacker position, including leading tackler junior Mohamed Barry. Sophomore cornerback Dicaprio Bootle has leads the nation with 10 pass breakups.
Wisconsin sits at 3-1 and 1-0 in the Big Ten coming into this game. The Badgers are led by the nation’s leading rusher, sophomore Jonathan Taylor, who averages 157 yards per game and has broken the 100-yard mark in all four games this year. Junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook is 23-4 as a starter and has plenty of weapons surrounding him, including three of his top four receivers from a year ago.
The Badger defense has been efficient without being spectacular in 2018. They rank 17th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense (14.5 points per game), despite the lack of a pass rush. The Badgers have just three sacks through four games but have made up for that fact with solid linebacker play. Seniors TJ Edwards and Ryan Connelly are among the team’s leading tacklers, along with safeties D’Cota Dixon and Scott Nelson.
Nebraska and Wisconsin have played some tight games over the past few years, including an overtime game and a game that featured a game-winning kick. The Huskers will need their best performance of the year to challenge the Badgers, who have had an extra week to prepare for Nebraska with a bye last weekend.
In a tie to the Rose Bowl Game, Wisconsin will honor the 25th anniversary of the Badgers 1993 football team at halftime of the game. That team won a then-school record 10 games, won the first Big Ten title since 1962 and advanced to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1963. The Badgers beat UCLA in the 1994 Rose Bowl Game, 21-16.