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Wisconsin vs. Nebraska Prediction: Badgers Look to Continue Recent Success Against Cornhuskers

Wisconsin needs just one more win to become bowl eligible.

It's a battle of interim coaches as the Wisconsin Badgers visit the Nebraska Cornhuskers for a contest that — believe it or not — has Big Ten West implications.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 12

Bucky's boys have the toughest road to reach Indianapolis, controlling little of their own destiny. But the Badgers (3-4, 5-5 Big Ten) need to win out for even an inkling of a shot. Barring a massive implosion, Jim Leonhard appears to have the gig locked down while Mickey Joseph works to put some shine on his résumé.

There's also the pride of carrying home the understandably forgotten Freedom Trophy, as Nebraska's yet to hold it since its inception in 2014. These two teams have met 15 times with Wisconsin holding an 11-4 edge in the series, including their current eight-game tear.

Will the Big Red (3-7, 2-5) play absolute and total spoiler, or do the Badgers tack on yet another victory to the streak? Let's break it down.

Wisconsin at Nebraska

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
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Spread: Wisconsin -13
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Wisconsin vs. Nebraska By the Numbers

National Rank CategoryWisconsinNebraska

Rushing Offense

170.1 YPG (54th)

136.4 YPG (T-85th)

Passing Offense

200 YPG (105th)

226.6 YPG (74th)

Scoring Offense

28.7 PPG (T-66th)

23.3 PPG (T-94th)

Rushing Defense

107.6 YPG (16th)

191 YPG (112th)

Passing Defense

200.2 YPG (32nd)

247.1 YPG (92nd)

Scoring Defense

20.9 (27th)

29.9 PPG (98th)


25 (T-41st)

17 (T-92nd)

Turnover Margin

+4 (T-35th)

-7 (T-117th)

3rd Down Conversions

41.13% (54th)

40% (T-59th)

Red Zone Conversions

84.85% (T-64th)

88.89% (T-34th)

When Wisconsin Has the Ball

Quarterback Graham Mertz has struggled mightily during the Badgers' past two games. Against Maryland and Iowa, he completed less than 40 percent of his passes while averaging 126.5 yards per contest. That hasn't usually been an issue with Braelon Allen toting the rock, but the Hawkeyes held him to a 51-yard effort.

After taking on three of the top five running backs in college football, Nebraska gets a slight reprieve... kind of. Interim defensive coordinator Bill Busch schemes for Allen this week, who ranks No. 17 nationally with 1,034 yards. His 10 rushing touchdowns lead the team supplemented by Isaac Guerendo's five.

If Mertz is going to generate any success through the air, look for him to target Chimere Dike, Skyler Bell, and Keontez Lewis.

Watch for Busch to draw up a comparable plan to his last few: work to stonewall the run and force an uncomfortable passing attack. Garrett Nelson, Ochaun Mathis, and Caleb Tannor provide pressure off the edge while true freshman linebacker Ernest Hausmann has bullied his way into the picture as a constant threat. Hausmann's efforts have been a severely needed complement to team leader Luke Reimer.

Nickelback Issac Gifford has also stepped in as an x-factor in coverage and as a heat seeker during rounds of Meet Me at the Quarterback. This is a receiver corps the Big Red secondary should feel comfortable jamming, but situational awareness is still critical. Far too many signal-callers have looked like world-beaters when Nebraska's defense trips over its own shoelaces.

When Nebraska Has the Ball

Casey Thompson's status for the rest of the season is in limbo and Chubba Purdy suffered a high ankle sprain versus Michigan. With Purdy going under the knife, this thrusts Logan Smothers into the spotlight.

The good news is Smothers should finally get a long-awaited opportunity to find some rhythm. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Synek and true freshman Richard Torres stand in relief should things go sideways with Nebraska's new starter and Thompson remains sidelined.

While the Huskers ran into a defensive buzzsaw against Michigan, Anthony Grant turned in a 112-yard day against Minnesota. That's notable as the Golden Gophers have had similar success to the Badgers in stopping the run.

Trey Palmer's once shining star has dimmed after his performance in West Lafayette put a massive target on his back. Yes, he's been locked down by defenders but also appears to have picked up a case of the drops. He'll get chances to regain his smile along with Marcus Washington, Alante Brown, and tight end Travis Vokolek.

It's best if Brown left his hurdle game in Ann Arbor, though.

Unfortunately for Nebraska, the Huskers will need to contend with the violence that is linebacker Nick Herbig. He's tallied a whopping 11 sacks, putting him second in all of college football.

A Badgers secondary featuring John Torchio, Kamo'i Latu, and a slew of other laser-focused defensive backs lie in wait to capitalize on any errant passes. Torchio has five interceptions on the year, two of which were taken to the house.

Final Analysis

There's an opportunity for Nebraska to send fans home happy on Senior Day in Lincoln, but the Cornhuskers need an offensive spark. Leaning on Grant and playing pickleball with passes is a recipe for success. This limits the potential for arm punts or another Torchio pick-six. Herbig gets his pound of flesh, but serving up three-and-outs one after the other leads to an easy Badger win.

Wisconsin needs to do what all other good running teams have done against the Big Red: feed the beast and wait for the dam to break. However, if the Huskers can put together sustained drives, the pressure shifts to Mertz. A sub-optimal position for a Badger team that's surrendered 24 sacks in 2022.

If Thompson is back at quarterback, excitement skyrockets in a hurry. Should Smothers meet the challenge and give his defense a breather, it's a coin flip. That said, he's had little time to sync with his receivers in-game and the Badgers' pass defense will make him pay if tested. It could go either way, but the team that has posted a considerably better year-long turnover margin wins out.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 17

Podcast: Week 12 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Reaction to CFB Playoff Top 25 Rankings

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@Bcav402). To contact him, click here.

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