Thursday, November 29, 2012
Big Ten Championship Game predictions
By Adam Rittenberg
The regular-season predictions race is over, and Brian Bennett is still choking on Adam Rittenberg's dust. Fortunately for Mr. Bennett, the postseason brings new hope for bragging rights.
One final Big Ten game remains on the schedule, and it's for the right to go to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Nebraska faces Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Here's how we see things shaking out:
No. 12 Nebraska versus Wisconsin
Adam Rittenberg: Nebraska is three games better than Wisconsin in the win column, but the teams are fairly evenly matched, as we saw Sept. 29 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Wisconsin has been in every game this season and, with a few bounces here and there, could have the same record as Nebraska. The championship game ultimately will be a microcosm of both teams' seasons. Nebraska starts sloppily and commits two first-quarter turnovers, one of which Wisconsin converts into a Montee Ball touchdown run. The Badgers attack the middle of Nebraska's defensive line effectively in the first half and lead 14-10 at halftime. But Nebraska makes the right personnel adjustments and turns in a big third quarter behind Rex Burkhead (120 rush yards, 2 TDs). Wisconsin's defense stabilizes in the fourth, and Curt Phillips leads a late scoring drive to tie things up and send it to overtime. In the extra session, Nebraska's defense holds Wisconsin to three points, setting up a game-winning touchdown run by Taylor Martinez. Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 24 (OT)
Brian Bennett: Overtime, eh? I see you're predicting a long night for us at Lucas Oil Stadium. Wisconsin wouldn't want to see an extra period, since the Badgers are 0-3 in overtime games this season. Every Badgers game is close, but I don't see a lot of ways that they can upset Nebraska, which has gotten a lot better on defense since Sept. 29. The Huskers fell behind big early in that one primarily because of turnovers, which are always a concern for Bo Pelini's team. I don't think Nebraska will be as sloppy with the ball in this one, but I could see the Huskers coming out a little tight as the favorites with more to lose. A Ball touchdown run puts the Badgers up early as Wisconsin pounds the ball at a defensive line missing Baker Steinkuhler. Ultimately, though, Nebraska's speed and depth wear down a very good Wisconsin defense on the turf with its endless array of sweeps and quick-hit passes. Martinez throws for two touchdowns and runs for another, and Burkhead breaks off a long scoring run against a tiring Badgers D in the second half. Curt Phillips and the Wisconsin passing game struggle against what has become one of the nation's best pass defenses, and Ciante Evans shows All-Big Ten voters what they missed with a key interception. Nebraska pulls away late and celebrates with roses. Nebraska 28, Wisconsin 20
Final regular-season records
Adam Rittenberg: 76-20 (.792)
Brian Bennett: 71-25 (.740)