Friday, November 30, 2012
Big Ten: Who will transform tomorrow?
By Brian Bennett
Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.
This week's selection: Nebraska defensive end Eric Martin
Saturday assignment: vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Athletic pass-rushers don't usually have fun playing the Badgers, who like to use their mammoth offensive line to pound the ball on the ground. And when Wisconsin does throw the ball, it often does so off play-action, paralyzing the defense with indecision.
Still, Martin has a chance to have a large say in which team goes to the Rose Bowl if he continues his recent level of play. He was absolutely dominant at Iowa last week, repeatedly getting into the face of quarterback James Vandenberg and disrupting everything the Hawkeyes tried to do. He finished tied for second in the league with 8.5 sacks.
"He's an impactful guy," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "He's hard to block on the edge. He's not your prototype defensive end size-wise, but he's a powerful guy. He's quick, he's explosive and he plays with tremendous energy."
Martin likely will be matched up against Wisconsin tackle Ricky Wagner at times, meaning we'll have two first-team All-Big Ten performers going head to head (Martin was voted first team by the media; Wagner was selected by the coaches and media). The 250-pound Martin will be giving up nearly 70 pounds, but will have a definite speed advantage.
For the Badgers to win, they're going to have to make plays in the passing game behind Curt Phillips. They'd also better be ready to keep Martin out of their backfield.