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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Badgers welcome Huskers to Big Ten



David Stluka/Icon SMI
Wisconsin's student section will be ready to welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten Saturday night.

The eighth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers make their Big Ten debut on Saturday, and lucky them, it comes on the road against a Top-10 team – the seventh-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (8 ET on ABC). This is the first meeting between the two teams since 1974 (a 21-20 Wisconsin win). That was Tom Osborne’s second season at Nebraska, a school he would coach for 25 seasons.

It’s fitting that one of the oldest members of the Big Ten (Wisconsin) welcomes one of the oldest members of the former Big Eight/Big 12 (Nebraska). Wisconsin was an original member of the Big Ten when it was called the Western Conference in 1896. The Cornhuskers were a member of the Big Eight/Big 12 for over 100 years.

This is the third Top-10 matchup in as many weeks and fourth this season. The true road team (Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) won the previous two times (Oregon-LSU was a neutral site game).

This game could be a preview of the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska was picked to win the Legends division and Wisconsin was picked to win the Leaders division by Big Ten media members. This is one of the reasons why ESPN’s College Gameday will originate from Madison for the second straight year. Last season, the Badgers upset the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Wisconsin has won 12 straight home games, with its last loss at home coming on October 17, 2009 against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Nebraska has won nine straight September games and has won nine of its last 10 road games overall.

The Badgers attack has been very balanced this season. They are one of three schools to average at least 240 yards passing (286.8 YPG) and rushing (245.5 YPG) per game, joining the Baylor Bears and Missouri Tigers.

Wisconsin had a high-octane offense last season, but this year, the Badgers have been even better. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been a big reason why, ranking second nationally in pass efficiency and 17th in total offense.

The Badgers have also been good on the other side of the ball as well, ranking in the Top 10 nationally in scoring (8.5 PPG, third), total (246.5, seventh) and pass defense (157.3, 10th). They join the Stanford Cardinal as the only teams in the Top 10 in scoring offense and defense.

Nebraska is trying to start 5-0 for the second consecutive season, something that hasn't happened since 2000-01. The Huskers running game is averaging 273 yards per game, eighth nationally, and they have run for at least 300 yards in its past two games (wins against the Washington Huskies and the Wyoming Cowboys). Wisconsin hasn’t allowed 300 yards rushing since October 15, 2005 when the Minnesota Golden Gophers ran for 411 yards (including 258 by Laurence Maroney) in a 38-34 Wisconsin win.