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Game On: A closer look at how the Huskers and Badgers match up
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Game On: A closer look at how the Huskers and Badgers match up

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Nebraska vs. Purdue, 9/29

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez looks to pass against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

HOW THE HUSKERS LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD

1. Martinez takes another step. Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez accounted for 400-plus yards of offense against Purdue and said, with good reason, that he felt like he left a lot of yards and points on the field. He’s the kind of player who can give even a sturdy defensive unit fits as he gets more comfortable.

2. A game-breaker emerges. Who’s going to be a consistent big-play threat for Nebraska? JD Spielman has made a bunch of explosive plays and Stanley Morgan’s made a few, but the Huskers need as many as they can find.

3. Share the load. Devine Ozigbo handled most of the rushing attempts last week with Maurice Washington ill and Greg Bell coming off a tough practice week. Ozigbo flourished with 170 yards and two scores, and Washington should be back in the mix this week, but Bell is not making the trip in a surprising development.

4. Flip the field. Nebraska would really benefit from a short field. Just once. It’s hard to go 75 or 80 yards time after time. It will be especially hard against a solid defense like Wisconsin’s.

[ WATCH: Walters talks about Wisconsin preparations ]

HOW THE BLACKSHIRTS SHUT ’EM DOWN

1. Tackle No. 23. Easier said than done, of course, but the Huskers must do a good job tackling sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor. Last year, Taylor rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns against NU.

2. No yellow. Nebraska can ill afford to give away first downs on penalties. Purdue saw six flags turn into first downs a week ago. If UW gets the same treatment, the Badgers will be on the field 40-plus minutes.

3. Force a big mistake. The Huskers had the Badgers in a big-time fight last year when Aaron Williams intercepted Alex Hornibrook for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game at 17. Hornibrook’s taken better care of the ball this year, but will still give it up. NU must make him.

4. Hold up down the field. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander will want to deploy heavy resources in the box. That will put the onus on Nebraska’s secondary to hold up in coverage down the field and not get fooled by play-action and movement.

[ WATCH: Chinander talks about Wisconsin preparations ]

THREE NUMBERS TO KNOW

8: More times NU’s opponents have been in the red zone (19) than the Huskers (11).

266.3: Wisconsin’s Big Ten-leading per-game rushing average. The Huskers give up 165 per game.

3: Big Ten-worst sack total for the Badgers, who are last by a wide margin. NU has 12, the fifth-best mark in the league.

UNDER THE RADAR

Matt Farniok

RT, No. 71: Offensive line coach Greg Austin said this week that Farniok and left tackle Brenden Jaimes played their best games of the season against Purdue. They’ll need to be good again against the Badgers’ front. UW will give a lot of different looks and will use its ends and outside linebackers to try to get pressure. Farniok will have to be sharp in protection and powerful in the run game.

Freedom Akinmoladun

DL, No. 91: Akinmoladun is part of a heavy rotation on the NU defensive line. He’s tied for the team lead with 2½ sacks and has three tackles for loss, too. The senior will be a key cog against Wisconsin’s run game this weekend.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez vs. Wisconsin inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. Martinez, the electric true freshman, runs the show for the Huskers. Edwards, the wily, talented senior All-American, is at the center of Wisconsin’s defense. It will be an interesting cat-mouse game to watch as Edwards tries to figure out what Martinez is doing and Martinez tries to put UW’s second level in difficult situations.

BIGGEST MISMATCH

UW senior nose guard Olive Sagapolu vs. Nebraska center(s) Cole Conrad and/or Tanner Farmer. We’ll leave this one to the words of NU’s head coach: “Well, whoever is playing center has their hands full. They’ve got a nose guard that is a grown man,” Scott Frost said Monday. Sagapolu is listed at 6-foot-2 and 342 pounds, and has played in 40 career games for the Badgers.

PREDICTION

Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 24. Nebraska feels like it can move the ball against anybody, and at times the Huskers look like it. Wisconsin’s defense isn’t currently at the level that’s become the norm in Madison. But can the Huskers slow down the Badgers? NU’s struggled at times to defend basic run concepts. UW is the wrong team to face with those kind of issues. Nebraska covers the opening 22½-point line but loses handily.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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