Welcome to our 2nd edition of Opposition Q&A as we enter B1G play and host Nebraska. We were joined by Jon from Corn Nation last night on Badgers Power Hour and today we bring you the burning questions we had for the rest of the Corn Nation staff. So here is the Nebraska edition of Opposition Q&A
WB: How strange/good/bad is it that you're in the Big Ten now that conference play is upon us? How have the fans taken to no longer playing the Missouri's, Oklahoma's, Iowa State's?
RICKY SMITH: I think this is one thing where Husker fans are pretty unanimous: we love being in the B1G. I’m not going to miss anyone in the Big 12. Oklahoma hitched their wagon to Texas when the league formed and Husker Nation slowly got over the fact that we wouldn’t play them every year. I know we have a history playing teams like KU, KSU, etc., but I’ve yet to hear “I’m going to miss playing the Cyclones” from anyone.
AK: I’ve said it all. They thought it was cute to give Texas all the power, then blamed us for everything when it went to shit & said they’d be better off without us (nicely done!), and then finally let Oklahoma show a little backbone for them in the last couple of weeks. With the exception of the Sooners, piss on ‘em all.
RS: Piss on the Sooners. They’re too co-dependent on UT.
Aaron: I loved playing the Big XII schools. I even enjoyed the games against UT. We rarely won, but they were almost always close games that went down to the wire. I’ll miss playing them. But, the Big XII hasn’t really felt like home the way that the Big 8 was. When I was a kid, I could remember thinking, “Why aren’t we playing Iowa every year?” Now we will.
Husker Mike: All of the Big XII’s drama the last few weeks has reinforced the reasons we made the switch. No matter what we thought of the Big Ten five or ten years ago, it doesn’t matter now. We’re in a better place now.
WB: With Jared Crick back you'll finally have the original starting 4 on the D-Line for the 1st time, how big of an issue could chemistry be against a very big and talented Wisconsin offensive line?
RS: The Pelini Bros. and Papuchis (D-Line coach) will have them ready. I don’t think chemistry is an issue. It will be nice to have everyone back. Dennard being back will help the line give them some time to get into the backfield. Hell, I’ll be glad just to see Dennard, Crick and David on the field at the same time. That’s a little more comforting.
AK: I’m terrified anyway. Everyone’s gashed us in the gut a few times. The Badgers might be a little better than what we’ve seen.
Aaron: Honestly, this years defense is very similar to last years. We gave up a lot of yards last year too. The big difference is the that the yards are becoming points this year. The amount of big plays we have surrendered, especially on the deep ball, is up a lot. Last years team let you move the ball a bit but eventually got you to fourth down. This years team just needs to start preventing those 50-yard TD passes and they will be in the same boat as last years defense.
Husker Mike: It isn’t so much the defensive line but rather the secondary that has been the concern. The Pelini brothers were able to take chances with a secondary of Dennard, Amukamara, Hagg, and Gomes. The first three games of the season, those guys were gone. Now Dennard is back, and we’ll see what Pelini can put together.
WB: How has Taylor Martinez's game changed from last year to this year? Can he be an effective passer?
RS: I think he manages things a bit better. But it’s easy to manage those first 4 teams. We’ll see if he’s matured come Saturday. I don’t know if he can ever become an effective passer. I guess if he tells his receivers to slow down when they’re wide open, then he’s a leader AND he’s effective. Win win!
AK: He has to check his cell phone at the locker room door.
Aaron: He seems more comfortable leading the team. His play has improved a bit, but he still struggles with his timing on his passes. The fumbles and staring down the receivers he wants is still an issues.
Husker Mike: The game is slowing down for him, and he understands his role better this season. Last week aside, his passing has been more accurate this season, and his receivers this season are simply more capable.
WB: Rex Burkhead reminds me so much of an old school back, what makes him so successful as a RB? RS: His balance. You will rarely tackle this kid on the first try. He has great vision, great balance and he never stops moving his legs. From what I’ve heard, his work ethic is second to none and he has the respect of the entire team...including coaches.
AK: When he’s not putting in extra time in the weight room and rescuing stray animals in the streets of Lincoln, he is actually rewriting the gospels in his spare time. Priests give their confessions to HIM. He is, in fact the most perfect human being in recorded history with the possible exceptions of Mother Teresa and Donald P. Bellesario.
Aaron: He’s good at finding the hole to run through. He knows when to spin, to juke and to stiff-arm. He just has a great sense of the game and his roll.
Husker Mike: You can’t arm tackle Rex Burkhead. He jukes, darts, and evades the initial defender. He’s not a game breaker by any means...but he gets an extra 3-5 yards on most plays by evading the initial tackler.
WB: Your keys to a Huskers Victory at Camp Randall?
RS: 1) Shut them up early. That 50 yard bomb to Kenny Bell a la the Washington game? We’re going to need that fast. Don’t let the crowd get into it.
2) STICK TO YOUR GAME PLAN! Sorry...we’re still not used to this concept. 5+ years of Shawn Watson (former offensive coordinator) will do that to someone. Seriously, if you’re getting yards with the dive play or the sweep, then keep doing it until someone stops it. Don’t suddenly switch to putting Martinez out on the flat so he can be a decoy for something cute and ineffective as hell. Not bitter about that at all.
3) Don’t panic. They shouldn’t. It’s not their first time in a hostile environment, but they can’t have another College Station Incident like last November. Keep your cool and play your game.
AK: 1) Minimize the damage of the ground game (TCU style?) and put enough pressure on Wilson to bring out the Kordell-like tendencies he’s displayed against decent opponents in the past. He hasn’t shown me anything against weak competition I haven’t seen at NC State, however he’s never had this kind of supporting cast.2) Alfonzo Dennard. His rehab better be over & his CB partner better be ready.3) On offense, Martinez will have to be able to mount an effective passing game with 20-25 throws. If this happens, and he can sneak in a couple of deep burns like he’s been doing, we might show off a pounding running game of our own. 4) Kyler Reed. If we don’t hear his number called, we’re in trouble.5) The young offensive line. They’ve gone from WTF??? against UT-whoever to Goldberg vs. the WCW in just a few short weeks. The dress rehearsals are over and this is the longest I’ve ever heard our fans go without calling for Cotton’s moustache to be torn off.
Aaron: Fundamentally sound football. It’s still 11 against 11.
Husker Mike: Ball security. Get the ball into the hands of Kyler Reed, Jamal Turner, and Kenny Bell downfield. That loosens up the defense for Rex Burkhead to pound away. Then, when you least expect it, Taylor Martinez breaks into the open for a long run. On defense, maintain your assignments. Dennard has to shut down Nick Toon. Lavonte David and Will Compton have to be laser focused on Montee Ball. Then the rest of the defense needs to challenge Russell Wilson like he hasn’t been all season long.
WB: Gonna join in the Jump Around at Camp Randall? RS: Uh...hypothetically speaking what would happen to us if we don’t?
AK: Gonna release balloons with us for our first score in Lincoln next year?
Aaron: I would if I was there.
Husker Mike: If you have an extra couple of tickets for me, sure!
WB: Predictions for the score and winner of the game? RS: NU - 30 UW - 36. Wiscy gets us on their turf, but the Huskers get their mojo later in the season and win the rematch in Indy.
AK: As much as I diet on the Kool-Aid weekly during the fall - hell, I talked myself into NU beating the ‘Canes in the 2002 Rose Bowl - this is one stiff test and too many moving parts have to mesh for us in a wild, drunken environment. It’s not exactly Screech vs. Georges St. Pierre, but it’s still a tall fucking order. Wiscy 31 NU 23(And you’re damn right I’m working the “nobody believes in us” mojo).
Aaron: It depends on which Taylor shows up. The one with four fumbles a game or the one that lites up Oklahoma State on their own home turf. The part of this game that I’m anticipating most is how Nebraska handles Wisconsin’s run game. I think that will go a long way into showing the potential of this team. I don’t think the Huskers are quite there yet to be able to beat Wisconsin in Madison. The offense struggles similar to last year and the Badgers do what they need to do. Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 13