No. 9 Badgers looking to continue dominance over Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- No. 9 Wisconsin has won four straight and five of six against Nebraska, and the Badgers enter the game Saturday night as the biggest favorite of any visiting team at Memorial Stadium in 43 years.
Badgers coach Paul Chryst isn't that impressed.
"History doesn't matter to the players," he said. "The thing that matters most is the type of team you're playing and the atmosphere you're playing in. We know it's going to be a great atmosphere. It's an historic stadium and a team that's playing well now. We have to put our focus and energy on being as prepared as possible."
Sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West will be at stake when Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0) and Nebraska (3-2, 2-0) meet with members of the Cornhuskers' 1997 national championship team on hand as part of its 20-year reunion.
The Huskers have beaten conference lightweights Rutgers and Illinois since their stunning home loss to Northern Illinois. Now they enter a crucial stretch, with back-to-back home games against Wisconsin and No. 10 Ohio State and a trip to improved Purdue.
"I think everything goes up in terms of intensity," quarterback Tanner Lee said. "You're heightened level of focus, your preparation, everything needs to take a step up when you're playing a team like Wisconsin, or any team that is ranked as high as they are and has won games like they have. It's going to take an all-out effort and is something we're looking forward to."
Nebraska has won 20 straight night games at home since 2008. But the Huskers are listed as 11-point underdogs. According to Omaha World-Herald research, Nebraska hasn't been that big an underdog at home since Oklahoma was a 14-point favorite in 1974.
Wisconsin has won nine of 10 true road games in three seasons under Chryst, including a 23-21 win on a field goal with 4 seconds left in its last trip to Lincoln in 2015.
Some things to know:
OLD FRIENDS FACE OFF
Nebraska coach Mike Riley will go against one of his best coaching friends in Chryst. Riley hired Chryst as an assistant with San Antonio of the old World League of American Football in 1991. Chryst, 51, later was Riley's offensive coordinator at Oregon State and tight ends coach with the San Diego Chargers.
"I won't say I taught him," said Riley, 64. "Paul and I did a lot of work together strategically, conceptually on football for many years. It was a great mutual educational experience in football working with him."
Wisconsin is 3-0 against Nebraska since the teams started playing for the Freedom Trophy in 2014. The Badgers have won 14 of their last 15 trophy games since 2010, going 7-0 against Minnesota and 4-1 against Iowa.
"We want to keep all three trophies in our locker room," linebacker Garret Dooley said. "That's part of our goals. So everyone has to come out with their heads on fire and go out and play the kind of football we're used to."
Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli (leg) and DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg) are questionable. Nebraska CB Chris Jones (knee) practiced in pads this week for the first time since getting hurt in July and has been cleared to play in the game. S Joshua Kalu (hamstring) and OLB Marcus Newby (hamstring) are expected to play.
Nebraska's defense has improved since allowing 42 points in the first half of the loss at Oregon on Sept. 9. Opponents have returned three interceptions for touchdowns since then, but the defense has allowed just 23 points in the past 14 quarters. The Huskers held both Rutgers and Illinois under 200 yards of total offense.
Wisconsin's eight sacks against Northwestern last week were its most in a game since 2001.
"The numbers are great, but our D-line and linebackers pride themselves on getting to the quarterback," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "I'd love if we could do that every game, but it's going to be tough as the games go on."
The Badgers are allowing just 247 yards a game to rank fourth nationally in total defense. Since going to the 3-4 defense in 2013, the Badgers have allowed just 16.4 points a game. Only Alabama (14.6) has given up fewer points over that span.