News and notes surrounding the Big Ten title game on Saturday:
- Nebraska' s first-year defensive backs coach Terry Joseph has molded the top secondary in the country in terms of passing yards allowed. The Huskers are giving up a paltry 152 yards per game -- three yards fewer than Michigan, the second-best in the nation. The Badgers, whom the Huskers will face in Saturday's Big Ten title game, aren't a pass-first offense, but Nebraska is well aware of Wisconsin's first-team all-conference wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Nebraska's top defensive back Ciante Evans said Joseph has earned the players' trust and will have them well prepared for Saturday. “He's like a college professor,” Evans told the Lincoln Journal Star. “He gives us quizzes about the game plan -- things that we should know, tendencies, formations.” It will almost certainly be Evans' responsibility to neutralize Abbrederis, the fourth-leading wideout in the conference.
- Wisconsin left guard Ryan Groy was named to the All-Big Ten second team OL on Monday, but it didn't make up for the way he felt he played in the loss to Penn State last Saturday. Groy said Penn State's all-conference tackle Jordan Hill kicked his butt last weekend and Groy is determined to make up for it on Saturday. “Very upset at myself,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Didn't play well. I kind of hung my head, but knew I had to pick myself up for this week.” Groy was one of three Badger linemen (Rick Wagner, Travis Frederick) to earn all-conference honors of some form, a testament to OL coach Bart Miller, who became the line coach after just the second week of the season.
- A scouting report of the Huskers breaks down their strengths (rushing, special teams) and weaknesses (run defense). Saturday's game may well be decided along the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin's OL has given up nine sacks in Curt Phillips' first three starts and Nebraska's defense game plan is likely contingent on pressuring Phillips. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also noted the Huskers' advantage on special teams with K Brett Maher (3 of 4 on FGs in the first meeting) and kick returner Ameer Abdullah. The speedy sophomore return man set up Nebraska's first score with an 83-yard kickoff return in the first quarter of their first meeting.
- Neither Wisconsin's Montee Ball nor Nebraska's Rex Burkhead has had the season they or their respective athletic departments expected. Both schools openly promoted a Heisman-type year at the beginning of the season, but Ball had too slow of a start to remain in the running while a knee injury derailed Burkhhead's hopes of heading to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Both are now healthy and running with their characteristically punishing styles. Burkhead returned last weekend for his first game since Oct. 20 and finished with 69 yards rushing and a score against Iowa. Ball, in turn, has averaged over 150 yards per game since Oct. 1. They accounted for four touchdowns in the first meeting and figure to play equally significant roles on Saturday.
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