News and notes surrounding Saturday's Big Ten title game:
- Nebraska DT Chase Rome left the team earlier this year after coach Bo Pelini said Rome's “personal goals and personal perception of where he should be on this football team doesn't match the team goals.” Rome soon returned to the team and Saturday, the sophomore will be expected to play a huge role in mitigating Wisconsin's rushing attack. Rome will help replace Baker Steinkuhler, the Huskers' stalwart tackle, who injured his ACL in last week's win over Iowa. “It sucked and it wasn't right of me,” Rome said to the Lincoln Journal Star, “but at the same time if that's what it took for me to grow maturation-wise to where I am, so be it.”
- It's no secret that the perception of Big Ten football is down around the country. From the Penn State scandal, to Ohio State's bowl ineligibility, to the numerous primetime nonconference games where Big Ten's teams have fallen flat, commissioner Jim Delany isn't hiding from the fact it's been a struggle. “You live with the facts and own up to the facts. Penn State and Ohio State didn't play the ‘what if' game this year. They managed their situations,” he said to the Indianapolis Star. Though Saturday's game probably isn't the ideal matchup for TV ratings, it's the reality of an odd year in the Big Ten.
- Wisconsin has recently produced a long line of NFL-caliber tight ends, but all-Big Ten TE Jacob Pedersen vastly underperformed against Nebraska in the teams' first meeting. Pedersen struggled with his run blocking and made a few untimely drops. In fact, it was the only game this season where he failed to record a catch. “I wasn't as physical as I would've liked to be,” he said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I didn't make plays when given the opportunity. I had a couple tough plays but they are catches I have to make.” Pedersen said he studied film of that game numerous times and is eager to prove it was an aberration.
- Many of Nebraska's upperclassmen were with the Huskers when they blew an early 17-0 lead against Oklahoma in the 2010 Big 12 Championship game. Senior TE Ben Cotton said finishing has been a point of emphasis all week heading into Saturday's game. “I think we got up by so much that we kind of took our foot off the pedal,” he said of the 2010 game to the Lincoln Journal Star. Easing up toward the end of games hasn't been an issue this year for the Huskers, who have four comeback wins. In fact, Wisconsin is the one which should be concerned about closing games. It lost the first meeting in Lincoln after coughing up a 27-10 lead in the third quarter. The comeback marked the second-biggest in Nebraska's history.
- It's been a long road for Badger QB Curt Phillips , whose three ACL surgeries derailed a once promising career. Phillips waited while Wisconsin toiled with transfer-QB Danny O'Brien and then watched as freshman Joel Stave took over the offense before breaking his collarbone. Three games ago, Phillips got his chance at Indiana and seized it. Though Wisconsin's offense is predicated on a stout rushing attack, Phillips has managed the three games well, throwing four touchdowns against an interception. Phillips already has played -- and lost -- to Ohio State and Penn State but experience against those two teams could be invaluable against Nebraska's top-rated pass defense. “We all know he's a good athlete,” coach Bret Bielema said to the Star Tribune. “We know he can run. But he's very, very clean and precise in his throws, his reads, his reactions.”
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.