A preview of Nebraska's next opponent as published in The World-Herald on Oct. 27.
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Overall record, Big Ten: 5-2, 2-2 (tied-fourth West)
Offensive yards per play: 5.34 (tied-94th)
Defensive yards per play: 4.89 (20th)
Turnover margin: minus-0.14 (tied-76th)
Penalty yards per game: 32.4 (sixth)
Sagarin strength of schedule: third
Paul Chryst (15-5 at Wisconsin, 34-24 overall)
Chryst returned in 2015 to replace Bret Bielema after spending the three previous seasons as head coach at Pittsburgh. Chryst, 50, was born in Madison, played quarterback for the Badgers and was a Wisconsin assistant from 2005 through ’11. The Badgers are trying to get back to the top of the Big Ten, where they sat after the 2010, ’11 and ’12 seasons that followed with Rose Bowl berths. This team has lost twice — albeit by a touchdown at Michigan and a touchdown in overtime against Ohio State — but a season-opening win over LSU led to a 4-0 start.
Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Rudolph is also a former Badger and was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh before following Chryst to Wisconsin. Rudolph made a brief Nebraska stop, too, spending the 2007 season as the Husker tight ends coach for Bill Callahan. Wisconsin is trying to get back to where it was in 2014, when it ranked No. 22 in total offense and rode Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon to 320.1 rushing yards per game. It first needs to get its offensive line patched back together and better quarterback play. A healthier Corey Clement at tailback provides a big boost.
Coordinator: Justin Wilcox
Folks wondered what would happen after the Badgers lost Dave Aranda to LSU and also had to replace an All-America outside linebacker (Joe Schobert) and three starters in the secondary. But those concerns have been sacked with Wisconsin back among the nation’s best defenses under Wilcox, who previously was defensive coordinator at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington and USC. Wilcox has put some of his own touches on the 3-4 scheme but the results have been similar — only Ohio State has scored more than 17 on the Badgers. Some key injuries, however, have added a degree of difficulty.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt
The younger brother of former Wisconsin players J.J. Watt and Derek Watt is starting his breakthrough as a junior. At 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, Watt moved from tight end to outside linebacker before the 2015 season, and his first two years in the program were all but ruined by knee injuries. Watt had 2 ½ sacks, 3 ½ tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries in the Michigan State game, when he was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation national defensive player of the week. He ranks second in the Big Ten in sacks (seven) and tied for fourth in TFLs (9 ½).
THEY SAID IT
“As a coach, you want to go through the whole season with all your guys, but seldom if ever does that happen.” Chryst on his team’s injury problems
“In my opinion, he is the wheels of the offense. He does a great job of putting the play-makers (in place) and making key reads. I’ve been able to play against Tommy — this will be the third time — and his senior season he has made a lot of improvements taking care of the ball and putting his offense in the best position to win games.” Linebacker Vince Biegel on NU quarterback Tommy Armstrong
“I think both of us have the same mindset that we want to win, and we want to win bad, so whatever that asks for or whatever that entails, we’re ready to do that.” Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook on sharing time with senior Bart Houston
24.7: The third-down conversion percentage by opponents, which ranks No. 4 nationally.
34:25: Wisconsin’s average time of possession, which ranks No. 10 and two spots ahead of Nebraska’s 34:15.
298: Corey Clement combined rushing yards in last two games against Ohio State and Iowa (60 carries).
Sept. 3, LSU, W 16-14
Sept. 10, Akron, W 54-10
Sept. 17, Georgia State, W 23-17
Sept. 24, Michigan State, W 30-6
Oct. 1, Michigan, L 7-14
Oct. 15, Ohio State, L 23-30 (OT)
Oct. 22, Iowa, W 17-9
Oct. 29, Nebraska
Nov. 5, at Northwestern
Nov. 12, Illinois
Nov. 19, at Purdue
Nov. 26, Minnesota