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  • Ready or Not? Here We Go...

    Believing with one’s heart and football outcomes don’t often dance in the same boudoir and wagering with one’s heart usually makes it harder to afford silk sheets for the California king. Any non-partisan NFL realist blowing around the Windy City last week had their head on perma-shake listening to every AM jock justify how the Bears could down the defending champion Packers. A Bears team with an O-line that can resemble a swinging gate, unreliable receivers, and an underachieving defense.

    I’d be willing to bet at least one Husker fan is eye-rolling ‘Da Bears’ fans while concurrently believing NU will down the defending Big Ten Champion when the Huskers employ an O-line that can resemble a swinging gate, unreliable receivers, and an underachieving defense. That’s OK though, involving one’s heart in the college game makes a lot more sense to me for some reason and my point is not be a doomster, but a realist.

    On paper and based on current work in the books, there’s no way the Huskers win this game with the gamblers agreeing by escalating an NU +7 spread to upwards of +10. Of course, the last time an NU win seemed this unlikely was probably in 2009 when a simple kick-off wandering out of bounds and an untimely horse collar were all that kept believing hearts from having the last tango in Dallas. In short, I see two ways that the Huskers actually can win this game.

    Reason One: The B1G Just Isn’t That Good
    Year after year the Big Ten is touted as a tough league and year after year 2-5 and 3-4 bowl records tell the truth. In the 2006 season we were ordered by the media to believe Ohio State and Michigan were the best two teams in the country and both getting unapologetically obliterated in the BCS title game and Rose Bowl? Even the momentous 4-3 2009 bowl campaign with 2 BCS wins didn’t tell the biography of how Ohio State’s and Iowa’s respective Rose and Orange triumphs were over hapless Oregon and Georgia Tech; a couple of teams that finished with 3 losses, a few of which weren’t pretty.

    However, with all the writers writing for all the TVs being watched in Big Ten land, the mock legend is reborn every year. Might as well add into the mix Wisconsin’s wilted Rose performance against BCS buster TCU in January. Sure, Wisconsin’s season looks extremely promising thus far, but no more than a slew of teams do every year by easily dispatching a sketchy non-conference slate on their way to 3 or 4 loss campaigns. Nothing is proven in this early season and, even with all of NU’s exposed flaws, it wouldn’t be a sign of the apocalypse to learn that an improved, solid showing by NU is equal to the task.

    Of course there’s also a fighting chance that Wisconsin’s cheese is “100% real” in which case the status quo Huskers with a modicum more of “getting it” won’t be enough. The need to gameplan to play a better team is a reality that would need to be faced and one I expect the coaches have contemplated.

    Reason Two: Get Tricky
    I’m not suggesting a steady diet of Fumblerooskis and Black 41 Flash Reverses, but you can be certain the repeated toss plays to a deep back that worked late in Laramie will get stuffed early and often in Madison. I’m sure Bo-Beck already knows this and it was no accident Tim produced a little ‘Wildcat Rex’ movie just in time to give Bret I-can’t-pronounce-it-right Bielema a reason to make a little more popcorn. I would call that a good start, but it’s also time to figure out how much secret sauce Beck still has welded in the hidden compartment of Wonder Woman’s invisible airplane, parked in the heavily-guarded, impenetrable basement vault of the Batcave.

    I personally don’t think there’s much we haven’t seen at least once, but Tim has intentionally never put it all together in a single game. There’s a zone read sweep with a lateral option we haven’t really seen since the Chattanooga game. The sweep fake option pass has been used sparingly as have the FB dives. All good stuff, but still seemingly framed around a foundation of wanting to run straight ahead, which isn’t likely to work in this scenario.

    What I’m getting at is NU should throw the misdirection kitchen sink at Wisconsin’s well coached, but young D. It seems like every time I’ve seen a suspect O-line control a more talented, attacking D, misdirection was the prescription given in heavy doses. Whether it be 1996 UT, 2001 CU, almost any close game or loss NU had against Mizzou pre-Brad Smith, or just about every game Boise State played before actually getting talent; a bunch of block this way, run that way went a long way. In fact one of the only clichés announcers ramble on about that I truly endorse is how misdirection causes an aggressive D to overpursue, mostly because it’s true.

    A number of Beck’s formations combined with NU’s agile skills players are perfectly suited to run delayed handoffs, tosses, screens, or reverses against the grain. I'd be surprised if Tim didn't have one or two of those in his arsenal. Used in tandem with the aforementioned plays and a true triple option threat incorporating midrange passes to the middle of the field, I believe the Huskers could generate a lot of confusion. Upping the tempo of the no huddle a bit would be a welcome touch as well.

    On D, the answer is pretty obvious; NU is going to need to sell out against the run and play a lot of man coverage at the first sign the front seven is prone to getting gashed. I’d envision Stafford getting turned loose and almost expect the Bo-Carl to take the fight to Wisky with frequent secondary run blitzes. Expect every gap in the middle filled for the first time in three games and if NU gets beat on the edges or through the air, so be it, because the Badger’s monster RBs can’t be allowed to get to the second level untouched. UW is going to score points, the key is just going to be keeping it reasonable and not allowing them to dominate TOP with the type of grinding drives for which NU fans are used to seeing from their own team.

    As a fan, I’d like nothing more than to see NU play its first truly inspired and inspiring four quarter game of the year and kick the B1G door open with authority. As a realist, it’s hard not to wonder if Wisky is capable of blowing SoCal flashback-sized holes through the middle. Whichever way it goes, it’s going to be a fascinating game to watch. After the Bears got obliterated by the Packers, the media turned hard on coach Lovie Smith, calling it absurd and a cop out for him to utter a very familiar sounding phrase. “We just have a few things we need to get fixed,” Smith would say. Here’s hoping the similarities between the Huskers and Bears end about four hours before the post game presser.

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