INDIANAPOLIS - Championship Saturday is finally here for Nebraska. The Huskers will try to take home their first conference championship since 1999 tonight in Lucas Oil Stadium when they take on Wisconsin.
As things get closer to kickoff, here are tonight's keys to victory for the Huskers over the Badgers. NU enters tonight's game as a 3 point favorite over Wisconsin.
Don't dig a hole
All season Nebraska has put themselves in tough situations, but they've been able to find ways out of them to make it tonight's Big Ten Championship game.
Even in their last meeting with Wisconsin the Huskers found themselves down 27-10 in the second half before scoring 20 unanswered points to pull off the victory.
It's unrealistic to think that Nebraska can continue to dig big holes and get out of them. They need to come out swinging right away tonight and not get down early.
Limit Ball's downhill runs
Wisconsin is probably going to want to run the ball at least 65 to 70 percent of the time tonight. In their perfect world running back Montee Ball would have 25 to 30 carries tonight for over 150 yards, helping their offense control the tempo of the game.
The key for Nebraska's defense will be to dominate up front and not let Ball get downhill on his runs. In the second half of the game earlier this year the Huskers did an outstanding job in slowing down Ball and limiting him to 31 yards on 15 carries.
Without Baker Steinkuhler playing in the middle, expect the Badgers to test the Huskers interior line early and often.
Force Phillips into passing downs
Wisconsin's Curt Phillips is the third different Badger to start at quarterback this season. Over his career Phillips has had three different ACL knee surgeries. Before the surgeries he was an explosive dual-threat quarterback. He can still run when he wants to, but by no means is he Braxton Miller.
The biggest difference between Phillips and former starter Joel Stave is arm strength. On the season Phillips has just three passes of 20 yards or longer and none of them have gone to wide receivers. Phillips doesn't have the arm strength to beat you deep like Stave, and that's something I'm sure Bo Pelini and his defensive staff have taken note of.
Be ready for the play action
If Ball is able to get running early, Nebraska's defense needs to be prepared for the play action pass from Phillips.
In the first meeting earlier this season Stave was able to hurt Nebraska's defense with the play action, but only because NU's safeties got caught cheating the run. Phillips is not Stave in terms of arm strength, but you still have to be ready for him to try to slip one over the top.
Wear the Badger defense down
I thought the reason why Nebraska was able to win that first game in Lincoln was they really wore down Wisconsin's defense.
The Badgers don't substitute very much, and they play their linebackers nearly the entire game. If the Huskers can get some up-tempo drives going they have the ability to tire down this Badger defense.
Look for running back Rex Burkhead to pound Wisconsin tonight, while Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard will serve as change of pace backs to keep Wisconsin off-balanced.
Callahan's weekly predictions
This is a program defining moment for Nebraska to capture their first conference championship since 1999. The players and coaches very much know what's in front of them tonight in Indianapolis. I expect Wisconsin's running offense to give Nebraska problems early, but the Huskers will adjust and finally get that conference championship that's eluded them their previous three tries.
Nebraska 31 Wisconsin 23
Alabama 27 Georgia 21
Florida State 44 Georgia Tech 24
Kansas State 40 Texas 27
Oklahoma 27 TCU 24
Season Record: 43-16 overall; 41-18 vs. points