2012 Big Ten Championship
November 30, 2012
No. 14 Nebraska (10-2, 7-1) vs. Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4), 8:17 p.m. Saturday (Fox)
WHAT’S AT STAKE
In short, the winner will play in the Rose bowl against whoever wins tonights Pac-12 championship game.
Nebraska, Legends Division champion, defeated Wisconsin in their first matchup in September, 30-27.
Wisconsin gets to play for a third straight Big Ten championship by default because the teams ahead of the Badgers in the Leaders Division, Ohio State and Penn State, are ineligible. Click here to see the trophy…
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball vs. Nebraska defense. The Badgers’ 1,500-yard rusher accounts for almost 35 percent of the Badgers’ offense. If Ball gets going, QB Curt Phillips will be more effective with play-action passes and Wisconsin will keep Nebraska’s high-powered offense on the sideline longer. The Huskers held Ball to 2.8 yards a carry in the first game. But Ball has been on a roll lately, and Nebraska is without defensive line anchor Baker Steinkuhler because of injury.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nebraska: RB Rex Burkhead, a 1,300-yard rusher a year ago, returned after a four-game injury layoff to spark the Huskers in the second half against Iowa last week. The Badgers rank second in the Big Ten against the run, but Penn State’s Zach Zwinak dented the Badgers for 179 yards last week. The fresh-legged Burkhead coupled with Ameer Abdullah give Nebraska a formidable 1-2 punch.
Wisconsin: Phillips is the Badgers’ third starter this season, and the question is how he will respond to the championship-game atmosphere. Phillips has completed just 52 percent of his passes and has been sacked nine times in his three starts. To his credit, he led fourth-quarter comebacks against Ohio State and Penn State, but the Badgers lost those games when he failed to move the offense in overtime.
FACTS & FIGURES
Wisconsin is designated as the home team for the game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Huskers are in their third conference championship game in four years. They lost Big 12 title games to Texas in 2009 and Oklahoma in 2010.
Ohter fun notes thanks to the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Info…
Nebraska gives up 152.2 pass yards per game, the fewest in the FBS this season. Two reasons for the Cornhuskers’ success are they do not allow many yards after the catch and they do not allow downfield completions. They rank second among all BCS automatic-qualifying schools in yards after the catch allowed per game (54.2), and they lead the Big Ten in fewest completions allowed (22) on passes thrown 15 yards or longer.
Wisconsin and Nebraska represent two of the winningest programs in the nation over the past four seasons. Wisconsin has the FBS’ 11th-best win percentage since the start of the 2009 season at .750 (39-13), while Nebraska ranks 13th at .736 (39-14).
Huskers sophomore wide receiver Kenny Bell has caught six of Taylor Martinez’s nine touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or longer this season, the most such touchdowns for any Nebraska player in the last nine seasons.
Nebraska has fumbled 32 times this season, with its opponents recovering 20, the second most in the FBS. Martinez has the most fumbles (14) in the FBS this season. It is the third straight season that he had the most or tied for the most fumbles in the FBS.
Wisconsin is converting 33.5 percent of its third downs this season, tied for 104th in the FBS. Last season, the Badgers led the FBS in third-down conversion percentage (52.2). One difference has been in the passing game. Wisconsin is completing 45.5 percent of its third-down passes, tied for the eighth-lowest percentage in FBS. The Badgers led the nation in third-down completion percentage last season (71.7).
On designed running plays this season, Martinez is averaging a career-high 7.6 yards per rush against Big Ten opponents. That is three yards per carry more than last season. Martinez had 90 yards on eight such runs in the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin, including two runs that gained 20 yards or more.
The nation’s top tackler over the past two seasons with 265 total stops, Wisconsin senior linebacker Mike Taylor has averaged 18.6 tackles in two career games against Nebraska. He had a career-high 22 tackles last season and totaled 15 stops in the teams’ Sept. 29 meeting in Lincoln.
According to STATS LLC, Nebraska’s four second-half double-digit comebacks in 2012 not only lead the nation, but represent one of just four times since 1996 that an FBS team has posted as many as four double-digit second-half comebacks. North Carolina State had six such comebacks in 2000, while NU is one of three with four comebacks. The four second-half double-digit comebacks in 2012 are also the most in school history.
Wisconsin has lost just 11 turnovers on the season, matching Iowa for the fewest in the Big Ten and tying for the fourth-fewest nationally. Only Ohio (8), Pittsburgh (8) and Kansas State (9) have fewer giveaways than UW this season.
With 18 touchdowns on the year, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is the first player to lead the Big Ten in scoring in three consecutive seasons since at least 1939. •Nebraska has defeated a team twice in a season only three times in school history. In 1891, Nebraska and Doane College met three times, with the Huskers winning two of those games. In 1894, Nebraska defeated the Omaha YMCA twice, while Nebraska also defeated Nebraska Wesleyan twice in 1896. The Huskers beat Wisconsin 30-27 on Sept. 29 in Lincoln.
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