Note: We’ll be breaking down smaller aspects of the Nebraska-Wisconsin game throughout the week. Here’s one.
Wisconsin’s offensive line has reputation for excellence. So does Nebraska’s defensive line.
But only one of these units has had a strong start to the 2011 season: The Badgers’ Big Boys. Is some of that because of UW’s soft schedule? Yes. Is some of that because of Husker injuries? Yes. But the gap is there, and NU’s front four has to close it this weekend to have a fighting chance in Madison.
>> Play lower: Defensive line coach John Papuchis confirmed earlier this week that the pad level of his defensive line wasn’t what he wanted it to be on a few plays this year. That’s not an uncommon problem really — Nebraska has lanky defensive linemen – but Wisconsin’s size can make it a real problem. Once those guys get their hooks in you, watch out.
>> Pressure up the middle: Russell Wilson is athletic, smart and accurate as a passer. But he is not terribly tall. One reason he moves so well is out of necessity — he has to find throwing lanes. A good, solid, up-the-middle pass rush not only obscures Russell’s field of vision, it can keep him contained in the pocket if the defensive ends stay disciplined.
>> Shed blocks: The Huskers’ two-gap defensive scheme tends to rely on linebackers making tackles. That’s a fine system, but Wisconsin makes a lot of running hay off of backside holes created when the playside hole is closed. UW’s running backs are schooled in the stop-and-go, pick-and-slide running style that eats defenses apart if they overrun plays. That’s why NU’s defensive linemen have to shed blocks and be ready for runs coming back their way.