9 stars. Wisconsin was in the Rose Bowl last season, and has been a road block for Nebraska since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. The Badgers may not quite have the star power they normally do, but this is still the team to beat in the Big Ten West.
This could be regarded as the most critical game on Nebraska's schedule, as the Huskers are in position to pick up a significant energy boost by finally beating the Badgers, who have won eight of the past nine in the series, including seven in a row. That's sort of pathetic for NU if you think about it. But UW likely will be without starting quarterback Jack Coan (foot), on whom the Badgers were counting to bring along some young players at the skill positions. Wisconsin's strength should be its defense, as the offense incurred significant personnel losses from last season's roster -- most notably running back Jonathan Taylor. Husker defenders far too often were chasing after him the past three seasons. Of course, they weren't the only ones. Bottom line, NU needs to avoid an 0-2 start heading into a tough game at Northwestern.
What's this? Nebraska's defense largely corrals Wisconsin's run game? It could happen, as the Badgers will have a hard time replacing Taylor. They also have only two returning starters on the offensive line. Wisconsin may be pretty ordinary on offense, especially with Coan watching on the sideline.
The main cast
OL Cole Van Lanen. With the departure of Taylor, and the injury to Coan, Wisconsin's offensive line might be leaned on even more than usual. Van Lanen gives the Badgers a senior stalwart to protect the blind side of whoever lines up at quarterback.
LB Jack Sanborn. Sanborn led Wisconsin last season with 80 tackles, tied for the team lead with three interceptions, and had nine tackles for loss. Other Badgers on that side of the ball get the headlines, but Sanborn is a consistent performer.
TE Jake Ferguson. Lots of questions on Wisconsin's offense when it comes to skill guys. Ferguson was the team's second-leading receiver last season, and could be a security blanket as the offense finds its footing.
O24, Illinois; O31, at Nebraska; N7, Purdue; N14, at Michigan; N21, at Northwestern; N28, Minnesota; D5, Indiana; D12, at Iowa.