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Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
A lot of eyes will be trained on the running back positions Saturday night when No. 23 Wisconsin visits No. 20 Nebraska in the Big Ten opener for both. Wisconsin senior Montee Bell left Saturday’s victory against Texas-El Paso with concussion symptoms, his second head injury since Aug. 1. Bell rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns as a junior, though he’s off to a slow start this season. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, welcomed back all-Big Ten running back Rex Burkhead last week against Idaho State. Burkhead, who missed the previous two games with a sprained left knee, rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the 73-7 victory.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (3-1): The Badgers weren’t planning to break in a freshman quarterback this season, but ever since Joel Stave replaced highly touted transfer Danny O’Brien at halftime of the Utah State game Sept. 15, Stave has shown he’s the man for the job. Last week against UTEP, he became the first freshman to start at quarterback for Wisconsin since 2000. He wasn’t flashy but efficient, completing 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. With the running game banged up, Stave will likely inherit even more responsibility against the Cornhuskers.
ABOUT NEBRASKA (3-1): Taylor Martinez enters this game as the top-rated passer in the Big Ten. He’ll have additional motivation to erase the memories of last season’s game against Wisconsin, when he was intercepted a career-high three times in the 48-17 loss. Martinez hasn’t been running the ball as much as the last two seasons. He has 191 rushing yards in 37 carries for a 5.2 average. Whether he’s throwing the ball or on the run, he remains the focal point of an offense that leads the Big Ten in scoring average (48.5) and yards per game (541.8).
1. Wisconsin is making its first trip to Lincoln since a 20-16 loss in 1973. The Badgers only other visit was a 37-0 loss in 1965.
2. The Badgers made a recent change in their kicking game as well. After sophomore Kyle French sent a kickoff out-of-bounds for the second week in a row, freshman Jack Russell replaced him Saturday against UTEP and made all four extra-point attempts.
3. Nebraska has lost three of its last four conference home openers. The Cornhuskers lone win was a 34-27 victory last season against Ohio State in their Big Ten debut.