Nebraska football: Positives and negatives to the Wisconsin game being canceled
On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Nebraska’s game with Wisconsin had been canceled after the Badgers paused team activities due to positive coronavirus tests.
What a punch to the gut this is.
This hurts, not only for Nebraska’s players and coaches who were preparing for an opportunity to play another rated opponent, but also for the state. Huskers football games mean more to the local economy than many across the nation think. Even with limited attendance in the stadium, not hosting the Badgers on Saturday is devastating to the local businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.
What’s this mean on the football side of things? That’s not great, either.
Saturday’s contest against the Badgers was going to be a measuring-stick game for Nebraska — especially up front on the offensive and defensive lines. For years, fans have wanted to be a B1G-type of big and tough in the trenches, and last week’s loss to Ohio State showed that might be a possibility this season.
Wisconsin would have posed an incredible opportunity for the Huskers — not only to see how they stacked up against the Badgers, but also because Wisconsin is a West Division foe that’s beaten Nebraska in 7 straight.
Although it was nice to see, real improvement for the Huskers doesn’t start with hanging tough for a half against Ohio State. It comes by starting to beat teams in their own division consistently.
Even though Wisconsin has owned the series as of late, Saturday’s game was viewed as winnable for the Huskers. And that was if the Badgers had quarterback Graham Mertz or not.
In no way is the cancellation a positive for Nebraska. Sure, the Badgers could have flown in to Lincoln and left with their 8th consecutive win, leaving the Huskers with an 0-2 record heading into Northwestern. But just like everyone “wants Bama,” the folks of Husker Nation “want Wiscy.”
If you want to find a silver lining in this, view it as a positive for receiver Omar Manning and linebacker Luke Reimer, as well as the coaching staff that gets another week of scouting Northwestern.
Manning, the top junior college wideout in the nation and a big target — 6-foot-4, 225 pounds — that the Husker passing attack desperately needs, didn’t make the trip to Columbus last week because he wasn’t healthy enough.
Although senior linebackers Collin Miller and Will Honas are not in any threat of losing playing time — each had solid days against Ohio State — Reimer, a rising sophomore linebacker who was getting great reviews in camp, wasn’t healthy enough to play at Ohio State, either.
An extra week off should help any bumps and bruises from practices and the battle with the Buckeyes, but, again, if you ask anyone around Nebraska’s program, my guess is they were champing at the bit to get a crack at Wisconsin at home.
It’s only been 1 game, but Northwestern fans had to like what they saw from quarterback Peyton Ramsey in a 43-3 blowout win over Maryland. Ramsey, a gamer who transferred in from Indiana, went 23-of-30 for 212 yards and 1 touchdown while adding 47 rushing yards and 1 score on 7 carries.
Yes, Maryland is going to struggle this season, but considering how bleak it looked on offense for Northwestern last year — the Wildcats averaged just 16 points per game — last week’s showing of 537 total yards, 325 rushing and 212 passing, had to be a confidence booster.
Without a game this week, Scott Frost and his staff now have 2 two game tapes — Maryland and Iowa — to break down while Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald only gets the 1 against Ohio State.
Who knows what Frost’s game plan had in store for Wisconsin? Against Ohio State, was he saving certain plays — or players — so they wouldn’t be on film for the Badgers to prepare for? Anything is possible.
What’s not possible, it appears, is a game against Wisconsin.
A gut punch. Yeah, that’s about right.