WNUR Sports Social Media Director Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger) previews Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game between the Wisconsin Badgers in the Nebraska Cornhuskers with the help of a simulation done by NCAA Football ’13.
Northwestern’s regular season has ended, but their story is far from finished. The Wildcats’ bowl destination hinges on the result of the Big Ten Championship Game, and, to a lesser extent, the SEC Championship Game. Time to break out the simulation to spotlight the Nebraska-Wisconsin matchup.
When these two teams met in week 5, the simulation correctly predicted a narrow Nebraska victory. What will happen this week, in the game and in real life?
As always, I’ll use NCAA Football 13’s SuperSim function under default settings to determine the winner of the game.
Key players on Nebraska:
HB Rex Burkhead (SR): 91 Overall, will miss game due to injury
SS Daimion Stafford (SR): 88 Overall, 92 tackling
QB Taylor Martinez (JR): 88 Overall, 85 elusiveness
Key players on Wisconsin:
HB Montee Ball (SR): 95 Overall, 91 break tackle
MLB Chris Borland (JR): 93 Overall, 95 tackling
TE Jacob Pedersen (JR): 90 Overall, 92 catching
Nebraska: Overall: A-, Offense: B+, Defense: B+
Wisconsin: Overall: A, Offense: A-, Defense: B+
Wisconsin used the power run game early. Montee Ball had some success up the middle, but Nebraska’s defense caught on quickly. The momentum swung early when Wisconsin came up short on fourth down at the Nebraska 35. Nebraska marched down the field and scored the first touchdown of the game halfway through the first quarter. Wisconsin came back with a 9 play, 75-yard drive to tie the score at 7. The first quarter ended with Nebraska driving and the score tied at 7.
The second quarter didn’t feature the same level of offense. Nebraska’s drive stalled in the red zone, resulting in a field goal to give the Huskers a 10-7 lead. The only other scoring in the first half came late, when Wisconsin ran a near-perfect two-minute drill to score on a short passing touchdown. The Badgers took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
In the first half, Wisconsin ran 10 more plays than Nebraska and had a 50 yard advantage in total offense. All signs pointed to this one coming down to the wire.
Both teams’ defenses really picked up their play in the second half. More than half of the third quarter elapsed before either team recorded a first down. Wisconsin went 80 yards in just 4 plays thanks to some long passing, and the Badgers took a 21-10 lead. The Cornhuskers’ offense continued to struggle, with quarterback Taylor Martinez making bad decisions and holding on to the ball for too long.
Wisconsin had the ball, an 11-point lead and all the momentum at the start of the fourth quarter. That drive ended with a missed field goal, so the score was still 21-10 when Wisconsin got the ball back. Despite the two-score deficit, they showed no hurry, calling runs on three of their first four plays. Three passing plays later, the Cornhuskers were in the endzone. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 21-16 with 3:08 remaining. The ensuing possession featured six straight carries by Montee Ball, but Wisconsin ultimately had to punt.
Wisconsin took over at their own two yard line with 1:45 remaining, needing a touchdown. Nebraska came out throwing, but Wisconsin was all over the short passes, forcing the Huskers to turn it over on downs. Rather than run out the clock, Wisconsin scored immediately to take a 10-point lead. Nebraska got the ball back one more time and managed a long touchdown drive, but failed to recover the onside kick with 8 seconds left.
Wisconsin wins the virtual Big Ten Championship, 28-23
In the SEC Championship game:
In a game with some bowl implications for Northwestern, Alabama cruised to a 27-10 win over Georgia in the simulation.
With these two results, Northwestern would most likely end up in the Capital One Bowl, with Nebraska in the Outback Bowl and Michigan in the Gator Bowl.