Huskers not caught up in Wisconsin hype

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini addresses the media about the upcoming Wisconsin game at Monday’s press conference in Lincoln.

Story and photos by Dan Hoppen, NewsNetNebraska

Nebraska isn’t used to being the underdog, so Saturday’s trip to Madison to take on No. 7 Wisconsin will be a big change.

The Huskers have been heavy favorites for all four games this season, something that’s become fairly routine during coach Bo Pelini’s tenure. But most of the national fans and media expect the Badgers to bully the Huskers on their home field.

Pelini doesn’t care.

“I don’t pay attention to that stuff,” he said at Monday’s press conference. “You guys approach it any way you want. We don’t talk about if we are underdogs or 30-point favorites. Our approach doesn’t change.”

The Huskers have been impressive but not dominant in their 4-0 start, mostly beating up on lesser competition. Wisconsin also boasts a 4-0 record, but the Badgers have been far more assertive in their victories, winning by an average of 40 points.

Wisconsin combines a bruising power running game with dynamic quarterback Russell Wilson to give them one of the most diverse offenses in the nation. It’s this offense, coupled with a stingy defense, that has most experts picking against the Big Red.

But the players aren’t paying attention to the experts either.

“To me, once you step between the lines, all the fans and the hoopla surrounding the game just kind of goes away,” said senior Austin Cassidy. “I think people understand we really need to focus in and lock in on ourselves. We can’t really worry about all that other stuff that’s going on.”

Pelini has always been adamant about staying the course and treating each opponent as an equal, regardless of record or rank. So it’s no surprise that the coach is downplaying the significance as NU gears up for what will likely be its toughest game of the regular season schedule.

The Huskers certainly have areas that need to be shored up before Saturday, starting with the NU run defense. Nebraska ranks ninth in the Big 10 conference in rushing yards allowed and has surrendered 4.0 yards per rush so far. Wisconsin is third best in the Big 10 with 982 rushing yards to this point.

“It is just the next game on the schedule for us,” Pelini said. “We will concentrate on getting better as a football team right now. We have a lot of things to improve upon. We are working day in and day out to become a better football team.”

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