Nebraska and Wisconsin are not the same, despite the resemblance
There's a different tone around two programs in their first seasons under well-regarded coaches. If it shows up Saturday, advantage Huskers.
The easy joke to make a little more than a decade ago was that Nebraska and Wisconsin were virtually indistinguishable. It was hard to tell them apart visually from the neck down unless you were into uniform minutiae—same colors, same double stripes on the pants, same double-stripe with a TV number on the shoulders.
Maybe that’s why Adidas treated everyone in 2012 to what has to go down as one of the worst alternate uniform matchups of all time. It wasn’t easy on the eyes, but it was at least easy to tell the teams apart as Nebraska rallied from 17 points down to beat Wisconsin in Lincoln. The Badgers would eventually switch to Under Armour, which provided some sartorial separation by giving Wisconsin a custom number font and some other light detailing. By then, however, a visual resemblance was about the only one left between the two programs.
That wasn’t the case at the start of the Huskers’ Big Ten era. The Badgers were ranked No. 7 in 2011 when they hosted No. 8 Nebraska for its first game in the new conference. Wisconsin won that one. Nebraska won the following year, but suffered one of its worst defeats, 70-31, when the stakes were the highest two months later in the Big Ten Championship Game.
From that point on, no matter how the uniforms looked, these programs were not the same. Both programs churned through coaches in the decade to follow, but only Wisconsin kept winning. The Huskers’ only Big Ten win over the Badgers was that 2012 game played in alternate hell, which, in hindsight, makes for a handy metaphor—neither team looked like itself that day.
But here in 2023, maybe the scales are balanced again. Both teams are 5-5 entering Saturday night’s matchup in Madison. Both teams are flailing a bit near the end of their first seasons under well-regarded head coaches. Both teams are about as bad at scoring points (Nebraska: 16.5 yards per point, Wisconsin: 16.7) as they are good at preventing points (Nebraska: 16.9 yards per point allowed, Wisconsin: 17.0).
There hasn’t been a better time since October of 2012 to make a “Nebraska and Wisconsin are the same” argument.
I just wouldn’t.
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