INDIANAPOLIS - The Cornhuskers will be without center Justin Jackson and defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler for Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game, but Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said his team won't be limited by their absence.
"I feel like we have our full gamut, everything that we want, offensively and defensively, at our disposal, and I have a lot of confidence in the guys that are going to be playing," Pelini said Friday. "Even the guys that are filling in for the two football players we lost last week."
Jackson injured an ankle and Steinkuhler a knee during last week's victory at Iowa, shelving both seniors. But H-back Rex Burkhead, who has missed almost half the season because of a nagging knee injury, "is 100 percent," Pelini said, and "that's big. We're going to have a whole other option there, somebody to carry the football."
Wisconsin is without quarterback Joel Stave, who suffered a season-ending broken clavicle in October, but returns four defenders who missed the Badgers' loss to Nebraska in September.
A whole new arena
Nebraska chose not to hold a walk-through Friday, but Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said the Badgers did because he wanted quarterback Curt Phillips, who didn't attend last year's championship game because of a knee injury, to become acclimated to Lucas Oil Stadium.
He got some advice from a former Badgers quarterback, too. Jim Sorgi, who backed up Peyton Manning for six seasons, told Phillips to be prepared for drives that take place toward the south end of the stadium, where fans can stand in field-level suites. "It can look like 50 people are playing defense against you," Bielema said Sorgi told them.
As the designated home team, the Badgers are using the Indianapolis Colts' locker room this year, and Phillips was assigned Manning's old locker. "He was excited. He was a Manning fan growing up, so we put him in his locker," Bielema said. "He was like a king bee sitting there today. It was fun seeing that, and our kids are rolling with it and having a little fun."
A tough crowd
The Big Ten hoped that the matchup of Wisconsin and Nebraska, teams known for their rabid followings, would help the game top last year's announced attendance of 64,152. But the Cornhuskers sold only a little more than half of their allotment of 15,000 tickets, and ticket websites such as stubhub.com had hundreds of tickets available well below their $50-$175 face value.
Some seats are selling for as little as $20. But the conference remains confident that most seats will be filled and the stadium will appear packed.
Pelini said he expects a lot of Cornhuskers fans to show up, too. "I guarantee you, there are going to be a tremendous amount of walk-ups," he said. "Anybody who was at the Northwestern game and saw how many Nebraska fans showed up, and how they represented our program and the passion that comes along with it -- I would expect nothing less tomorrow night."