Any conversation about the lofty expectations for Nebraska's defense in 2011 traced back to three players: DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard.
All three earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010, and both Crick and David earned second-team All-America honors as well.
But four games into the season, Big Red's Big 3 haven't been on the field together.
The wait ends Saturday night in Madison.
Crick will return to the lineup against No. 7 Wisconsin after missing the Wyoming win with an apparent head injury. Coach Bo Pelini said Crick will return to practice Monday afternoon after sitting out workouts all last week. Pelini reiterated that Crick got "dinged up" in a Week 3 win against Washington, not calling the injury a concussion.
Bottom line: Nebraska's defense will be at its best against Russell Wilson and the Badgers, who rank sixth nationally in scoring (48.5 ppg) and eighth in total yards (532.3 ypg). Dennard missed the first three games after suffering a quad injury midway through training camp.
"Obviously, having those three guys out there together, along with everybody else, we've got to keep upping our level of play regardless of who's on the field," Pelini said.
Having Crick back in the middle of the defensive line should help against Wisconsin's run game. Nebraska's biggest key will be getting Wilson into obvious passing situations, which will allow Dennard and others to make plays on the ball.