When Nebraska joined the Big Ten two years ago, the prevailing wisdom from Big 12 fans went something like this: “Nebraska just traded Texas for Ohio State.”
Meaning: If you thought that Texas was a pain in the saddle, and ran the Big 12, wait until you see the Buckeyes.
I'm here to help. To get a handle on this theory, I sought the counsel of a third party, a friend who is a Michigan Wolverine grad but who has lived in Omaha 20 years.
Will Husker fans really grow to hate all things Ohio State?
“I will be completely unbiased,” said Bill Gerber, Mr. Michigan. “Ohio State fans are condescending. They are rude. It's not a collegial environment at Ohio State. It's more like an Oakland Raiders crowd.”
Good thing Mr. Michigan is unbiased.
Apologies to all Brutus fans out there. That was a bad idea. But it does illustrate a point.
Ohio State-Michigan is the white-hot rivalry in the Big Ten that NU can't yet touch. Nebraska is still navigating its way through the land of Great Lakes.
Time will tell if Huskers-Buckeyes takes on a personality. Games like Saturday night at Ohio Stadium will write the history.
But at a glance, Ohio State looks like a kindrid spirit to Nebraska.
The tale is in the tape.
All-time wins: Nebraska 850, Ohio State 830.
National titles: Ohio State seven, Nebraska five.
Conference titles: Nebraska 43, Ohio State 34.
Heisman Trophies: Ohio State 7, Nebraska 3 (though it's 6-4 according to Husker fans who say Eddie George has Tommie Frazier's trophy).
Draft picks: Ohio State 404, Nebraska 345.
Marching bands: OSU's “Best Damn Band In the Land” dots the “i.” NU's band once included a rock star.
Rimington Trophies: Ohio State 1; Nebraska — Dave Rimington.
And so forth. OSU (gray) and NU (cream) can't agree on what goes best with scarlet, but these two share a lot in common, right down to the cloud-of-dust heritage and coaches who belong on a college football Mount Rushmore.
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“There are a lot of similarities,” said Glen Mason, the former coach at Kansas and Minnesota who played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State. “The fans of both schools have tremendous passion. They know football. They are used to hard-nosed football, rugged defenses and ball-control offenses, although that's changed a little bit.”
Nebraska fans who make the trek to C-Bus this weekend might even feel at home in the “Horseshoe.”
“My understanding is Memorial Stadium was modeled after Ohio Stadium, which was built a year before Memorial Stadium (in 1922),” said John Ingram, NU's associate athletic director for capital planning and construction.
“One of the main similarities are the domes that both stadiums have. Ohio State's dome, which they call the rotunda, is in the main entryway of the stadium. Ours is Gate 20, on the east side of the stadium.”
Do the Buckeyes have, um, swagger? You bet. That “arrogance” was evident in the school's reaction to the NCAA looking into extra benefits for players at a local tattoo parlor and the way it almost dared the NCAA to put a postseason ban on OSU, which it did this year.
But one thing you hear over and over in the Big Ten is that, while some traditions and stadiums are bigger than others, no one school casts a shadow over the others.
“I remember when the Big 12 started, the Big Eight thought of it as expansion and the Southwest Conference considered it a merger,” said Mason, who works for the Big Ten Network. “I think the formula for the Big Ten is tried and true. Everyone shares the revenue. I mean, the schools look out for themselves, but the overall feeling is to do what's best for the league.
“I was a coach in the Big Ten and coached in Ohio Stadium, and you never, ever felt like Ohio State was running the league.”
Not that Urban Meyer won't try to do that on the field.
Meyer won two national titles at Florida, and he aims to build on that résumé at OSU. If Husker fans think that they have a national title-first mentality that is rare in the Big Ten, move over. Coach Urban thinks alike.
The coach brings his own swagger to the party. He's already ruffled feathers and provided a lightning rod of emotions. Meyer is going to shake things up in the Big Ten. He'll make a dull league interesting, and if he wins big, that can only help the league's bloodied national image.
“Every league has marquee schools,” Mason said. “Unless your marquee teams are doing well, it adversely affects the image of your conference.”
Ohio State and Michigan look to be climbing back. If they wind up in the top 10, or top five, the Big Ten's image will flip.
Nebraska can help that credibility, too. The Big Ten should root for a rivalry of the two scarlets. If they're at each other's throats, that means they're both winning.
The Huskers can fire a salvo on Saturday night with a hard-earned win at Ohio State.
By the way, that's The Ohio State University, as the Buckeyes call themselves.
Texas wishes it had thought of that first.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1025, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH
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