COLUMBUS, Ohio — No “Welcome Home” banner at Port Columbus International Airport.
The outer belt of highway, the one named “Jack Nicklaus Freeway,” had not been renamed “Bo Pelini Freeway” for the weekend.
There was scarce mention in the Ohio media all week of a certain former safety and captain making his first trip back to Ohio Stadium.
Unless you count the article in the Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday, in which John Cooper, Pelini's coach his final three seasons as a Buckeye, said he doesn't take credit for anything Pelini did in his career, never kept in touch and never heard from Pelini after he left.
Welcome back, Bo.
This is no storybook tale that will unfold Saturday night as Nebraska makes its first trip back to the “Horseshoe” since 1956, when Wayne Woodrow Hayes' Bucks beat Pete Elliott's Cornhuskers, 34-7.
Pelini said it himself this week. Or, didn't say it. To be sure, he's proud to have been a Buckeye. But he said it in his businesslike manner. And he didn't engage any questions earlier this week about his return “home.”
No biggie. Bo is not a sentimental chap. He's not a storyteller.
But oh, what a chapter of his career he could write tonight.
“He hasn't mentioned it once all week,” said NU running backs coach Ron Brown. “But we all know what it would mean for him. He doesn't have to say anything.”
This is where it all started for Bo. The passion. The pride. The work ethic. The X's and O's came later, in places like San Francisco and New England.
But the love for the game was born and raised here, on the football fields of Ohio. Football means everything here.
A win tonight would mean even more.
For Pelini, the Nebraska head coach.
It's fitting that Pelini played down the homecoming theatrics. Tonight's game is more about where the man is today, in scarlet and cream, trying to push the boulder to the top of the hill.
Signature win. Statement win. Big win. Pick your cliché. Tonight Pelini could get the kind of victory that has eluded him in four-plus seasons.
The one that makes the world of college football stop and take notice.
What a time to do it. Look at the menu today. Texas-West Virginia, South Carolina-Georgia, Florida-LSU, to name a few.
Pull a W out of the shoe, and all of a sudden Nebraska vaults closer to the top 10 and is everyone's pick to win the Big Ten and smell roses.
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
And Pelini is one giant step closer to grabbing the brass ring he twice missed in Arlington, Texas.
The shortcomings have been well-documented. Penalties, turnovers, meltdowns.
One of these games, they're going to get it right, aren't they?
Why not tonight?
Braxton Miller qualifies as a reason. Ohio State's quarterback is a potential touchdown every play. He doesn't stay in the pocket long enough for an Eric Martin to maul him. He finds a lane fast and hits the jets. In Urban Meyer's spread-'em-out scheme, NU's linebackers and safeties will have their hands full.
Miller had the Huskers on their heels last year in Lincoln, and the Blackshirts never did stop him. An injury did.
The Bucks will miss running back Jordan Hall, but backs like Hall and his replacement, Carlos Hyde (who had a 63-yard touchdown gallop at NU last year), are there to take pressure off Miller. Braxton is the horse NU must corral.
I don't look for the Huskers to have a lot of success there. They're going to have to outscore Miller.
It can happen. Nebraska's offense has more options than Ohio State, and more than the Bucks (allowing 376 yards per game) have faced all season. But quarterback Taylor Martinez and Co. have to play the cleanest, best game of their careers. No turnovers or drive-killing penalties.
|PIGSKIN IN THE PARK|
|Click the image above to learn about "Pigskin in the Park," Omaha's ultimate Nebraska-Ohio State tailgate party.|
The Pelini/Martinez Era has gone into Husky Stadium and Boone Pickens Stadium and won shootouts against high-octane offenses run by quarterbacks now in the NFL. But more than 100,000 in Ohio Stadium, with Meyer patrolling the sideline, would qualify as the best win of the Bo Era.
Why not tonight?
Nebraska 28, Ohio State 24.
By the way, tonight is “Homecoming” for Ohio State. Maybe someone else, too.
Contact the writer:
402-444-1025, email@example.com; twitter.com/tomshatelOWH
* * *
>> Video: See this week's edition of "The Big Red Today Show":
>> Video: See this week's edition of "The Big Ten Preview Show":