Chances are you won't run into any Ohio State Buckeyes next weekend in downtown Indianapolis. But if you do, and they happen to say they are the real Big Ten champs, here's what you say:
1. Tell them they're “nuts.” Get it? Buckeyes? Nuts? Forget it.
2. Tell them to find a nice tattoo parlor in Columbus and have it engraved on their biceps.
Nebraska and Wisconsin will play for the right to be called the Big Cheese in the Big Ten next Saturday night, thanks to Ohio State's NCAA postseason ban. I've always wondered how the NCAA refuses to be associated with the BCS or bowl games, and yet reserves the right to tell schools they can't participate in games the NCAA wants nothing to do with.
In any case, Husker fans were afforded the luxury of sitting back and watching the “big game” Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, without having a stake in who won or lost. Their team gave them that satisfaction by beating Iowa on Friday.
Oh, I know some NU administrators who were rooting for Michigan because they wanted Ohio State to have a conference loss, same as Nebraska. But there were Husker fans also rooting for OSU because they didn't want to “share” the Legends Division title with Blue.
Personally, I was kind of pulling for Michigan because I like Brady Hoke's style. If I could wear a short-sleeve shirt every day, even in late November, I would.
I've always been a casual observer of “The Game,” because of the feud. But this time I knew the stadium, the giant flag pole, the coaches, the players. I even recognized the Ohio Stadium security guard who elbowed me on my way to the Nebraska locker room back in October.
After that, I couldn't stop watching Wisconsin vs. Penn State. Anybody else have the same problem?
Please, someone help. I'm becoming addicted to boring football.
It's true. As a Big Ten sophomore, I find myself paying more attention to the league. It helps when the team you follow is smack in the middle of the muddy scrum. For one thing, it keeps you awake.
But hey, truth be told, after a second tour around the league, I'm starting to embrace the Big Ten and its many storied traditions.
For instance, the tradition of the press box hot dog. Every stadium we went to this season — Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa — served up plumpers to the hardworking, hard-consuming media. That's not a bad thing.
For the record, Iowa has the best press box hot dogs in the Big Ten. So the Hawkeyes have that going for them. Which is nice.
The football may be sleep-inducing, but the Big Ten is anything but boring. Ohio Stadium is amazing. Northwestern's campus is stunning. Taking the train to the Northwestern game was pretty cool. But next time I'll transfer to the purple line earlier. The red line makes more stops than the Iowa offense.
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Driving the 90 miles from Detroit to East Lansing, we were aware of a local story about an interstate sniper along that road. Never had that before on a college football trip.
Husker fans invaded Columbus, took over Evanston but were fewer in number at Michigan State. Something tells me Nebraska fans will pick their spots in the Big Ten.
In the second year, the Big Ten feels more right than it did a year ago, when it didn't feel right. I think the same can be said for the Huskers.
They've acclimated themselves well to the league, but that doesn't mean boring. What we've seen the past six Nebraska games has been anything but boring.
This is a hard-hitting, bone-rattling kind of place. Isn't that old-school Nebraska, the way human missile John Ruud used to do it?
The Big Red have shown they can mix it up and take a hit, particularly P.J. Smith. Nebraska wanted to play that way in the Big 12, but the darned offenses wouldn't sit still.
That doesn't mean NU plods. Bo Pelini, with Tim Beck, has devised an offense that should serve it well, especially here in the “San Diego of the Big Ten,” as volleyball coach John Cook calls Lincoln.
The Huskers have a quarterback who can run, receivers who can spread out and make plays, a running back who can motor wide and cut back through openings. The offensive line was more up to Big Ten standards. The defensive line needs more depth, but after the Ohio State debacle, the Blackshirts figured out that tackling was a good way to stop a running back.
What Pelini could use more of is a huge plow horse, for those late November days in Iowa when the wind hits you like a cold shower. Rex Burkhead was right on time on Friday. Imani Cross could be that guy to round out a versatile offense.
The only thing left would be a special teams makeover artist. In a league where field position is king and real estate is gold, you'd better block a punt or return a kick once in awhile. And for goodness sakes, catch a punt.
Don't worry about ugly. Don't keep track of style points. I remember a certain 13-3 win over an average Oklahoma team one year, after which a national college writer stood in the end zone and declared, “Miami will destroy the Huskers in the Orange Bowl.” The year was 1994. How'd that work out?
This is not your father's Nebraska. These are your Huskers, and they're adapting to a new place, a new way of football, where five-loss Wisconsin plays for the league title and the Big Ten needs 5-6 Michigan State to beat 6-5 Minnesota to fill another bowl slot.
The Big Red are adapting quite nicely. In this age of realignment, they're ahead of the other expansionists (Colorado, Utah, Missouri, Texas A&M, West Virginia and TCU). NU is playing for the conference championship in its second year on the block.
For now, for this year, Nebraska was part of the reason that Ohio State-Michigan had nothing to do with the Rose Bowl.
Enjoy it. Word is that Urban Meyer and the Michigan guy in the short sleeves are doing some wicked recruiting. Ohio State-Michigan will probably be for high stakes again, and those teams will try to turn the old league into their war. But it will be interesting to see what type of nuisance the Huskers can make of themselves in the land of legends, leaders and hot dogs.
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