NU-Wisconsin

Wisconsin has defeated Nebraska in six of seven meetings since the Huskers joined the Big Ten.

I’ve said that it won’t feel as if Nebraska has really joined the Big Ten until it can win — and matter — in the league in football. Do the schools really know Nebraska’s alive?

Well, maybe that’s starting to change with the hiring of Scott Frost.

I received an email Wednesday from Robert Schwoch, a journalism professor at Wisconsin and a former sports writer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As part of his job, Schwoch reads a lot of Big Ten coverage, and he mentioned that The World-Herald’s Big Red Today was an occasional example of college sports coverage for his students. That’s nice to hear. But that’s not why I’m writing about Schwoch.

He wrote the following, and with his permission, I wanted to share it:

Greetings from Wisconsin, where I’m writing to say welcome, Scott Frost. Wisconsin needs you. The Big Ten West needs you. The whole league needs you.

A few days ago, College Football Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt looked into a camera without visible irony and told the country Alabama had made the cut because they were the one-loss team with the least-bad loss, to Auburn.

Never mind that Wisconsin’s lone loss was a closer one, to Ohio State, which, unlike Auburn, landed in the committee’s top six. Never mind that Clemson was awarded the top seed despite losing to Syracuse, which didn’t win a game the rest of the season.

Alabama was in due to being Alabama. Conference titles and quality wins are secondary to the SEC hype machine.

Come back, Nebraska, please. Become the one additional powerhouse that makes the Big Ten impossible to discount.

No offense to the solid programs at Iowa, and Michigan State, and Northwestern. No disrespect to the progress being made elsewhere in the conference. I’ve seen Nebraska. Seen it close up.

I’m a former sportswriter — I like to say “sportswriter in recovery,” because you’re never really cured — and these days I teach sports journalism, among other things, at Wisconsin, my alma mater. Back in September, Nebraska invited all the sports journalism instructors in the Big Ten for a conference in Lincoln, and a little tour of the NU athletic crib.

We gasped when we saw the weight room. Then someone said, "Oh, that’s the old weight room. We have a better one now."

New rule: If the lobby of your athletic department office has an actual waterfall, you’re not allowed to go 4-8.

"Does anyone in the state not wear something with 'Nebraska' on it?" one of us mused rhetorically.

We all ran out to the N on the Memorial Stadium turf and shot pictures of ourselves. Sportswriters did that! I even bought a Nebraska hat. I decided the Huskers would be my second-favorite Big Ten team. OK, third — I went to grad school at Northwestern. Tied for second, maybe. Let’s just not get a committee involved.

Then, the next day, Northern Illinois (beat Nebraska). I hid the hat.

Then weeks and weeks of national shade being thrown at Wisconsin and its soft schedule, including a game at sold-out Memorial Stadium.

Enough.

What a foil for Wisconsin a Frost-led team could be. Air versus ground. Speed versus power. Red versus a slightly-different red. One squad charging across the plains at the other, once a year, every year, full force. Whichever was left standing could not be ignored.

We’re here, Coach. We’re here, Husker Nation. We’re dying to be your new Oklahoma.

If you’ll just be Nebraska.

There will never be another Nebraska vs. Oklahoma tradition. Not around here. But it’s nice to know that some minds are open to starting a new one in the Big Ten. And some are rooting for Nebraska to get back in the game.

I thought about that on Sunday, as the fallout from the Alabama-Ohio State debate raged on the internet and air waves. The Big Ten wasn’t great this year. There’s a lack of juice, lack of national brand name. Part of that is on Michigan, and yes, part of that is on Nebraska.

I wondered how the Frost hiring and the reaction around Nebraska played around the league. I’m sure there was plenty of, “We’ll see about that” from Iowa to Penn State. But fans of Big Ten football have to be rooting for Frost, and Nebraska, too.

NU got the best hire of the offseason and that means the Big Ten did, too.

I know Husker fans have waited to show the Big Ten what this program aspires to be, what it once was. Glad to hear some in the league are waiting, too.

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