The dust from the Wisconsin game has settled, and had to do so in a hurry. Thanks to Nebraska’s punishing Big 10 schedule, the buzz for the next matchup started on Sunday for the game today against Ohio State. Some say this is the biggest game of the year for the Big 10 conference, or at least the biggest marquee showdown.
First, there is the revenge factor again in this game, except the revenge is aimed at the Huskers. Big Red fans won’t ever forget the march from a 27-6 deficit to a 34-27 victory last fall in the rainy weather. Buckeye fans wish they could forget. Though there is no doubt that the Buckeye faithful will bring their painful memories tonight in the form of some incredible noise.
Second, there are the coaches. Bo Pelini returns to his alma mater tonight. It will be interesting to see what sort of reception he will receive in Columbus. On the other side, a coach like Urban Meyer always brings attention with his many successes at the college coaching level. Meyer, known for coaching speed, against Pelini, the defensive guru. This game should be a great chess match of the minds.
Finally, there are the quarterbacks. There is little to no doubt that almost all eyes will be on Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller. Forget last season. Yes, some say Miller’s injury attributed to Nebraska’s comeback win, because prior to that injury, Braxton was having his way with the Blackshirts. That may be partially true, but Miller only plays on one side of the ball. Much credit also goes to the offense whom came alive in the second half. Both quarterbacks have grown this year, but both are also still able to make mistakes. The best quarterback performance may decide who wins tonight.
Unfortunately, there are a few reasons to say that, despite the Top 25 allure of this battle, it may not be the biggest game of the season. Oh, undoubtedly it has its strong points. Nebraska and Ohio State have been placed as No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference. The winner will get bragging rights as the current throne-holder. . .until the next week, that is. There are also a few truths that dampen the “BIG-ness” of this game.
First, Big 10 Championship implications – it really has none. Ohio State can’t win it nor any other championship, so all they really have is bragging rights this year. Also, all the more reason for them to play their hearts out every week. For Nebraska, while losing this game would make every other game this year a must win situation, it wouldn’t count them out for the Big 10 title. The Huskers would have to seal a win with all division foes to buy a ticket to Indy.
Second, this game benefits from the Big 10 having, let’s be honest, a really rough year so far. In the eyes of the Pac 12, Big 12, and SEC, the Big 10 is looking a little limp. The joke floating around the football sports world right now is that the prize for winning the Big 10 is a Pac 12 beat down at the Rose Bowl. Unless something changes, there may be a lot of truth to that. Last year, when it seemed like every game on every weekend could change the course of the conference championship, there’s much more of a hardline separating the Top 6 from the Bottom 6 of the conference. Throw in some probations and it’s just not the same batch of teams this year. Every conference experiences this, however, and the Big 10 will rebound. It’s up to Nebraska to be opportunistic now.
Last, but not least, while this game may feel like a big deal for the Big 10, probably not so much in eyes of the nation as a whole. Despite Nebraska vs. Ohio State having primetime privileges, the talk will be about Florida vs. LSU, Georgia vs. South Carolina, and West Virginia vs. Texas (Husker fans would undoubtedly love to see Geno Smith solidify his Heisman campaign with another arcade-style game against the Longhorns). All of these will make for a fantastic night of football. Since the stakes are lower for Nebraska vs. Ohio State, it may be taking a back seat to the other prominent matchups.
What’s really important, the rest of the nation aside, is that all that is on Husker Nation’s mind is Ohio State. Even though this game may not have a season-ending consequence on either side, a big win for Nebraska may bring them back to national attention come Sunday morning. Forget UCLA, these players have grown significantly.
Keep the defibrillators close again, this could be another crazy Saturday night.
By Tyler Wanek
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