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Posted on Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Nebraska facing tough road, high expectations for first football season as Big Ten member

By Kyle Meinke


Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, left, hands the ball to running back Rex Burkhead on Saturday, the first day of practice for the Cornhuskers.

Associated Press

CHICAGO — Why is there so much anticipation for the start of the Big Ten football season?

Here’s looking at you, Nebraska.

The league announced last year it would expand to 12 teams by adding the Cornhuskers. To accommodate the move, the Big Ten split into two divisions of Leaders and Legends for football and created a title game, which will be played Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

Last week, the conference announced it would add a ninth game to the league schedule beginning in 2017. It has played an eight-game schedule since 1985.

That’s a lot of change for the typically staid Big Ten — and now it's upon us, with the media days held last week in Chicago and fall camps opening this week.

“You’re talking about a storied program with a great history,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said last week. “I think the excitement of the tradition that Nebraska brings into the Big Ten, then us having a championship game, I think it just brings more fanaticism for the Big Ten Conference.”

The Cornhuskers figure to make a splash right away, as they kick off their first Big Ten season with a primetime road game against Leaders Division favorite Wisconsin on national TV.

“It’s games like that that make us so excited to join the Big Ten,” said star Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, whom the media chose as its preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year. “My team loves to play in atmospheres like that, we thrive in atmospheres like that. We love night games, it’s kind of our thing.

“I’d rather play in Camp Randall every single game than a game that wasn’t so crazy. And we got kind of a rivalry already going against Wisconsin.”

Nebraska enters the Big Ten featuring one of the league’s most formidable defenses, led by Crick and linebacker Lavonte David. The unit was ninth last year in scoring defense while playing in the high-scoring Big 12.

High expectations — but some real obstacles — await the Cornhuskers this year.

Coaches review lots of film in the offseason, and spend extra time prepping for any new opponents they will face. But most coaches don’t have to face 11 new opponents, like Nebraska will this year. Only Washington is a repeat game from last season.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he began watching film in February to get ready for the challenge

“We’ve had a great off-season,” he said, “and we’ve needed it.”

How will Pelini adjust his game plan to the Big Ten brand of football he’s seen on tape?

“We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well,” he said. “We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make he conference adapt to what we do.”

Further complicating things for Nebraska is its Big Ten draw. In addition to the opener at Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers will play at Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan, and host Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa.

“The schedule-makers didn’t do us any favors our first year,” Pelini lamented.

Still, most media outlets are picking Nebraska as the overwhelming favorite to win the Legends Division this fall. The Cornhuskers will make things tough on their new Big Ten brethren — but they also have made things easier.

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said he already has noticed — and benefited from — the addition of Nebraska.

“I’ve noticed it in recruiting,” Bielema said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents or recruits sitting in my office talking about the Big Ten Network and the exposure that it brings, to bring Nebraska in, and for us to be part of the Leaders Division.”

Former Wisconsin coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez likes Nebraska’s fit in the Big Ten, and thinks the championship game should help the league remain competitive late in the season.

“It makes us relevant after the (regular) season,” Alvarez said during an interview last month. “It really has hurt us (not playing later in the season), a few years in particular where we finished the season and name a champion, everyone else is playing in championship games and we’re watching.

“Our guys are sitting an extra 10 days. We’re going into bowl games sometimes with 50-some days off. It’s hard. This makes things better for everyone, other than the fact you actually have to play them.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Ann Arbor Husker

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Nebraska fans appreciate the kind words and welcome from Michigan fans and other fans from the Big Ten schools. We cordially welcome Michigan, and the Big Ten, to NEBRASKA FOOTBALL!!! We're also quite fond of our women's volleyball and baseball teams, as well. We look forward to the competition!

Wally the Wolverine

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

Now c'mon Blu-dogg97, I'm just having a little fun with our new opponent.


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

@ Husker in Mi don't listen to Chad W. and Wally they are not Michigan fans,they are either ohio,or MSU fans trying to create havoc here at Real Michigan fans respect Nebraska,and welcome the competition.. respect is gain on the playing field,not being an imposter posting nonsense on a Michigan thread..

Chad Williams

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

Since respect is gained on the feel why do you think Michigan should be respected lol. What have they done too earn that and dont give me the 3 bad years with RR excuse they lost respect before he arrived.


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 5:53 a.m.

The 9 game conference schedule arguably prevented any Pac-Ten runner-up/co-champ from getting a BCS bid. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Wally the Wolverine

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to a tougher conference and a series of thrashings at the hands of the maize and blue. Thanks also for having red uniforms (an informally banned color in and around Michigan Stadium), you provide us with a built-in reason for disliking you as much as that school in ohio. Go Blue!


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 4:29 a.m.

@ Husker in Mi don't listen to Chad W. and Wally they are not Michigan fans,they are either ohio,or MSU fans trying to create havoc here at Real Michigan fans respect Nebraska,and welcome the competition.. respect is gain on the playing field,not being an imposter posting nonsense on a Michigan thread..

Husker in MI

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

This is why I can't stand UofM...arrogant fans who have absolutely no respect for other teams. I live in MI, and have for 25 years, and I'm sick of hearing this pompous garbage every year. I'm not sure what you watched the last 2-3 years that makes you think you will thrash anyone...unless Appalachian State is on your schedule, oh, oops, sorry, that one just slipped out. You have a great university with a phenomenal football tradition...maybe your fans could start acting in a manner that represents this great tradition better. Show some respect, be grateful you have a program like Nebraska joining your conference &amp; look forward to the challenge they present each year. As a Husker fan, I am excited for the challenge of playing in the B1G. I think its a great fit for both NU &amp; the conference.

Chad Williams

Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Nebraska was a good plan b choice. Even though recently they have been pretty solid they werent the best team in the overall big 12. They are the 3rd at best in the conference, even with a bad year from UT they didnt surge as a 2nd party BCS team for that conference. Solid addition yes, but i dont think they will fare well with Wisc, Osu, Msu, Mich, Iowa and i believe they play Psu as well. Even if they dont play Psu thats the top 5 teams overall in the conference, they win the division then i guess the big ten has just gotten another black eye.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

As a life long Husker fan and alumnus I could not have been more pleased with joining the Big 10. It's where Nebraska belongs imo and have for the past 50 years. We share so many basic values with many Big 10 teams and will have instant rivalries with WI and Iowa! It's going to be fun win or lose playing the many great venues and teams in the conference. I've already scored tickets for the WI and PSU games and can't wait for those games. As for what to expect from the Huskers? I will guarantee one of the friendliest stadiums and best game day experience in the country. You will never have to worry about mistreatment in Lincoln because we welcome fans from all teams! It's what college football is all about. Seeing a game in Lincoln is something every Big 10 fan should experience as I'm looking forward to visiting our opponents stadiums. We'll give a good account of ourselves but we have a rough road ahead. I believe most Husker fans figured the schedule would get loaded up with top B10 teams and it is! ThaOKs ok because if you want to be the best you have to play the best. We'll have an outstanding defense while the jury is out on the offense. IF we get acceptable QB play we have lots of talent on offense. Perhaps the best stable of young RB's in the conference and finally some decent WR's. A couple of rising stars but it will boil down to getting good QB play if we're going to do well........... Bottom line is I really appreciate all the positive comments from B10 fans. It's nice to join a conference where we're welcome and it should be a great season. I'm sure we'll get out lumps but one thing you'll find from a Bo Pelini team and that's no lack of effort on the field. We look forward to long and profitable relationship with the B10..... . GO BIG RED................


Mon, Aug 8, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Cel Well written post and welcome to the B1G ,and if most of the Huskers fans are anything like you ,it should be a great competition,and a lot fun as fans competing with each other in the future.Nebraska is a great University, and you have the right to be proud of them.. You should try to score some tickets for the game at the BIG HOUSE,you won't regret it! Its an experience like none other..


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

wear not were


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

I was ecstatic to learn that the expansion went to Nebraska. I just wish they had divided the conference along strict West-East criteria at the Indiana - Illinois border. Everyone would have played in the same division as their in state rival, and Wisconsin and Nebraska would be guaranteed to play each year. That could have developed into one of the top 10 rivalries in college football but won't have a chance to because they will skip so many years. Both fan bases travel extremely well, both were red and white and have bone crushing ginormous red and white offensive lines. Could have been an epic rivalry had the B1G given them the opportunity to play on a yearly basis.

Terry Star21

Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

The nebraska is most certainly a welcome sight to the Big Ten. Michigan will need some serious competition in a few years in the B10 that no other team can give them. Besides, I feel for the cornhuskers as they have a nightmare coming up in Ann Arbor in mid-November, wouldn't wish that on anyone - welcome to the Big House boys ! MgoBlueForTim.........and a loooooong trip home for nebraska this fall...


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

have you seen the M defensive personnel? let's hope for a miracle with the teaching of fundamentals.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

The &quot;staid&quot; Big Ten was the first conference to have it's own network creating a financial windfall that has allowed it to be prudent on expansion and not just expand for the sake of expansion and a few extra bucks. The Big Ten has set the standard in creating a successful business model that is the envy of all other conferences.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

I think inviting Nebraska to join the Big 10 and Nebraska's decision to accept the invitation was a great decision for all parties concerned and a loss that the big 12 will feel for some time to come. We got a quality member added to the Big 10 and Nebraska joined probably the best all around (including education) conference in all of college sports and academics and I am referring to all aspects and advantages of being a Big 10 member. Good luck Nebraska look forward to seeing you on the gridiron, basketball court and all other sporting venues the Big 10 offers and that you contribute to as an active member of the bigger and better Big 10.


Sun, Aug 7, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

Nebraska and Michigan have a lot in common. Like Michigan, Nebraska went through some lean years for awhile under an offensive-minded coach who tried to turn Nebraska into something it wasn't and they paid the price for that. They then went back to their roots and re-established their identity as a tough-minded defensive team and they've been winning with solid defense ever since in the high-scoring Big 12. It is no accident that players like Ndamukong Suh played at Nebraska. In time, I think Brady Hoke is going to perform the same turnaround at U-M that Bo Pellini did at Nebraska but it might take a year or two. I think Nebraska and Michigan have distinct personalities and traditions but now they both have coaches at the helm who understand their schools' traditions and what makes them great and are a good fit at their respective programs.