If it feels like my weekly rant is always starting off with a Nebraska flare lately, it’s because it is.
Let’s face it, people who know me know that I’m not the world’s biggest Husker fan.
I don’t particularly like writing about the Huskers. In fact, I would even file myself into the “hater” crowd from time to time, having grown up an Iowa football diehard. I snickered through the Callahan era, have thoroughly enjoyed some of Nebraska’s embarrassing losses since joining the B1G and, most weeks, I find myself cheering for them to lose.
When Nebraska first joined the B1G, I was elated. It was an instant geographical rival to my team. I couldn’t wait to hate them more. Hate! Hate! Hate!
Wrong. Instead of hating the Huskers, I found myself actually following them even more. I knew the players on their team better than a lot of “social” Husker fans I’d met. I haven’t missed a Husker football game since they became a member in 2011. I now find myself looking at their program in a different light and from a different prospective.
Whew, so glad I got that off my chest.
But, I will say this…
For the most part, I have always deep down inside respected the Nebraska program and history. How could you not? It raises the hairs on the back of my neck when fans of programs that haven’t accomplished near the historical success of the Huskers try to talk “smack” to Husker fans. Sure the program has fallen on some harder times over the last decade or so, but the bottom hasn’t exactly fallen out, now has it?
They still find a way to accomplish more than most football programs dream of year after year. As a college football fan, you have to respect that. If you can’t, you’re just kidding yourself.
I have always tried to follow football with an open mind and try not to let my personal biases get in the way when I evaluate any given team. There are many programs around the country of which I’m envious, the Nebraska Cornhuskers included – both historically and presently.
This year’s squad has been something of a mystery for me, as well as to most of Husker Nation. I predicted they would win the Legends division last August and even when they tripped up I was still confident in that prediction. I was in love with their offense and somewhat cautiously optimistic of their young defense. I continued to believe in this team even after the UCLA loss, as UCLA is a darn good football team.
Then Minnesota happened. There’s a program that hasn’t garnered much of my respect. You just can’t lose to Minnesota if you’re Nebraska. Not this year. Not most years.
So I jumped off. I started picking against them, and what do they do? What they’ve done ever since Bo Pelini arrived in Lincoln: perform under pressure.
Wrong again, I guess. It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong and it won’t be the last.
So here I am, back to Nebraska. Back to the team that I’ve found myself rooting against most of my life — but also a team that I’ve secretly admired since I was just a boy.
There’s just something about this team this season that has made them a “must watch” every Saturday. They continue to keep themselves in the Legends race and now control their own destiny with the Michigan State Spartans coming to town.
Let me just say this: when Nebraska has their backs against the wall, if you’re an opposing team, you don’t want any part of it. I think Michigan State overall is the better football team. They have proven that so far this season.
But this game, this Saturday, has a Husker win written all over it. Memorial Stadium is not an easy place to win for anyone. Ameer Abdullah could possibly be the leading candidate for offensive player of the year in the B1G. The defense everyone was worried about has grown up right in front of our eyes.
Make all the jokes you want about teams they’ve struggled with at home this season or Hail Mary’s that have bailed them out. All that matters is the scoreboard. Beating Michigan State isn’t going to be easy, but as most Husker fans have learned this season, nothing ever is with this team. They continue to find ways to win and you have to respect that.
So if I could paraphrase a quote from the great Wes Mantooth from Anchorman, “At the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain straight hate you Nebraska, but damn it, do I respect you”.
Penn State gets their turn in beating up on Purdue. If only every team in the B1G could have a chance to get right against the Boilermakers this season. Penn State is not a good football team but they do have the home field mojo working for them and that will be more than enough to beat the pants off Purdue. Look for Christian Hackenberg to put on a show in this game and give the Penn State faithful plenty of hope for the future.
Could Indiana give Wisconsin a scare? I don’t want to think that the Badgers would overlook any opponent in the B1G, but it could happen this week. Let me set it straight: I don’t think the Badgers will struggle in this game but better teams have overlooked opponents worse than the Hoosiers. They have a potent offense and they are a team playing for its postseason life. It just won’t be enough. I think Wisconsin will grind one out here, give up some points, and run the ball at will for a close but comfortable win.
The Buckeyes will continue to inflict pain and crush Illinois. It’s 19 B1G losses in a row (Illinois) vs. overall 21 wins in row (Ohio State) when these two teams meet Saturday. If that isn’t enough of a recipe for a blow out, I don’t know what is. Couple that with the fact that Ohio State doesn’t just need to win their final 3 regular season games, they need to look like the ‘72 Dolphins in doing so, and you have blow-out city. Ohio State is more than a worthy candidate for the National Title game if they finish this season undefeated and they will spend the next 3 weeks reminding the rest of the country of that fact.
In week 12, Northwestern will finally get its first conference win. Can’t believe I even just typed that… My goodness things have gone the wrong way for head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats this season. The same can be said for Michigan. These are two reeling football teams that have not lived up to preseason expectations but, make no mistake, Northwestern is the better football team. They’ve at least shown a pulse for a good part of it, even if that pulse didn’t always end up with a W. Northwestern got a week to prepare for the Wolverines and get ‘em at home at the right time.
BY RYAN OSBAHR ON NOVEMBER 14, 2013
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