Big Ten Chumps

Tonight the Nebraska Cornhuskers play the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game.  It’s a bit of a nightmare scenario for the conference.

https://i0.wp.com/www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/bo.jpgNebraska is not a bad team.  They’re 10-2 and have only lost one game in the conference — although it was a crushing loss, a 63-38 spanking at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Wisconsin, on the other hand, is a different story.  The Badgers are 7-5 overall, and only 4-4 in the conference.  Wisconsin lost three of its last four games, all in overtime.

Wisconsin is not a bad team, either — but what does it tell you when a .500 team in the conference makes it to the championship game and has the chance to play in the Rose Bowl?  The reason, of course, is that undefeated Ohio State, easily the best team in the Big Ten, isn’t eligible to play due to NCAA sanctions.

https://i2.wp.com/media.scout.com/Media/Image/60/608537.jpgNot surprisingly, there’s not a lot of interest in the game.  Many tickets are for sale at a steep discount from face value, and organizers are expecting a number of empty seats.  I’m confident that the Rose Bowl organizers, too, are holding their breath and hoping that Nebraska wins, so the Granddaddy of all bowl games doesn’t feature a team that barely has a winning record.

I’m sure the Badgers will play their hardest and will be proud to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl if they win.  I’d feel that way if I were a Badger, too, but for the rest of us Big Ten fans this game is an embarrassment.  It’s a pathetic conclusion to a year that — thanks to the sanctions imposed on Ohio State and Penn State, weak teams, a less-than-stellar out of conference record, and uninspired play by teams like Michigan State that were expected to be powerhouses — has been an embarrassment for the storied Big Ten conference.

Big Red Butt-Kicking

Well, now . . . that was quite a performance, wasn’t it?  I’m guessing the Nebraska fans who came to Ohio Stadium won’t soon forget their first visit to the Horseshoe.

After a lackluster first quarter, the Buckeyes roared back and blew out the Cornhuskers, 63-38.  Sometimes one play can turn a game around, and in this case it was a long run by Braxton Miller that set up the score that allowed Ohio State to close to 17-14.  After that, it was off to the races.  Ohio State scored 28 points in the second quarter to go into halftime with a 35-24 lead, and then kept their foot on the accelerator in the second half to score another 28 points and pull away. The Buckeyes are now 6-0 and are likely to move into the top ten.

The Nebraska defense that seemed so stout in the first quarter was eventually beaten to a bloody pulp by the Ohio State offensive line, which came to dominate the line of scrimmage.  Somewhere, Woody Hayes is smiling at a box score that showed Ohio State with 368 yards on the ground, six rushing touchdowns, and two 100-yard rushers.

There’s still room for improvement — in particular, I’d love to see better tackling by the Ohio State defense — but there is no doubt this was an impressive win against a pretty good team.  It hurt Nebraska when Rex Burkhead was injured and had to leave the game, but the key to the contest was that the Nebraska defense simply could not stop the Buckeyes.  Even as the game wound down, and it was obvious that Ohio State would try to run the ball and keep the clock moving, Nebraska could not halt the Buckeye ground game.  That single fact tells you a lot about how your offensive line is firing off the ball and knocking the defense off the line of scrimmage.

Nebraska fans, I sincerely hope you enjoyed your visit to Columbus — but I’m glad the Buckeyes dished out a butt-kicking.

Under The Lights At The Horseshoe

It’s a special day today, because the Nebraska Cornhuskers visit Ohio Stadium for the first time since the Big Red became members of the Big Ten.

What will make the game extra special is that it is under the lights at the Old Horseshoe.  Ohio Stadium is a classic, storied college football venue — you can’t walk into the Stadium without feeling the history sunk deep into the turf, the concrete rows and ramps up to B and C decks, and the pillars with their Block O capstones — but it becomes an especially spectacular place for a football game under the lights.  The Stadium itself is brightly lit, and the crowd is lit, too.

The tailgaters will have been out for hours, guzzling beers, spanking down tailgate food, and getting pumped for the game.  That additional tailgating time, and fact that the night games usually are big games against ranked teams, means that the Ohio Stadium crowd is much more raucous when darkness falls.  It’s a lot easier to scream your brains out when you’ve lubricated those vocal cords with a six-pack or a few warming toddies.  I’m hoping that tonight’s crowd is in full-throated frenzy and geared up to give Nebraska an especially loud and proud Ohio Stadium welcome to the Big Ten.

It should be an interesting match-up on the field, too.  Last year, Ohio State jumped out to a surprisingly large lead in Lincoln, then Nebraska shredded the Buckeye defense in the second half and pulled off an historic comeback.  It was an embarrassing performance by the Ohio State defense.  I’m hoping that the D uses last year’s game as motivation and comes out ready to play, because Nebraska has a powerful offense led by the arm and feet of quarterback Taylor Martinez.  If Ohio State is going to win this game, its defense needs to control the line of scrimmage and control Martinez’s scrambling.  Of course, the Buckeye defense has been used to facing Braxton Miller in practice, so they presumably should be well drilled in containment.

When I came back to Columbus yesterday, I saw a Nebraska fan in full regalia at Port Columbus.  I said hello, welcomed him to the Big Ten, wished him a fun time during his visit to Columbus, and then said I hoped the Buckeyes stomped the Cornhuskers tonight.  I meant every word.