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.

Properly Welcoming The Huskers To The Big Ten

Saturday night, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team plays its first conference game as a member of the Big Ten. When the ball is kicked off and that game begins, the long-awaited expansion of the Big Ten becomes a reality.

Fittingly, Nebraska’s first game is also a big game, and one that should give them a proper Big Ten welcome.  The undefeated, eighth-ranked Huskers travel to Camp Randall Stadium to take on the unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers, who sit at number 7 in the polls.  For a visiting team, Camp Randall is one of the toughest venues in the Big Ten, with the distinctive traditions found in many Big Ten stadiums.  Nebraska will have to endure the taunts of the Wisconsin faithful and then, when the third quarter ends, feel the field shake when the stadium rocks and the student section hops to House of Pain’s Jump Around.

It’s hard to predict what will happen in this game.  Wisconsin has pulverized its opponents, but it really hasn’t played anybody with a pulse yet.  (C’mon, Wisconsin — it’s time to start scheduling some more competitive out of conference games.  South Dakota?  Really?)  Nebraska has beaten marginally better teams, but has given up a lot of points.  Given the caliber of the opponents, there’s no way of telling how tough these teams are.  Saturday’s game will give us a tentative answer to that question.

As a long time Big Ten fan, I’ll probably be rooting for Wisconsin to win.  Although I welcome Nebraska to the party, I want the Cornhuskers to understand that they’ve joined a tough, hard-nosed conference with more tradition than any other.  A hard-fought loss in their first conference game seems like a very good way to send that message.

A Bit More On Nebraska

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the newest member of the Big Ten conference, fits very comfortably among the ranks of Big Ten schools.

Nebraska is a land grant university that was chartered in 1869 and is a member of the Association of American Universities.  In the fall semester of the 2009-10 school year, Nebraska had more than 18,000 undergraduate students and more than 4,500 graduate students.  The school clearly has significant research capabilities; for the year ended June 30, 2009, the school received more than $122 million in research funding.  Like Ohio State, Nebraska is located in its state’s capital city named for a well-known historical figure; Lincoln, Nebraska is a city of 250,000.  The Nebraska website has a helpful alphabetical listing that compares Nebraska’s enrollment data (and other information) to that of other schools in the conference.

Most of us know Nebraska through its athletic program.  The football Cornhuskers play in Memorial Stadium (capacity 81,067), which has sold out for more than 300 consecutive home games.   Nebraska can boast of five college football national championships, including three in the 1990s, when Nebraska had one of college football’s most dominant programs.  Nebraska also has won national championships in men’s gymnastics, women’s volleyball, and . . . women’s bowling.   (As a native of Akron and a lifelong bowler, I have to give props to the Lady Cornhusker Keglers.)

I think Nebraska will be a good fit for the Big Ten, and Big Ten football fans who like traveling to away games — of which there are many — no doubt are looking forward to seeing a Big Ten clash in Memorial Stadium, one of college football’s most storied venues.  They will get their chance starting in 2011.

Welcome Cornhuskers!

It is now official:  the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska has asked the school’s Board of Regents to authorize an application for Nebraska to join the Big Ten.  He expects the application to be accepted by the Big Ten, and I do, too.  It seems unimaginable that Nebraska and the Big Ten schools haven’t worked out, in advance, that if the application is made it will be favorably received.  It therefore seems very likely that the Big Te(leve)n will now become the Big Ten (+2).  Other schools, Texas among them, will be meeting in the near future to consider their options, so other applications to join the conference may be forthcoming.

As any reader of this blog knows, I would prefer to keep the Big Ten as it is, with no conferences, no “championship game,” and a football season that ends with Ohio State playing Michigan in the rivalry to end all rivalries.  Still, if the conference has to expand to be competitive in this modern world, Nebraska is a good choice.  It may not have huge TV markets to bring to the table, but it is an excellent school with fine research, academic, and sports programs.  Adding Nebraska stays true to the Big Ten’s Midwestern roots and Midwestern sensibilities.  Nebraska’s football program has a record of accomplishment and traditions that is second to none.  And everyone I have ever met who hailed from Nebraska — the state or the school — has been a nice person.  (I haven’t met Senator Ben Nelson, so we won’t focus on his recent shenanigans.)

So Cornhusker fans, welcome to the Big Ten!  We think you will like it in our conference, and we look forward to meeting you on the gridiron in the very near future, in a stadium filled with red and scarlet.