Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Huskers vs. 'Canes May Be a Must-Not-Lose Game for the Big Ten

Somehow, the Big Ten conference found a way in week three to actually do worse than the conference did in week 2.  In the second week, Michigan State losing to Oregon wasn't so bad, except how the Ducks boat-raced Sparty in the second half.   Ohio State losing to Virginia Tech was bad, and Michigan getting shut out by Notre Dame was awful.  But last week, TCU crushed Minnesota and Indiana somehow found a way to lose to Bowling Green.  Two weeks after losing badly to division 1-AA North Dakota State at home, Iowa State traveled to Iowa City to defeat the Hawkeyes.

How bad is the Big Ten this season?  1-10 in games against Power-5 conference teams.  The only victory is Rutgers beating Mike Leach's awful Washington State squad.  This weekend, there are a few more chances for the Big Ten to mitigate the damage a little.

Iowa travels to Pitt, and considering the Hawkeyes issues, it's tough to see Iowa winning unless they have a huge emotional rebound this week.  Michigan hosts Utah, and it's one of those games a Michigan loss hurts the conference more than a Michigan victory helps.  I suspect that Maryland will beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but again, a victory won't mean much either.

But the big game of the weekend in the Big Ten is Miami finally coming to Lincoln to play the Huskers after so many Orange Bowl meetings in the 80's and 90's. Neither team is at the level they once were, which means that a Husker victory won't change anybody's opinions of the Big Ten.

But a Nebraska loss is just more evidence that the Big Ten isn't even remotely competitive with the rest of college football....and that makes this a huge game for the Big Ten.  If the Huskers win, they are 4-0 with a Power-5 victory and setting up some hope that if Nebraska can win in East Lansing two weeks later, the Big Ten might have a team that could be considered in the college football playoff discussion.  Sparty's loss to Oregon will no doubt hurt their ability to be selected, but an undefeated Big Ten team probably can't be ignored.

And right now, only Nebraska and Penn State are capable of doing that.  The Big Ten desperately needs to have somebody - ANYBODY - carry the big blue B1G banner this season.  Michigan State is that team currently, but that loss to Oregon makes Sparty an afterthought nationally.  Somebody new has to emerge, and Nebraska might be the Big Ten's best candidate to do it. People will eventually forget the McNeese State escape, because everybody is going to have to have an off week at some point.

But can Nebraska realistically go undefeated?  Yes, I hear you Pellllini haters.  We haven't forgotten about the four losses each season, but that's the past.  Look at the schedule which sets up nicely for the Huskers. Nebraska has shown they can win in East Lansing, and also showed they were better than Sparty last year in Lincoln, except for freshmen holding onto the football.  Iowa has serious issues, meaning that it's likely that the Big Ten west comes down to Nebraska and Wisconsin in Madison.

Yes, Nebraska can easily lose this Saturday to the 'Canes...then to Sparty and Wisconsin.  Or they could win.  And that hope that Nebraska can somehow manage to run the table and win some games has to give Jim Delaney hope that the Big Ten might be able to have one relevant team in January.

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