After a non-conference schedule that some might call a slight disappointment due to the loss at UCLA, the Nebraska Cornhuskers will now focus on Big Ten conference play beginning Saturday night when they host Wisconsin.
The end goal, as it is for every Big Ten team, still is a trip to the Rose Bowl. That goal is very much alive for the Huskers, but by no means will it be easy.
If Husker Nation should have learned anything about their new conference in 2011, it's that the Big Ten is NOT the Big 12, and the Huskers, quite literally, are not in Kansas anymore.
The Big Ten, recently, has had much more parity than the Big 12 or even the Big 8 had during the final years. During the last 20 years of Big 8 football, either Nebraska or Oklahoma won the conference title outright 14 times. To date, the Big 12 has awarded 16 conference titles. Twelve of those are owned by Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas.
Since 1990, not counting the years the Rose Bowl was used as the BCS Championship game, the Big Ten has sent 8 different teams to Pasadena.
As Nebraska stares down a schedule where it conceivably could be favored in every game, with the exception of the contest at Ohio State, the team and the fans need to understand that there are no gimmes.
Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State made it through non-conference play unscathed. Michigan and Michigan State's only losses came to opponents who currently reside in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25. Wisconsin's only loss is to a team that beat UCLA in Pasadena.
The Huskers can win the Big Ten title, even with a conference loss or two. What they cannot do is fold after a bump in the road or overlook any remaining opponent.
Every team left on the schedule is capable of beating Nebraska. Whether or not they do depends largely on what the players and coaches have learned over the past season.
The fans need to demonstrate what they have learned as well. One win does not make Nebraska a world-beater, just as one loss does not mean the sky is falling. Postgame reactions by the fans the rest of the season will be the measuring stick of the knowledge gained.
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