Nebraska football fans would dearly love to be preparing for the Cornhuskers to take the field in Indianapolis for another shot at the Big Ten title. Unfortunately for them, the game will be contested between Ohio State and Michigan State this year. While some Nebraska fans may take this opportunity to clean the garage or put up Christmas lights, many will watch the game with interest.
But if you’re a Nebraska fan, who do you root for, the Buckeyes or the Spartans? Here’s a guide to help.
The Case For Michigan State
Michigan State beat out Nebraska for the Legends Division title (the last one, of course, before the change in division names next season). So there is some logic to Nebraska fans pulling for “their” division to win the conference. The Legends Division is 0-2 in B1G title games, with Wisconsin winning the conference in 2011 and 2012. It would make Nebraska, and the rest of the Legends Division, look better if the standard-bearer for the division could win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl.
(That benefit is, of course, somewhat mitigated by the fact that Michigan State will be moving to the B1G East next year, meaning that regardless of what happens, the defending conference champion in 2014 will be in the B1G East).
Rooting for Michigan State gives Nebraska fans the added benefit of rooting against Ohio State. Nebraska’s departure from the Big 12 was in large part due to Texas, and the overpowering shadow the Longhorns cast over everything else in the conference.
If there is a Texas in the B1G, it’s Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ program is comparable in size and financial heft to the Longhorns', although Ohio State can’t wield the kind of political dominance in the conference that Texas could (and can) in the Big 12. Still, Ohio State in many ways is the Texas of the B1G, without the belt buckles and ten-gallon hats. Throw in a thoroughly unlikeable head coach, and it's pretty easy for Nebraska fans to root against the scarlet and grey.
The Case For Ohio State
Nebraska fans have both a micro and a macro reason for supporting the Buckeyes in Saturday’s B1G title game. The macro reason, big picture, is that a win by Ohio State would likely put the Buckeyes in the final BCS title game. The B1G has earned a terrible reputation as a football conference over the last few years. Having a B1G team in the national title game—assuming the Buckeyes would not get blown out—would go a long way toward rehabilitating the image of the conference as a whole.
And if Ohio State would win the B1G title and get shut out, the outrage that would flow from a one-loss SEC school getting to play for a title over an undefeated B1G champion would ultimately benefit the league as a whole. In most non-SEC corridors (which, sadly, would likely not include ESPN), Ohio State being shut out of the title game would be viewed as an injustice, or at the very least the byproduct of a fatally flawed system. In other words, the B1G champion would be viewed as at least worthy of consideration as a national champion—a place the B1G has not been for quite some time.
On a micro level, Ohio State winning the B1G would also benefit Nebraska. Most projections have Nebraska playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on December 28 in Tempe, AZ, against a Big 12 opponent. However, Ohio State winning the B1G and playing in the BCS Championship game opens the possibility for the B1G to get a second BCS representative.
Michigan State is currently ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings. A loss to Ohio State, ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, would likely leave the Spartans eligible for an at-large BCS selection. The Rose Bowl would be sorely tempted to take a B1G replacement as an at-large pick, preserving the historical B1G/Pac-12 matchup for the Granddaddy of All Bowls.
If that happens, all the other B1G teams would step up one notch in the bowl selection pecking order. That would give Nebraska more of a shot at the Outback Bowl, on New Year’s Day against an SEC opponent.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.