Well the final Big 12 game has been played, so we can finally talk about the elephant in the room, the Big Ten. I am going to assume everyone remembers what happened over the summer, so I am not getting into that. The most important thing that I will be looking at is the new Big Ten Divisions: Legends and Leaders. Seriously though, where did they come up with those names? "Legends" is all right, but "Leaders" just sounds stupid.
It was decided this fall that Nebraska would compete in the Legends Division, along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. So how does Nebraska look in their new division?
All-Time Record: 837-344-40
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (81,067)
National Title(s): Five (1970, '71, '94, '95, '97)
The 2010 season was somewhat of a disappointment for Husker fans. Nebraska failed to beat Texas, or win the Big 12 title, and now is being sent back to the Holiday Bowl to play Washington, a team they killed earlier in the season.
On defense, the Blackshirts continued to be dominant under Bo Pelini, ranking eighth in the country. The Blackshirts will lose a defensive end, cornerback, defensive back and safety to graduation. They also have a defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback that could make the jump to the pros.
On offense, the Huskers improved from last year, but definitely struggled in the second half of the season due to Taylor Martinez being injured and no strong backup at QB. The Huskers will lose three offensive linemen, two wide receivers and a running back. They also have two juniors on the team.
Overall Series: 26-12-2 Nebraska
Last Meeting: 42-13 Nebraska 9/23/00 @ Lincoln
All-Time Record: 581-512-39
Stadium: Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
Distance from Memorial Stadium: 300 miles
National Title(s): One (1958)
Nebraska will play their border rival for the first time as a conference foe since they were both in the Missouri Valley Conference. Interestingly, the two teams played the first 10 games in the series in the Omaha Metro, eight in Omaha and two in Council Bluffs. Nebraska is 8-6 at Iowa City, and 14-2-1 at Lincoln.
Iowa has had a very strong defense the past few seasons, ranking seventh this season. They may have a bit of a drop-off with the loss of superstar Adrian Clayborn, a defensive end, tackle, two linebackers and a safety, and that is just seniors. You never know if a junior will jump up to the next level.
On offense they ranked 49th this season, but they are having some issues involving players being kicked off (Derrell Johnson-Koulianos) or transferring (Jewel Hampton). The Hawkeyes will lose two offensive linemen, a tight end, fullback, wide receiver and quarterback to graduation.
Overall Series: 2-3-1 Michigan
Last Meeting: 32-28 Nebraska 12/28/05 @ San Antonio Alamo Bowl
All-Time Record: 884-307-36
Stadium: "The Big House" (109,901)
Distance from Memorial Stadium: 744 miles
National Title(s): 11 (1901, '02, '03, '04, '18, '23, '32, '33, '47, '48, '97)
The No. 1 all-time wins team versus the No. 4 all-time wins team, Michigan and Nebraska respectively. They have only played six times, and only four of those during the regular season. Nebraska is 1-2 at Ann Arbor and tied in the only matchup in Lincoln. They have met twice in bowl games, a loss in the 1986 Fiesta, and a win in the 2005 Alamo.
Michigan is having severe issues on defense; ESPN pegs them at 102 for points allowed. They lose one defensive lineman, two linebackers and one cornerback to graduation, plus there are two defensive linemen that could make the jump to the pros. Whatever happens, the Wolverines need to shore up on defense. I suggest handing Greg Robinson a pink slip.
On offense, Michigan has one of the most explosive offenses in the country ranking 22nd. They lose two offensive linemen to graduation, but have five juniors that could make a jump, you just never know what the juniors will do. Most importantly for the Wolverines, they return Denard Robinson.
Overall Series: 5-0 Nebraska
Last Meeting: 17-3 Nebraska 12/29/03 @ San Antonio Alamo Bowl
All-Time Record: 625-425-44
Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Distance from Memorial Stadium: 726 miles
National Title(s): Six (1951, '52, '55, '57, '65, '66)
Michigan State has never beaten Nebraska. They have played five times: three in Lincoln, once in East Lansing and once at the Alamo Bowl.
The Spartans had a breakout year this season. They split the Big Ten title, but got shafted out of a BCS bowl game. The defense was a major factor in that, ranking 26th this season. They lose some key players on defense including one defensive end, two linebackers, one cornerback and one safety. They also have a junior tackle and safety.
On offense—the Spartans ranked 36th—Michigan State has some key losses including three offensive linemen, a fullback, a wide receiver and a tight end. They also have a junior lineman and wide receiver, as well as QB Kirk Cousins that could all make a jump to the pros.
Overall Series: 20-29-2 Minnesota
Last Meeting: 56-0 Nebraska 9/22/90 @ Lincoln
All-Time Record: 635-454-44
Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
Distance from Memorial Stadium: 433 miles
National Title(s): Six (1934, '35, '36, '40, '41, '60)
Nebraska has played Minnesota more times than any other Big Ten team. The Cornhuskers are 11-21-2 at Minneapolis, 9-8 in Lincoln and one loss in Omaha. Minnesota dominated the series, until 1963 when Nebraska reeled off 14 straight victories.
The Golden Gophers had a bad year on the defensive side of the ball, ranking 98th. They only lose two players to graduation: a cornerback and a safety. The Gophers defense has four players that are juniors that could make a jump. The defense as a whole is very young.
On offense, Minnesota did not have much more success, ranking 89th. They will lose three offensive linemen, a fullback and quarterback Adam Weber. They have a running back, tight end, wide receiver and an offensive lineman that are all juniors who could make a jump.
Overall Series: 3-1 Nebraska
Last Meeting: 66-17 Nebraska 12/30/00 @ San Antonio Alamo Bowl
All-Time Record: 476-619-44
Stadium: Ryan Field
Distance from Memorial Stadium: 529 miles
National Title(s): None
Nebraska and Northwestern have played four times: twice in Lincoln where the Cornhuskers have won both, once in Evanston where Northwestern won and once in the Alamo Bowl, which was a Nebraska victory.
The Wildcats took a step back from last year, when they went 8-4 in the regular season to 7-5. The defense ranked 67th this season and could suffer next year due to a heavy load of seniors and juniors. The Wildcats will lose one defensive lineman, two linebackers and a cornerback. However, every other position other than safety is occupied by a junior, who could make a jump. If not, then the Wildcats will have one of the most experienced defenses in the country.
On offense, the Wildcats were not that impressive, ranking 74th. They will lose a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. They also have two offensive linemen, a wide receiver, halfback and quarterback that are juniors. Odds are that they will return quarterback Dan Persa, as he was injured against Iowa, and I doubt that is how he wants to end his career.
Nebraska stacks up pretty well in their division. They own a series edge against three of the teams, and are competitive in the other two. They do make a switch from a division where they had the most national titles, to one where they rank fourth in national titles behind Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota. All of the teams lose players at key positions, but all of them should have talent waiting in the wings to take over. It will be a fun year in the Big Ten.