Nebraska in the Big Ten: Ranking the Best Games on the 2011 Schedule

Mike WehlingAnalyst IJanuary 18, 2011

Nebraska in the Big Ten: Ranking the Best Games on the 2011 Schedule

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    Well I am continuing my series of Nebraska in the Big Ten.  In this new installment, I will look at the schedule Nebraska has in 2011 and its best games, as well as a quick break down of each teams offense and defense as well as key loses.  The Big Ten dealed Nebraska a brutal lineup for the 2011 season.  The Huskers have to play all three of the "brand names" of the Big Ten in Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.  They also play all three co-champions form last year in Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.  Nebraska's schedule consists of nine teams that went to a bowl game last season.  Te only three that did not were Chattanooga, Minnesota and Wyoming.  The Huskers easily have one of the toughest schedules heading into the season, but with the difficulty, comes great games, so which games stand above the rest?

12. University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

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    Date: September 3rd

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: FCS

    Sorry Mockingbird fans, there are no photos of you on bleacher report, so instead we have Bo Pelini at the Big Ten announcement meeting.  Nebraska opens up the 2011 season with a visit from the Mockingbirds of Tennessee Chattanooga.  The Mocs went 6-5 last season, which included a 62-24 loss to the eventual National Champions the Auburn Tigers.  The Mocs have an interesting streak involving them playing FBS schools.  They have played the Heisman trophy winner every year for the past three years, Bradford in 08, Ingram in 09, and Newton in 10, along with the last two National Champions, Alabama and Auburn.  Could the streak continue with Nebraska?  T-Magic for Heisman?

11. Fresno State

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    Date: September 10th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: WAC

    Pat Hill likes a good challenge, he is not afraid to play any team anywhere.  Hill embodies the "play anyone, anytime, anywhere" attitude.  His Fresno State Bulldogs have made a habit out of playing FBS schools to prove that they belong with the big dogs of college football.  The Bulldogs went 8-5 in the 2010 season, finishing fourth in the Western Athletic Conference.  They lose their starting quarterback Ryan Colburn, but return 1,000 yard rusher Robbie Rouse.  The rushing attack of Fresno State should provide a good example of how the Blackshirts will do against the run game.

10. Wyoming

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    Date: September 24th

    Location: Laramie, WY

    Stadium: War Memorial Stadium, 34,000

    Conference: MWC

    For some odd reason, Nebraska is going to their other border state and playing the Cowboys of Wyoming in Laramie.  Why does this game get a bump over Fresno State, a much better team than the Cowboys? Well there are two reasons, one is that it is the first away game of the year, and the other is that the Cowboys coach is Dave Christensen, former Missouri offensive coordinator.  The last time the Huskers played a Dave Christensen offense, they were crushed, 52-17.  The odds of it happening again are slim, as the Cowboys lose their best offensive player, Austyn Carta-Samuels QB, best defensive player, Shamiel Gray SS, and kicker have all left the team.  Not good for a team that was last in the Mountain West and were ranked among the worst in the country in almost all categories.

9. Washington

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    Date: September 17th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: Pac-12

    Can anyone say Revenge?  After losing the Big 12 Championship, the Huskers played in the Holiday Bowl against the Washington Huskies, a team they had already played and crushed in Seattle.  This time, the Huskies were definitely more excited to play and dominated both sides of the ball, winning 19-7.  The Huskies won by playing good defense, and running the football, which has been the Blackshirts Achilles heel all season.  The Huskies should be better in 2011 than 2010, and this game should provide a great example of how the team will perform this season.

8. Northwestern

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    Date: November 5th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: Big Ten Legends

    Odds are when Nebraska and Northwestern meet, the Wildcats will not be ranked.  This could be a great game, but appeal wise, Northwestern and Nebraska have almost no history and are not a brand name school.  The Wildcats return Dan Persa, who is a good quarterback, along with a good supporting cast on offense.  They lose one offensive lineman and a wide receiver that started last year.  On defense they lose four starters from a defense that was 97th in the country in yards allowed per game.  Hopefully the defense steps up next season.  There are some that have Northwestern pegged as a sleeper team in the Legends Division, they have a good offense, but without a good defense they will not be able to keep up with the others in the division.

7. Minnesota

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    Date: October 22nd

    Location: Minneapolis, MN

    Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium, 50,805

    Conference: Big Ten Legends

    A pair of rivals will finally meet again, and for the first time it will be as conference opponents.  WHile the rivalry has died off as they have not played in two decades, the thought of the rivalry was strong enough that Tom Osborne requested Nebraska be in the same division as Minnesota.  On offense the Golden Gophers lose five offensive starters including their quarterback Adam Weber.  On defense, they lose two starters on defense, that ranked 76th in the country.  The Gophers offense ranked 77th in the country, but with the lose of their quarterback, as well as a new coach with a new offensive scheme.  Jerry Kill has been known to get the best out of the talent he has, and should be successful in Minneapolis.

6. Michigan State

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    Date: October 29th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: Big Ten Legends

    This game could be the decider for the Legends Division title.  Both the Huskers and the Spartans have been pegged as the two leaders for the division title.  The Spartans have never beaten the Huskers, and Husker Nation would like that streak to continue.  Michigan State loses six starters on offense, but will return quarterback Kirk Cousins.  Three of their loses are on the offensive line, which will hurt the offense that ranked 53rd in yards per game last season.  The offense may struggle with the loss of their offensive coordinator.  The defense loses five starters including star linebackers Eric Gordon and Greg Jones, which will be hard to replace.  If both teams can live up to their expectations, this has the potential of being a great game.

5. Penn State

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    Date: November 12th

    Location: University Park, PA

    Stadium: Beaver Stadium, 107,282

    Conference: Big Ten Leaders

    Nebraska will get its first taste of a 100,000+ stadium when it visits Beaver Stadium in late November.  Nebraska and Penn State has had some great games and controversy.  There was the out-of-bounds catch in Beaver Stadium that led to a Penn State National title, and Nebraska's only loss of season.  There was also the controversy surrounding Penn State not receiving a share of the 1994 National title with Nebraska.  In 2010, Penn State was extremely senior laden. Penn State will lose nine starters on offense.  Returning only quarterback Rob Bolden and wide receiver Devon Smith.  Not good.  On defense the Nittany Lions lose eight starters. Definitely not good.  By all accounts it seems that this will be a rebuilding year for a team that did poorly last season.  But given the history between the two programs, it should be a interesting game.

4. Michigan

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    Date: November 19th

    Location: Ann Arbor, MI

    Stadium: Michigan Stadium, 109,901

    Conference: Big Ten Legends

    The number one and number four teams on the all time wins list will collide for the first time as conference rivals, as Nebraska heads to Ann Arbor for a late November division matchup.  The last time Nebraska played at Michigan, the stadium's capacity was under 60,000.  Michigan will have a new head coach this season, after the Rich Rod experiment failed.  The Wolverines lose only two starters on an offense that ranked eight in the country in yards per game.  They do lose an important backup in Tate Forcier at quarterback, but with Dennard Robinson, it does not look that bad.  They do need to adopt to a new offensive scheme.  The defense loses four starters on a defense that ranked 111th in the country in yards per game, seriously if Rich Rod had just fired his defensive coordinator and gotten someone who coach defense he might still be around.  Hopefully Brady Hoke does not make the same mistake.

3. Wisconsin

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    Date: October 1st

    Location: Madison, WI

    Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium, 80,321

    Conference: Big Ten Leaders

    Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game will be against Wisconsin in Madison.  The Badgers and Huskers have only played five games and have not played since 1974.  The Badgers and Huskers do share a common person in their history, Barry Alvarez. Alvarez put Wisconsin on the map and is currently the athletic director for Wisconsin, and he played on defense for the Huskers under Bob Devaney and coached in Nebraska high schools for five years.  The Badgers will lose seven starters on an offense that ranked 21st in the country in yards per game.  They lose John Clay, but return Montee Ball and James White who are two great running backs.  On defense they lose five starters on a defense that ranked 20th in the country.  They are a very talented team that could easily be the pre-season favorite to win the Big Ten.

2. Ohio State

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    Date: October 8th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: Big Ten Leaders

    Nebraska's first home game as a member of the Big Ten will be against the Ohio State Buckeyes that have won the past six Big Ten titles.  The Huskers have played only two games against the Buckeyes, both in Columbus, and both loses.  Ohio State loses only three starters on an offense that ranked 20th last season.  On defense they lose seven starters from the fourth best defense in the country.  The Big story with this mathcup is not the first Big Ten home game for Nebraska, but the return of the Ohio State five, the five players suspended for selling items for cash and tattoos.  They include Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVeir Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas.  With the return of those stars, and if Nebraska and Ohio State enter undefeated, you can expect that College Gameday will be in Lincoln.

1. Iowa

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    Date: November 26th

    Location: Lincoln, NE

    Stadium: Memorial Stadium, 81,067

    Conference: Big Ten Legends

    Iowa and Nebraska will finally play each other again as conference opponents for the first time in almost a century.  This has been a series that both Iowa and Nebraska fans alike have both hoped would be revived and now it is Thanksgiving finale.  The Iowa Hawkeyes had somewhat of a disappointing season after starting with national title hopes.  The Hawkeyes lose six starters on an offense that was 57th in yards per game, they lose RIcky Stanzi their quarterback along with both offensive guards, they will need to replace those with talent to keep up their success.  On defense, the Hawkeyes lose six starters from a defense that was 20th in the country in yards allowed.  Iowa has been now for the past few season for its stingy defense, so it will be interesting to see if they can continue the success.  This game will be a great rivalry for both sides, there is already the border conflict and both sides believe their side is better.  In a few years this could be one of the best rivalries in college football.