The Nittany Lions were the last team to join the conference until this year, of course, when Nebraska ditched the Big 12 in favor of the Big Ten.
There's a lot to be excited about this year down in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have been labeled as the favorites in their side of the conference, and they could find themselves making a title run if all their players, specifically quarterback Taylor Martinez, can avoid the injury bug.
Realistically, though, Nebraska will be exposed to many new faces, teams, coaches, and schemes in their first year of Big Ten play, which will make the transition no easy task.
The aforementioned Nittany Lions made that transition back in 1993, but had no trouble whatsoever in their first season in the Big Ten.
Penn State went 9-2 and defeated Tennessee, who was 9-1-1 that season, in the Citrus Bowl. The Lions were led by an inexperienced quarterback named Kerry Collins, who had only attempted 137 passes in the prior season. Collins, though, managed to put together a successful season in '93, completing slightly above 50% of his passes.
The school's success carried over into their second season of Big Ten play; in fact, they put together one of the greatest season's in history. Led by head coach Joe Paterno, the Lions went undefeated and capped their season off with a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon.
Penn State has since been one of the better football programs in the conference, having won three Big Ten championships over the course 18-years in the Big Ten.
Nebraska could find themselves in a similar situation as Penn State was in 1993.
Many believe that Nebraska will win their division, though it won't be easy as Michigan State appears to have a very experienced squad in place. After going 10-4 last season, it's a reasonable assumption that the Cornhuskers will once again reach the double-digit win mark and if things go as planned, surpass their win total from a year ago.
Nebraska's fortunate to have a very talented defense that ranks high in terms of overall defense around the nation, as well as a quarterback that presents the opposition with a difficult task come Saturday afternoon. The Cornhuskers have all the right pieces, there's no reason they shouldn't sit atop the division.
It will, however, be no easy task when it comes to conference play, as they open up with Wisconsin and Ohio State; both teams expect to be ranked in the AP poll. Of the two, the Badgers will be the tougher competition with their dynamic duo in the backfield, but the aforementioned Nebraska defense should be able to contain the ground game. Ohio State, on the other hand, is in the midst of scandals and allegations, something that will certainly be a cause for distractions, and the Buckeyes will have to cope with life after Terrelle Pryor.
Penn State had no trouble breaking out onto the Big Ten scene, and there's no reason Nebraska shouldn't be able to do exactly what the Nittany Lions did in '93. As the saying goes, "History repeats itself."
- Josh Harvey -