When Nebraska joined the Big Ten conference earlier this month, the Huskers knew they would not be receiving a full share of the conference's revenue until 2017. With each team making $26.2 million dollars this season, Nebraska is missing out on some major money.
It appears the conference didn't do them any favors on the field this season as well.
Jumping from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, the level of competition wasn't expected to be a major difference. Both conferences have continually produced many nationally ranked teams year-in and year-out.
But apparently the Big Ten schedule-makers decided to give Nebraska the most challenging schedule they could possibly surmise.
From a trip to Madison, then to State College, and back over to Ann Arbor, the Husker's schedule consists of three of the top ten toughest stadiums in all of college football.
In what will be their "welcome to the Big Ten" game, Nebraska will travel to Camp Randall Stadium where the Badgers are 326-192-22 (60%) overall. In their last 47 games in Madison dating back to 2004, the Badgers have won 43 times -- the best record at home by any Big Ten team in that span. Nebraska will have to do something that has only happened four times since 2004; quarterback Taylor Martinez was around 13 years old since Wisconsin's incredible home defense began.
And whether or not they survive at Camp Randall Stadium, the Huskers will head back to Lincoln to take on another Big Ten favorite, Ohio State. If this meeting was flipped with the Badgers game, it would favor the Huskers, but now that the Buckeyes will have played five games prior to their visit to Lincoln, all their suspended players will be able to return just in time for Nebraska. Defeating Ohio State is never an easy task, especially after a difficult road game in the previous week. Once again, the schedule-makers took out their wrath on the Huskers.
But it doesn't stop there.
After taking on a down Minnesota team on the road, they take on their toughest division opponent, Michigan State. The game is at Lincoln, so the fan support will be incredible behind them, but Kirk Cousins and the Spartans' offense will be gearing to go. The Spartans faces Wisconsin in the prior week, a game that could soften Michigan State coming in. Either way, this should be one of, if not the most important game on their schedule.
Following the Spartans, Nebraska will play host to Dan Persa and the Northwestern Wildcats. Northwestern will be coming off an easy week against the conference basement dweller, Indiana, so it's expected that they will be pretty pumped for this meeting. Everyone say it at the same time, trap game.
And then comes Nebraska's grueling three-game stretch to close the season out.
A trip to face Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions in their final home game of the season, in front of what will be a sell-out crowd donning their traditional "white-out" apparel, will definitely be no easy task. At Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions have a 80% winning mark (248-61), and to top that off, this could be Paterno's final home game. The Penn State crowd will be louder than anyone could imagine.
After their formidable matchup in Happy Valley, the Huskers will then head up to the Great Lakes to yet another challenging stadium. Michigan struggled a bit last season at home, but have a 73% winning mark in Ann Arbor, making it very difficult for opposing teams to pull out a victory. However, the Wolverines are set to face their all-time rival in Ohio State the following week, so the Huskers could find themselves playing a team that is focusing one week ahead. If this is the case, Nebraska should come out with the win, despite the rambunctious crowd.
Then comes Nebraska's final game against Iowa. The game will be in Lincoln, but Hawkeye fan is expected to travel well. Iowa is always a competitive team and should be Nebraska's natural rival for years to come. Not only could this decide the Legends Division, but it could have major impact on both team's postseason destinations. After demanding schedule and back-to-back road trips to two of the craziest stadiums in college football, this could wind up being Nebraska's toughest game of the season.
With a schedule filled with three of the toughest stadiums in college football, challenging crossover games, and multiple trap games, the Huskers will have to remain focus and prepared if they want to sit atop the conference in December.
- Josh Harvey -