When it was announced that Nebraska would be playing in the Capital One Bowl, some Husker fans were excited with the selection.
Others had their sights set a little higher.
While many were disappointed Bo Pelini's squad weren't representing the Legends Division in the conference championship, others found solace in the fact they got to take a year off from the annual, heart-wrenching conference championship blues that have been all too prevalent the past two years.
Remember the 17-0 blown lead against the Sooners? How about the infamous .07 seconds against Texas?
What if told you — given the context of the season — Nebraska actually benefited from not playing in the Big Ten Championship?
For a program which prides itself on consistent dominance and national championship rings, one can't help but mention the embarrassing loss to Northwestern. Or the annihilation at Ann Arbor. And let's not forget about the highly anticipated Camp Randall beat down.
What would Husker Nation have done after a third straight conference championship loss?
Or another trip to the Holiday Bowl?
Both are scary thoughts.
Four years into the Pelini era, Nebraska is still seeking its first conference championship since 1999, its first BCS Bowl appearance since 2002, and its first national championship ring since 1997. Signature wins have been few and far between during Pelini's reign, which is why Husker fans should be excited for the Jan. 2 matchup against No. 9 South Carolina.
In case you fall into the "not-so-thrilled" category, here are eight reasons to push aside the pessimism and show some enthusiasm for Nebraska's bowl game.
Well, sort of.
A nationally televised win over a top 10 SEC team would be a good start.
2. The Big Ten is in dire need of a good bowl showing, especially against SEC opponents. Last year, the conference went 3-5 overall in the bowl season, with three of those losses coming from SEC foes. Michigan, Michigan St., and Penn St. lost by a combined 93 points to SEC rivals.
3. As the Big Ten has aspires to reestablish itself as one of college football's premier conferences, a win from its newest member would do wonders in rebuilding the conference's reputation. The other two Big Ten/SEC match-ups are: Michigan St vs. Georgia (Outback) and Ohio St. vs. Florida (Gator). Both games could go either way, but a Husker win over a good SEC team would give Nebraska and their Big Ten brethren a much-needed boost on the national scale.
When asked if facing an SEC team gave the Huskers extra incentive to win, starting Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez replied, "Of course. People say the SEC is the top conference in the nation. We hope to come out and prove that the Big Ten is the best conference in the nation." Starting defensive end Cameron Meredith agreed. "A win against the SEC, that would be big for us."
4. South Carolina is bringing in the nation's No. 4 ranked defense. Martinez described them as "fast and physical." If the Huskers hope to have any chance at winning, their offense will surely need to play its part. Some would argue that Martinez has come a long way and is maturing into a leader. When the clock reads 0:00 on Jan. 2, it could even be more clear as to how far Martinez has truly come.
Plus, 10-3 looks way better than 9-4.
6. Another reason to look forward to the Gamecocks dates all the way back to 1996. Remember Coach Spurrier? What Husker fan doesn't want to stick it to Spurrier again?
7. By missing out on the conference championship, Coach Pelini and his staff were given an extra week to travel and give in-home visits. And lots of them. The past two weeks, the Nebraska coaching staff has been all over the U.S. visiting top-notch recruits — mainly on the defensive end that are severely needed to fill some major holes for the Blackshirts.
8. However, if there is one reason Husker fans should excited, it should solely based on this logic: It sure beats the heck out of the Holiday Bowl, doesn't it? This is the best bowl game the Huskers have attended since the 2007 Cotton Bowl. No, it's not a BCS Bowl, but it's a step in the right direction.
Just remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. And neither was a Tom Osborne national championship team. These sort of things take time and patience.
Enjoy the 2011 Capital One Bowl for what it is: one of many huge steps in Bo Pelini's pursuit of a national championship.
- Edited by Josh Harvey -