Instanalysis: Welcome Home, Nebraska

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Nebraska was an institution in the Big 8-turned-12. Tom Osbourne, the Blackshirts, Tommy Frazier and the unstoppable teams of the mid-1990s: the Cornhuskers defined that league for years. Yet, Big Red is perfect for the Big Ten and fans nationwide should rejoice in this new marriage.

Today’s 24-3 throttling of a Michigan State coming in with all the momentum in the world was classic Big Ten football. Carl Pelini’s defense blitzed and harassed Kirk Cousins for four sacks, and the sound of heavy footsteps dogging him forced a quarterback who just a week ago was almost flawless, into an 11-for-27, 86-yard performance. On the opposite end, it was ground-and-pound ’em into submission football with Rex Burkhead going for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and a third score via reception.

The implications of the Huskers’ lopsided win are tremendous: MSU fans are now forced to — *gulp* — become Michigan fans. By virtue of its 36-14 dismantling of Purdue, the Wolverines are tied with Sparty in terms of record, but would drop a hypothetical tiebreaker. And UM welcomes Nebraska to the Big House three weeks from now. The Michigan game comes on the heels of MSU traveling to Happy Valley for its rivalry tilt against as-of-this-writing Big Ten unbeaten Penn State. Should the Nittany Lions knock off the Huskers, Michigan becomes the Spartans’ best hope for MSU to win the Legends division.

That all these scenarios exist headed into November just seems so…right. Though synonymous with the Big 12’s past, Nebraska’s style is perfect for the Big Ten’s present and future. Road trips to Penn State and Michigan, in consecutive weeks. Two games, three of the most storied programs in college football. The thought makes me giddy.

Husker fans should certainly be giddy, too, because today sent a clear message. No team had quite taken it to the MSU defense like Nebraska’s offense did today. While Wisconsin scored 31 points a week ago, Sparty dictated the flow and forced Russell Wilson into two interceptions. Burkhead’s bruising rushes set the tone from the onset, and on the opposite end the Husker defense was the best it’s been all season.

MSU had seemingly turned a corner offensively in scoring 37 points on UW. Whether today’s 3-point performance is indicative of Nebraska’s D now turning corner, or simply Week 8’s offensive outpouring being an abberation we’ll know in a few weeks. For now though, the Blackshirts are back. Nothing could be more Big Ten.