Big Red Must Watch Out for Purple People and Big Blue

By at May 30, 2012 | 5:00 AM | Print

Big Red Must Watch Out for Purple People and Big Blue

This year’s Nebraska-Michigan game is the reason the Huskers joined the Big Ten – The third huge game of the conference season on October 27. A match made in college football heaven. The Scarlet and Cream versus the Maize and Blue under the lights at Memorial Stadium for the first time anyone alive can remember.

The winner will have an inside track to play for the conference title and a BCS berth. As big as that game will be, Nebraska has road games the week before and after (Northwestern and Michigan State, respectively) that could potentially spell “letdown.”

After years of tripping up against the Purple People, the Big Ten powers all took Northwestern seriously last year. Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State all beat the Wildcats by at least ten points in 2011, and it appeared as if Pat Fitzgerald was a good coach who’d maxed out a mid-level program.

Nebraska had the misfortune of facing Northwestern after a draining win and, in my judgment, played a better game that day than they played at Iowa State the year prior. The difference was that Fitzgerald outfoxed the Blackshirts at the right times.

Welcome to the Big Ten. Again.

The Wildcats may or may not summon a superior effort against the Huskers in 2012, but unlike last year, Nebraska has two weeks to prepare and should have destiny in their hands. Side note: Bo Pelini only has one loss coming off a bye week (Virginia Tech in 2008).

A large Cornhusker contingent could be present much like the one at last season’s Minnesota contest. Even with Kain Colter running the show, Nebraska faces a team that has a style they defended well in the Big 12 and that doesn’t bring back many great players.

Michigan State poses a greater threat. While they do lose Kirk Cousins, a three-year starting quarterback, and several leading receivers, Sparty is crafty.

Most of the defense that was pushed around in Lincoln last season returns and will want serious payback. Like last year, the Spartans play the Huskers at the end of a tough stretch (Iowa, at Michigan, at Wisconsin).

The Spartans could be burned out or coming off of two shabby road losses before playing surprisingly well at home. If a 7-1 Nebraska team does end up losing to a 5-3 Michigan State team, the loss may look worse than it actually is.

That brings us back to the premiere game.










The Huskers’ embarrassment at the Big House was as much a result of exhaustion from playing Big Ten football for a full season as anything.

Nebraska’s offense never got enough plays to wear on Greg Mattison’s defense and just as Tim Beck started to make a dent, safety Jordan Kovacs appeared to fake an injury (Mattison later denied that his players did this citing “the Michigan way”).

This season, Nebraska could get a Michigan team coming off their first win over Michigan State since 2007, perhaps in perfect trap position. However, Denard Robinson can take advantage of Bo Pelini’s defense even if the secondary plays well.

The Wolverines have been pegged high in initial polls as college football has seen star coaches win the national title in their second or third years.

While Robinson may be setting Brady Hoke up to do the same, team leaders in center David Molk and defensive lineman Mike Martin are gone along with the rest of the defensive line. An upset over Alabama early in the year could easily start a snowball effect.

This is a game that could determine how Nebraska’s future, and just as importantly Memorial Stadium’s reputation, appears in the Big Ten.

Last year, the Huskers were down 75-23 after a little more than six quarters against two Big Ten heavyweights. Columnists in Texas were formulating columns about how Nebraska would be having pity parties with Arkansas in the offseason.

Thanks to a flurry of big plays, Nebraska’s respectability was restored.

Michigan won’t fear the Sea of Red, but Big Red backers can set the tone for their house. The Wolverines won’t take Nebraska seriously unless the Huskers force the issue.

Wisconsin. Ohio State. Northwestern. Michigan. Michigan State.

A stretch that could keep Nebraska from meeting its loftiest goals, but this was the choice Harvey Perlman and Tom Osborne made, Husker fan-supported. 2012 is truly shaping up to be a year that could return Nebraska to serious national title talk in the coming years if they excel.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DerekJohnson05

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