The Nebraska Cornhuskers had to deal with heavy winds and a determined defense from the Iowa Hawkeyes, but they were able to clinch a spot in next weekend’s Big Ten Championship game. In their second year in the conference, the Cornhuskers have won a division and are a win away from the Rose Bowl. The Cornhuskers needed a comeback performance from Rex Burkhead and got it as Burkhead lead the Cornhuskers in rushing today and scored what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
The Cornhuskers will now meet the Wisconsin Badgers for the conference title in the second meeting between the two this season. This time the stakes are obviously bigger. Their first meeting this season was on September 29. That night the Cornhuskers erased a 27-10 deficit in the second half and beat the Badgers by three.
The Badgers have changed a bit since that game. Their offensive line coach had been fired just weeks before and in the games since their loss to the Cornhuskers, the line has performed much better and it has helped Montee Ball‘s season get going as well. The big negative for the Badgers coming into this game is that their defense has improved somewhat, but now they’re unpredictable against good opponents. They kept the Michigan St. Spartans out of the end-zone for 59 minutes, but then gave up two touchdowns in as many possessions and ended up losing in overtime because of the second touchdown. Then last week against the Ohio St. Buckeyes, the Badgers had some momentum and a chance to defeat the Buckeyes in overtime after tying the game late. Then the Badger defense crumbled embarrassingly after a good performance in regulation, and the Buckeyes scored easily on their opening drive. The Buckeyes ended up winning 21-14.
The Cornhuskers have the same problem on defense, but in reverse: their defense has been digging the team in some big holes during Big Ten play. Against the Buckeyes, it was far too much and they ended up getting routed. Against the Spartans & Northwestern Wildcats, it took comebacks that reached to the final moments of the game to gain victories for the Cornhuskers. Their offense has come through and has proven many times this season that they are capable of making a big comeback and scoring a lot of points when they have to. And that’s good, because the Cornhuskers may need one of those comebacks or may need to go score-for-score next weekend if the Badgers’ running game gets off to a quick start.
It is going to be a bit of déjà vu when the Big Ten holds its second conference championship game. Because for the second straight time, the Badgers will be out for revenge against a team that beat them close during the regular season. Last year it was the Spartans, and they fell to to the Badgers in the rematch. It’s very possible that the Cornhuskers could be heading to the same fate. Or not. We’ll find out next weekend.