Home field advantage truly matters in football, plain and simple. Whereas in other sports playing in front of your fans or in foreign land may come with mild perks or slight disadvantages, in college football, especially, it can make-or-break a given squad’s spirit and attitude heading into a particular outing.
This week, when the Nebraska Cornhuskers head into the belly of the beast and square off against the Wisconsin Badgers, one of the more interesting subplots will be how playing away from Memorial Stadium will impact Bo Pelini’s bunch.
Already, the Huskers are mentally preparing for how the noise from the other side -- a far cry from Wyoming's 33,000 fans -- will affect their offensive calls. When Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was pressed about how his unit will adjust to playing within the confines of noisy Camp Randall during a recent HuskerExtra interview, he alluded to Tim Beck’s new offensive style meshing well with noisy surroundings.
"Just because the receivers know the plays, and the running backs do, too," Martinez said. "I just have to communicate it to the offensive line, and that's not that hard."
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Unlike his confident quarterback, Beck was a little more cautious about what lay ahead.
"You got to handle the crowd and still be focused on everything that's going on," Beck said. "You just got to be focused. Everybody does. To cadence, to defenses, to personnel.
"With our signaling and things like that, there's less verbal communication so therefore the crowd isn't as big a factor when you're doing that," Beck said.
So given the admitted difficulties that the offensive unit may have at Camp Randall this Saturday, does that mean the running game will see a bit more action? Particularly given Rex Burkhead’s explosion last week against the Cowboys to the tune of 170 yards and two scores?
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"I couldn't tell you the statistics of any player in any ballgame. I really couldn't," Beck said. "I don't even know how many carries he had. I heard through the media he had 170 yards but I don't even know how many carries he had. We don't operate on those kinds of venues. We live for each play."
Either way, the Huskers understand that even when the crowd is going crazy, the key to their success will be maintaining their composure. And if they need a up-close example of how to do that, they can look no further than the guy at the top – head coach Bo Pelini.
"You hear Bo talk all the time about the process," Beck said. "It's not one one play, not one game, it's all season. You don't come out here and bust your butt all summer, all camp, two-a-days, for one game, or one quarter or one play. You do it for the whole season. And that's the goal. Just keep getting better and try to play your best game your last game. You want to keep getting better and better and make that your best ballgame."
Fortunately for Nebraska, they have some pretty dedicated fans of their own. Many are embarking on personal missions to travel to Camp Randall this weekend and support their program and, even the administration is getting behind differentiating Husker fans from Badger fans in the stands.
Home field advantage will no doubt benefit Wisconsin this weekend. How much exactly? We'll find soon enough.