The Nebraska Cornhuskers have reached that point in the year.
You know, the one where all your hard work up to it could suddenly became for nothing if you fail to win the game in front of you. The one where you’re within an arm’s length of proving the doubters wrong, shocking the critics and rewarding your loyal fan base for believing in you all along.
If the Huskers can shock the Michigan State Spartans this Saturday -- at home, no less -- and come away with a much-needed win, they will inevitably blow the Big Ten race wide open and perfectly position themselves as legitimate, undeniable contenders.
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Of course, just as easily, with one more Wisconsin Badgers-esque embarrassment, they could nullify all of the hopes and dreams just as easily.
Everyone knows what’s on the line in this one.
The players realize the magnitude of what’s due to transpire this Saturday, and they welcome the pressure. They know that they choked away a perfectly good opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the conference in that awful showing versus the Badgers, and they’re intent on not making the same mistake twice.
“The first step to getting to Indianapolis would be beating Michigan State this week,” Kenny Bell told reporters recently (as transcribed by Adam Ross of the Free Press). “Michigan State is a tremendous football team. I’ve got nothing but respect for them. So if we don’t get this one this Saturday, Michigan State is not going to lose the rest of their games on their schedule. We have to get this one to win the Legends Division, absolutely.”
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“We’ve got to win our division to play whoever — I think it’s going to be Wisconsin still, but whoever wins the Leaders. Without a win over Michigan State, I don’t think it will happen... As salty a team as Michigan State is, we have to snatch victory this Saturday.”
Then again, not everyone is focused on the long term ramifications from what happens this weekend. Head coach Bo Pelini, in fact, won’t even bother talking to players about it.
“Our guys understand what’s at stake,” he said. “They understand what the situation is. Every game is a must win. It’s the way you look at it. It’s the only way you win all your games and control your own destiny. If you don’t, you lose control. It’s pretty obvious.”
Pelini is right, of course, it is obvious.
A win moves the Huskers into a tie with the Spartans for the Legends Division lead – a loss is utterly unacceptable.
Nothing more need be said.
Will Nebraska step up to the challenge?
Tune in Saturday to find out.