So far in our journey to the 2011/2012 National Championship Game we've ventured into the SEC six times, the Big 12 four times and we've visited the ACC, Big East, Pac-12 and Mountain West once. So where is the Big Ten?
The Big Ten has been absent from the last three Championship Games but Ohio State made the game in 2006 and 2007. I think there are three teams in the Big Ten that have an outside chance at getting to the big game this year. They are Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Ohio State by virtue of their talent, Wisconsin by virtue of their style and Nebraska by virtue of their defense and schedule. The seventh game we feature in this series is when Ohio State goes on the road to Lincoln, Nebraska.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers
When: October 8th
Where: Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska
This will be one of the biggest games in the Big Ten this year and could have an impact on the National landscape. Of course, if Ohio State is pelted by the NCAA and banned from the post-season and Nebraska falls to Wisconsin on October 1st then this game will take a much different meaning. But let's pretend for a minute that the NCAA drags it's feet and Nebraska pulls off a victory at Wisconsin. If Ohio State survives it's early tussles with the Hurricanes and the Spartans then we've got a meeting of two historic teams that will play a game of smash-mouth football.
This will be the first game that Ohio State's "Tattoo Five" will be eligible to play in and it's a tough one on the road. I'm sure that the Buckeyes will be amped up getting their players back but a cautionary tale I will tell is that of A.J. Green and the Georgia Bulldogs from 2010. A.J. was suspended for the first four games of the year and when he came back he dominated Colorado in the 5th game of the year but he cramped up late and was out of the game when Georgia lost the edge and fell on the road. No matter how much of a superior athlete you are practice is just not the same as playing the game and it will be very interesting to see how the "Tattoo Five" do when they get back onto the field. They will have an immediate impact but will they also have conditioning/cramping issues like A.J. had?
Out of all the teams that I will feature in this series I think Nebraska is one of the teams that is the furthest away from the National Championship. But then I look at Nebraska and see that they lost their three regular season games by just a combined margin of 13 points. If things had gone their way they could have had a much different season last year. I think Nebraska matches up well with the Big Ten and I think they will come in and have an immediate impact on the conference. The two game stretch that is Wisconsin and Ohio State will decide the fate of the Cornhuskers this season. If Nebraska can improve their offense this year and get more consistent play at the QB position they could be a legit contender.
For Ohio State, I see this as one of their two toughest games of the season (the other is against Wisconsin). Like I've already mentioned I think it's going to be tougher than Ohio State fans probably think to work the "Tattoo Five" back into the line-up. The guys that replace them will get a great opportunity and it will help Ohio State down the road with depth but how rusty will the five players be when they play their first game against a tough and gritty Nebraska team. You also have to wonder if they will try to do too much and over-compensate while trying to make up their missed time. Lincoln is a tough place on the road and an even tougher place to place your first game of the season. This game will be won in the trenches and the winner will be the front-runner (along with Wisconsin) to take the Conference crown and possibly play a role in the National Championship Game.
15 Games That Will Decide The National Champion: