It seemed like all was lost after the Nebraska Cornhuskers fell in embarrassing 48-17 fashion to the Wisconsin Badgers three weeks ago. The championship hopes, opportunity to dominate the conference, and a shot at proving the critics wrong all just kind of vanished.
And then, with one miracle Hail Mary pass, the Michigan State Spartans gave new life to the seasons of every contender in the Big Ten – Nebraska included.
Here is the situation as it stands at this very moment: the Huskers currently have three games (the Northwestern Wildcats are second-rate and Iowa Hawkeyes are worse than their record indicates) standing between them and a potential shot at the conference title.
The most important of the games comes next week, on October 29, when Nebraska hosts the Spartans in a must-win game for both teams. Essentially, because the Spartans have already beaten the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin, the Huskers are their last legitimate threat and potential loss for the year. By the same token, the Huskers have to beat the Spartans because they still have games against the Penn State Nittany Lions and Wolverines on the agenda, and in order for those games to have any meaning, they can only have one loss for the year.
So this Saturday’s outing battle between Nebraska and Michigan State is vital, obviously.
From there, assuming they get the win they need, the Huskers have to go on the road and face Penn State on November 12. Really, the Nittany Lions aren’t a great team and shouldn’t pose much of a threat, but the fact that the Huskers have to play in hostile Big Ten territory -- which they’re not accustomed to yet -- is cause for concern.
And then, if Nebraska can beat both Michigan State and Penn State over the next three weeks, the final test will come in the form of a November 19 showdown versus Michigan – also on the road. Because of the level of athleticism that the Wolverines have and the fact that it’s a road game in very, very hostile Big Ten territory, this is going to be a tough one for the Huskers to come away with.
There are a lot of variables at play here, clearly, but Nebraska more or less controls its own fate. If the Huskers can go undefeated in this second half of the year, they’ll be in the running for a shot at vindication versus the Badgers and the conference crown. If they fall to Michigan State this week, though, then all of the hope goes out the window.
Of course, there is no denying that the Huskers also have the toughest remaining schedule out of the three teams that are in the running to win the Big Ten out of their division, so that’s a pretty big mark against them.
Can they ultimately pull out the clutch wins and prove the doubters wrong? Absolutely.
The odds are against it.