When Big Ten Commissioner James Delany sat outside his office one day in 2008, a voice whispered to him.
“If you expand it, they will come.”
“Who, who will come”?
That bodiless voice probably didn’t happen like it did for Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams.”
But come Saturday, the twelfth Big Ten team, Nebraska, will take the field under the lights of Camp Randall to experience its first taste of Big Ten play. A field of dreams, if you will, for college football fans everywhere.
In one of the most hyped conference openers in Big Ten history, who holds the advantage in this matchup of top ten teams? Allow me to break down some aspects of Nebraska and Wisconsin in order to give you a clearer understanding of both programs and which program is better than the other.
Name: Badgers v. Cornhuskers
Here’s a fun fact: Nebraska stole its name from Iowa! Lincoln sportswriter Charles. S. Sherman in 1900 was sick of calling Nebraska by its old nickname (to be mentioned later) so he adopted for Nebraska the term “Cornhuskers” after Iowa fans decided they preferred “Hawkeyes.” As for comparison, what’s more intimidating: a badger or a worker who husks corn? Granted that worker may be a strong country boy, but a badger is a mean, aggressive and territorial animal. A cornhusker may get that way after a few too many on a Friday night, but when it comes down to it the name Cornhuskers does not strike fear in an opponent. When someone is being pesky, that person is said to be “badgering” another. When a person husks corn, that person is said to be from Nebraska. The good news in all of this for the Cornhuskers is that their nickname is no longer what it was before 1900: the Bugeaters!
Mascots: Bucky v. Herbie Husker
Bucky is a larger-than-life member of the weasel family that wears a sweater. Seriously, he’s a wild animal with style. Creative (various game skits), strong as an ox (194 pushups through four games) and loveable (he holds babies in photo ops), Bucky is certainly well-rounded. Herbie Husker, on the other hand, is unremarkable. He looks like a guy from the Midwest, plain and simple. Adorned with a red cowboy hat, a button-up red shirt tucked into jeans with a belt and boots. Herbie looks, well, like you’d imagine a Cornhusker would. He sort of resembles some of the townies Patrick Swayze throws around in “Roadhouse.” This isn’t even close. Buckingham U. wins in a landslide.
Wisconsin has never won a national championship. Nebraska has won five (1970, 71, 94, 95, 97). Wisconsin has two Heisman Trophy winners (Alan Ameche 1954, Ron Dayne 1999). Nebraska has three (Johnny Rodgers 1972, Mike Rozier 1983, Eric Crouch 2001). Nebraska has appeared in 47 bowl games. Wisconsin has appeared in 22. Nebraska has 25 ten-win seasons. The Badgers have seven.
Game day traditions:
Nebraska has some unique traditions for game days. One of these is the release of red helium-filled balloons after the Husker’s first touchdown. Nebraska fans also traditionally stand and applaud the visiting team as it exits the field whether the Huskers win or lose. Nebraska also has a video of legends that plays while the team begins to walk through the tunnel to enter the game to the tune of “Sirius.”
Wisconsin, on the other hand, has Jump Around, the Fifth Quarter, the great student section race (J has always been my favorite letter) and ES-FU. Yep, some of our chants are so strongly worded that they have lost us band songs during the game (RIP Swingtown). While Nebraska fans are traditionally held to be some of the most dedicated fans in the country, the game day experience inside Camp Randall cannot be matched.
Bo Pelini is one scary dude. In fact, I don’t even want to joke about him out of my deep abiding fear of his retaliation. You don’t cross him. In case you haven’t seen any highlights of Pelini on the sideline, he has no problem screaming at the refs until his face turns the color of Nebraska’s home red. When his players aren’t playing their best, Pelini lets them know his thoughts personally; just ask Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez. Pelini’s results with Nebraska have been as impressive as his rage, leading the Huskers to a first place finish in the Big 12 North conference three years straight and a 2-1 record in bowls.
While Bielema has nothing as noticeable as Pelini’s intensity (if Pelini’s stare could move mountains, the world would be flat), he has returned the Badgers to prosperity in his reign (culminated with last year’s glorious trip to Pasadena). Bielema is currently 53-16 as the head coach of Wisconsin while Pelini is 34-12 at Nebraska. Bielema has been very open with his excitement for Saturday. Pelini has simply said “It’s just the next game on the schedule for us.” Liar.
There you have it. If these categories mean anything, Wisconsin will turn out the victor when the smoke clears on Saturday night.
A word of advice: when you file into the stadium Saturday, make sure you stop for a second and think. You are a part of history. You are witnessing the birth of a new rivalry, a new opponent and a new chapter in Wisconsin history. Soak it in.
If college football had a field of dreams, it will look like Camp Randall at kickoff.
Nick is a senior majoring in history and English. Think Nick is off his rocker and extremely biased toward Wisconsin? So do we! Let Nick know what you think the outcome of the game will be and why at firstname.lastname@example.org.