(Photo courtesy AP)
Look at that picture: Nebraska's flat out adorable, AND manages to pimp a good game. Just like a Big Ten school should.
To welcome the "baby" of the B1G, it's incumbent on us at OTE to throw them a suitable baby shower....nay, not a baby shower, a baby shower POTLUCK.
Coming from the "pay Texas first, then divvy up the scraps" system of the Big 12, the Husker fans may not be accustomed to the
socialist (previous word stricken at the direction of proud American/capitalist B1G alums J Leman and Ricky Stanzi) egalitarian B1G OTE potluck, where everyone contributes and we all get rich get fat learn about a different team each week. Below the jump, the OTE writers (as well as contributors from excellent SBN Nebraska site Corn Nation -- thanks guys!) bring forth their finest meats and cheeses for a Nebraska baby shower potluck feast, complete with hazing, a demonstration of ESSSS EEEE SEEEE Nebraska defensive speed, a T-Magic show, and sandwiches.....oh so many delicious sandwiches.....
1. Appetizer: On July 1st, it becomes official -- Nebraska's in the Big Ten, the finest conference in all of college sports. As they're newly joining this proud fraternity, that means just one thing: hazing. How would you haze the Cornhuskers? Or is their murderous 2011 schedule (at Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan; hosting OSU, MSU, Northwestern and Iowa; only missing Illinois, Indiana and Purdue) hazing enough?
Bama Hawkeye: How would I haze the Huskers? I've gotta be honest. I was never Greek when in college, so I'm sure there are those that are much better versed in the art of tying weights to body parts or sitting on broom handles. However, the logistics of getting 80,000 broom handles to Lincoln on four Saturdays seems ridiculous to me. Quite frankly, hazing is immature and, too often, results in serious injury or death. Instead, I suggest we handle this in a more adult, professional manner. We institute a finder's fee.
Now obviously, Nebraska was "found" when people made the mistake of crossing the Missouri River from Iowa and setting foot in that God-forsaken land. As a result, it's only fair that Iowa will receive a commission, or finder's fee, on any points that Nebraska scores for the next three years. In their first year, Iowa receives a 30% cut of Nebraska's total. We'll cut it to 20% and 10% in the subsequent years. So as an example, if Nebraska scores 20 points against Ohio State on October 8th, six points are deducted from their score and added to Iowa's total as the Hawkeyes play Penn State. It's simple. It's painless. And if the Huskers are as good as their fans would have you believe, it shouldn't prevent them from going 8-0 in the B1G.
Jon: I would make them apply SLOWDOWN CREAM to their defense because it's so much faster than the slow B1G defenses existing teams are accustomed to. Then I would make them promise to stop beating dead horses, which is a favorite past time of at least one of them.
Ricky: Geez, wasn't the scheduling enough? Are we at the "Yes Sir, May I Have Another?!" stage now?
2. Salad: I think Nebraska's defense is loaded, talented, and flat-out terrifying. Jared Crick is a front-runner for every "best college defensive lineman" award imaginable, LB Lavonte David is explosive, and they have a great cornerback in Alfonzo Dennard. And yet....they're transitioning to a 4-3 defense (from the "Peso" -- a 4-2-5 designed to stop Big 12 passing offenses....or as it's usually called, a "nickel"), and going from a spread-happy, pass-first league (where pass-rush and cover corner skills are key) to the B1G, where you MUST be able to stop power running offenses like Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, MSU, etc. Am I right that Nebraska is the B1G's most fearsome defense in 2011? Or are they in for a rude awakening when B1G teams with steamrolling, 300 lb+ offensive lines and huge power RBs come into town?
After this Crick tackle, the referees added one second on to the clock for Texas....
Chadnudj: Come on, admit it -- the caption to the photo immediately above this made you laugh (or cry, if you're a Husker fan.)
Nebraska has nothing to worry about on defense. They have strength/depth on the D-line, combined with speed on the edges, and are a fundamentally sound tackling team -- all keys to defending any type of running attack, whether it be spread, power, or some OSU-type hybrid. Throw in the fact that they practice against a very mobile QB in Taylor Martinez, and I think they'll be prepared to slow down/attack the B1G's plethora of mobile QBs.
But that's far from saying the Blackshirts will be invincible, or even the B1G's best defense in 2011 -- they very well could be, but they have some steep hurdles to rise over first. O-lines in the Big 12 were predominantly smaller, as were the RBs -- let's put it this way, Nebraska never lined up across from a Wisconsin and had to tackle Montee Ball and James White (or MSU's O-line and Edwin Baker...or Iowa's O-line and whatever RB the AIRBHG has chosen for mercy from injury). And while speed/strength/talent is important to a defense, so is discipline -- none of the QBs the Blackshirts faced in games last year (or in practice) had the speed of Denard Robinson, the running ability/passing accuracy combination of Dan Persa, or were wily experts at the play-action quite like Kirk Cousins. The Huskers defense is good -- damn good, frankly -- but to paraphrase Dennis Green, let's not crown them the B1G's best defense quite yet.
Jon: I'll try a serious answer for once. Are we completely forgetting Ohio State here or what, because they'll still have a lot of the same players, and their defense should still be pretty amazing... assuming that most of the team stays intact into fall.
I don't mean to be rude, but I'll be blunt. The Big Ten isn't exactly known for its offensive creativity, so in some ways playing defense in the new world order will be easier for Nebraska. It's not that big a secret that Nebraska's linebackers are bulking up, adding 10-15 pounds to their frames to get ready for the more run-centric attack in the Big Ten. Add to the list a pretty decent helping of depth, and I believe the Blackshirts will be more than okay
Mike: Nebraska found a way to stop power runners like Washington's Chris Polk and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas. There were issues last season early on when linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher were hurt. Compton returned near midseason and solidified the linebacker corp, and Fisher should be ready to go this fall. The Pelini's schemed to stop the spread last season, and they'll adjust to whatever the B1G has to offer.
Ricky: Pelini's big defensive overhaul was when Cosgrove mercifully left 10th and Vine. Given Brothers Pelinis' track record with coaching and teaching defense, I'm thinking that the transition to a 4-3 won't be as bumpy as it was when they had to teach the Blackshirts how to wrap up and hit someone 5 years ago.
3. Rice/Potato: For all of the hype surrounding Taylor Martinez, his 2010 numbers are fairly pedestrian in comparison to Big Ten QBs (even if he played in just 12 of Nebraska's 14 games): just 1631 yards passing (good for 10th in the Big Ten -- Scheelhaase had 1825 yards, Bolden had 1360 in just 10 games), a completion percentage of 59.2% (good for 8th in the Big Ten -- besting only Scheelhaase, Weber, and Bolden; Persa led the conference at 73.5%, with Tolzien at 72.9%); a QB rating of 138.8 (would place him 7th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Chappell, Scheelhaase, Weber, and Bolden; Tolzien was at 165.9, Persa at 159, Pryor at 157); and his 965 yards rushing, while undeniably impressive, still trailed Denard's 1702 yards rushing, and were just slightly ahead of Scheelhaase's 868 yards (and Pryor ran for 754, and Persa 519 in just 10 games). Moreover, those numbers were put up against weak Big 12 defenses (the only good/great Big 12 defenses in 2010 were Texas A&M's -- Martinez struggled -- and Nebraska's, who T-Magic only faced in practice). Am I right in believing that Taylor Martinez has "SOPHOMORE SLUMP" tattooed on his forehead?
Ted Glover: No, I don't think so. Martinez is capable of playing well against very good teams, as his ridiculous game against Oklahoma State can attest. Yeah, his numbers were pedestrian, and he slumped badly in the second half of the season, but he was hampered by multiple injuries and endured a public berating by Bo Pelini that is still uncomfortable to watch even now. Heck, even Pelini knew he went too far, and even though he's the starting quarterback for Nebraska, he's still an 18 year old kid. Those were some tough circumstances to have to deal with, and I think his numbers are a lot closer to the top if he doesn't get hurt and Pelini doesn't have his crisis of confidence in him. Now, like Denard Robinson, I don't know that he will be able to stay healthy, but if he can, he'll be one of the top 5 QB's in the conference.
Mike: If you are only going to look at season long statistics, and not even bring up the distinction between his performance before and after he suffered an ankle injury against Missouri, we're not going to be able to discuss this. About the only thing you can take away from your argument is that Martinez is not a great passer.
Ricky: I agree with Mike. With the exception of Eric Crouch, most Nebraska QBs don't have eye-popping stats. When he's healthy, Martinez has the "it" factor. You have to account for him at all times. I think the Oklahoma State game even proved that he was a serviceable passer. Keep in mind he was a freshman on the road for that game.
Jon: Wait a minute. A lot of Nebraska quarterbacks have eye-popping stats, but they're not in the air. If that's how they'll be measured, then my guess is they'll always look like failures. Historical reference - if you were take look at Nebraska's records vs Big Ten records before the 2010 season, Nebraska quarterbacks would fair extremely well in the running records (not against Big Ten competition, I get it, but for comparison's sake). Bottom line - Martinez must be a more efficient passer, but he's still more likely to get his yardage on the ground than in the air.
4. Meat/Hot Dish: 8 Big Ten teams have to prepare for one new-to-them offense/defense in Nebraska. Nebraska has to prepare for 8 new-to-them B1G offenses/defenses. Can Nebraska clear this hurdle and make a run at the B1G championship in year one (keep in mind: PSU won the Big Ten....in 1994, a.k.a. Year 2 in the league)? How? What's going to be the biggest hurdle in terms of adjustments to the league that Nebraska will have to clear in 2011?
Ted Glover: Yes. Nebraska had a pretty good defense in a very offense first conference, and most B1G offenses are more conservative and geared towards a pro-style as opposed to a read option spread. That will be even more pronounced in 2011. Ohio State will be playing a freshman QB or Joe Bauserman, so I would be stunned if their hybrid spread offense is half as effective as it was in 2010, Michigan is going back to a pro style offense, and the remaining teams that run a spread-type offense aren't as good as what Nebraska saw last year, save for maybe Northwestern, and that's assuming Dan Persa is healthy. I don't see a tremendous hurdle to have to overcome as the Blackshirts adjust to life in the B1G. On the contrary, they will be seeing offenses that play into Nebraska's strength. Yes, they gave up 150 yards/game rushing last year, but a lot of that has to do with the spread offenses they saw--they play pass first, and so you're going to see more running lanes. For the most part, when they wanted to stop the run, they did. Nebraska was exceptional against the pass, and got big leads early in many games, so running plays were available for their opponents. B1G offensive coordinators are looking at those numbers and are going to try and bludgeon Nebraska, and they're going to be in for a surprise when they don't get much between the tackles. Nebraska is going to be a defensive force in the B1G.
Mike: That's the x-factor in a nutshell. Nebraska will be very familiar with one opponent in 2011: Washington, who the Huskers played twice last season. So that's 11 new opponents to study and scheme against, with no pre-existing history to work from. That being said, it'll be like 2008 when the Pelini brothers had to adjust to 12 new opponents and players were out of shape, lacking basic fundamentals, and were lacking any confidence thanks to the complete ineptness of Pelini's predecessor.
Ricky: Not worried about them not being prepared. I AM worried about a new offensive scheme, no receivers save for Brandon Kinnie, and a young offensive line. Other than those minor details (sarcasm), we're good to go.
Jon: The biggest hurdle in terms of adjustments will be in handling the run on defense. Nebraska's offense doesn't have to be in the top 25, they just have to make sure they don't disappear throughout the season.
5. Dessert: Nebraska's biggest contribution to the Big Ten (other than passionate fans and awesome football)? That's easy: runzas -- a rectangular yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings (thanks Wikipedia), and also a popular Nebraska chain serving said delicioius sandwich. Which begs the question -- what's your favorite school's contribution to the proud and noble legacy of the sandwich? And where do proud fans of your school go to eat the best sandwiches on/near campus?
Bama Hawkeye: Sandwiches? Sandwiches? We're Iowa. We get our carbs from our alcohol. Don't bother us with your breads. When we eat, we eat meat.
I have four words for you: Big Ass Turkey Legs.
Paterno Ave: Penn State: Pennsylvania's two main cities each have their own iconic sandwich: in Philadelphia you have the well-known cheese steak and in Pittsburgh the less-famous Primanti's sandwich shop. State College, being in the middle of the two and serving comfort food to natives of both cities, has a great selection of both.
Cheese steaks need no introduction. I wouldn't be surprised if just about every Big Ten town offered a couple pretty good options. That being said, I'd like to think State College is one of the best places outside of Philly to get a cheesesteak. I mean, would you want to try serving up sub-par steaks at drunk Eagles fans at 2 a.m.? (No, no you would not.) Penn State Sub Shops offers some pretty good stuff, but when I'm back in town nothing beats Earnie's Steaks. Even better: Ernie's will serve you it's steaks (and amazing french fries) while you are playing table wars at the Phyrst.
The Primanti-style sandwich is a bit less notorious than the cheesesteak but no less delicious. Take a normal sandwich. Add french fries and coleslaw...not on the side: on the meat. Really. Good. Stuff. I was always partial to the Home Delivery Pizza Pub when I was an undergrad, but if you are walking around town you can get a pretty good version at the G-Man between trays of Mind Erasers.
Mike: Well, you covered Nebraska, and the only B1G school I know of is Iowa, and their loose meat sandwich, aka the "Maid Rite". It's what you expect from Iowa: pretty basic. Take ground beef, brown it, and throw it on a bun. So simple, even an Iowegian can put it together.
Ricky: For Runzas? You can't swing a dead cat in Lincoln and not hit a Runza. Buy one before a game in November. They make great hand warmers. I'm not kidding. My only complaint about Runza is that they had an Italian Runza on their menu and now it only makes rare appearances. I'd sell my youngest to have the recipe for the Italian Runza.
Jon: My school's favorite contribution to the sandwich is red beer, a concoction mixing cheap American piss beer like Keystone Light with V8 juice (some wimps use tomato juice). Husker fans who aren't candy asses add tabasco sauce.
For places near campus, I'm told that Doozy's and Bison Witches are places to go in Lincoln.
With regards to the proud, noble legacy - did you know that the Reuben Sandwich was invented in Omaha? No? Now you do and you're better off for it, right?
Chadnudj: I doubt any other sandwich shop matches the stereotypes of its local Big Ten university quite like Al's Deli encapsulates Northwestern stereotypes. The only reason Iowa fans haven't made fun of us for it is because Al's sandwiches are so damn good.
The owners of Al's Deli, accepting an award for their amazing sandwiches while their appearance and the store's decor unwittingly feed into every stereotype of Northwestern fans.
Al's Deli accepts both dollars and Euros, mainly because the owners (two brothers - the
dudes monseiurs in plaid above) are unabashed Francophiles (seriously), and perhaps believe the Euro is a more stable currency than the U.S. dollar. The store sells French chocolates and other European delicacies, and the walls are adorned with classical music and opera posters (and the radio's always playing classical/opera....and certainly NEVER the Northwestern football game on a Saturday). Al's Deli is open 6 days a week, but only 11 am to 4 pm (Northwestern students are too busy studying late at night to crave sandwiches). And the one day it's closed? Wednesday....because the brothers are huge classical/opera music fans and use the day to attend matinees. Like a Northwestern defensive lineman, the place is too small (they refuse to expand and/or open other locations), and the service is as slow as a Northwestern-player-running-the-40 (expect 45 minutes for a sandwich sometimes during the lunch rush). And, like many a Northwestern kicker with a bowl game on the line, they refuse to deliver.
Why, then, would you go? This:
That's turkey, swiss, lettuce, tomato, and an overabundance of delicious bernaise sauce on the most buttery and flaky croissant you've ever had in your life. Personally, I prefer the roast beef variation myself, but alas, I could fine no images on the Internet of the sandwich, probably because people scarffed them down too quickly for photos to be taken. Honestly, I've had many sandwiches in my day, but Al's Roast Beef with Bernaise on a croissant is by far the best (especially when complimented with frosted butter/vanilla cookie....seriously, I've seen people fight over those cookies).