Memo to Big Ten: Nebraska Belongs in the Conference After All

Michael HuckstepCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2011

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: Defensive back Lance Thorell #23 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers takes the ball away from wide receiver B.J. Cunningham #3 of the Michigan State Spartans during their game at Memorial Stadium October 29, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Excuses, excuses, excuses.

That's all that Nebraska fans have been hearing from the Big Ten and national presses.

After the Huskers' first conference game, in which they were soundly beaten by Wisconsin, a collective shout rose above the din:

"Nebraska doesn't belong in the Big Ten!"

"They're clearly not ready to face this black-and-blue style of football after playing in the marshmallow-soft Big 12 with it's spread offenses and rubber band defenses!"

A week later, when they recorded their historic, record-breaking comeback against Ohio State, following a momentum-shifting strip by Lavonte David, people said that Nebraska wouldn't have won if Braxton Miller hadn't been injured.

Nebraska fans aren't rubes fresh off the farm; we've been following our Huskers religiously since 1890 and we realize that Braxton's departure from the game affected the outcome.

However, the last time we checked, Braxton doesn't play defense.

Alas, it was a fairly stout Buckeyes defense upon which Martinez, Burkhead and Co. rattled off 28 straight, unanswered points.

Then, after Nebraska's bye week, the Huskers traveled to Minnesota and administered a 41-14 whipping of the Golden Gophers.

The excuses that week revolved around the fact that it was "only Minnesota."

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers tries to slip past linebacker Max Bullough #40 of the Michigan State Spartans during their game at Memorial Stadium October 29, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Everyone beats Minnesota.

This past Saturday, the excuses continued.

While listening to Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman and special guest Urban Meyer give the post-mortem during the waning minutes of Nebraska's solid 24-3 win over Michigan State (or the team of destiny, they said), the storyline had more to do with Michigan State being unable to sustain their high level of emotion and less to do with Nebraska's performance.

After all, they continued, how do you prepare for a game against Nebraska (inferring that the Huskers were of a lesser caliber) after beating Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin (with such a dramatic ending, no less) in consecutive weeks?

Very little was said about Nebraska's rushing offense more than doubling the Spartans' season average for rushing yards allowed.

Nary a word was spoken about the Blackshirts holding Kirk Cousins to 86 total passing yards.

No, it was dismissed as a letdown on the part of Sparty.

Well, here's a theory for all the Big Ten elitists and those who have wished nothing but failure on Nebraska for mistakenly believing that their departure from the Big 12 caused so much resultant chaos—FYI, the wheels of that debacle were first set in motion by the Longhorns long ago.

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 29: quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 hands the ball to teammate running back Rex Burkhead #22 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game against the Michigan State Spartans at Memorial Stadium October 29, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Perhaps the joke is on YOU.

Perhaps Nebraska actually belongs in the Big Ten after all, with its downhill rushers and its stingy defenses.

Maybe the third quarter of the Ohio State game was a turning point, one that was refined by the Husker coaching staff.

You can say what you want about Taylor Martinez's passing, but it is obvious that Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck has tweaked his game plan.

The 2011 Husker offense very much resembles the offenses that Dr. Tom used to run, consisting more of short, high-percentage passes and rushing plays designed to better utilize the legs of a lightning quick quarterback and a seemingly unstoppable running back.

Or have the Blackshirts finally stepped up, after rallying around the fallen Jared Crick and/or finding the right combination in the secondary?

Surely we won't know the answer next weekend; if the Huskers beat Northwestern, it will be dismissed again as a meaningless win against an inferior opponent.

Nebraska will probably have to await its verdict until they've traveled to "Happy Valley" and "The Big House."

However, if the Huskers manage to survive those two tests, it's a safe bet that Nebraska haters will have some convenient excuses locked and loaded then as well.