Ding-dong the Big 12 is dead (insert generic joke about incorrectly numbered conferences here). While most people are stuck living in the past, Dirkness will stick to progressive thinking and examine what the future might look like for Nebraska in the Huge 12 (sad thought- soon conferences will be renamed and will most likely be attached to sponsors- maybe the Amazon 12 and the Roscoe's Chicken n Waffles 16). I'll share just a few thoughts on the messy break up before a team-by-team breakdown of the new Evan Williams Green Label 12.
~I don't hear enough people blaming the true villain of this situation- Dan Beebe- Commish of the Atari 12. His lack of forward thought and ability to adjust to new-aged media will be the death of the Xanga 12. If there were a Big 12 Network right now, there's no way the conference breaks up.
~Given the USC sanctions and impending fall from the nation's elite, Texas is the number one team to avoid in conference realignment. They, along with Oklahoma, will dominate the Taco Tico 16.
~I feel bad for Iowa State in this situation. They always had great fans and a happy-to-be-here kind of attitude. KU basketball will be fine because you can win it all without being in a top conference (although it's extremely fascinating how completely ignored basketball is in all of the realignment discussions). Missouri started talk of the exodus, but wasn't prominent enough to finish it. Nobody really cares about K-State, and I think they are a basketball school now anyway. But, Iowa State, doesn't stand a chance in this cruel, cruel world.
~Next season's Big 12, especially Nebraska road games, should reach a new level of intensity. Players and fans alike will be out for blood against any and all defectors. How crazy would it be, and this is very possible, if Nebraska runs the table and wins the Big 12 Championship in its final year?
On to the breakdown of the newly formed Red Apple Cigarettes 12 (Dirkness Dollas to whoever comprehends that):
West- Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern
East- Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
Iowa- The most natural, impending rival with Nebraska due to geographical location and prestige. Iowa is my personal third favorite team in the NCAA behind Nebraska and Kansas, which will make it hard to develop true hatred for them (and even harder for my Dad, who went to Iowa). Could possibly evolve into more of a respected rivalry (Nebraska-Oklahoma) than one built on abhorrence (Nebraska-Colorado). Oh yea, and then there is Eric Crouch's introduction to the country...
Minnesota- Met with Nebraska four times from 1983-1990. Combined score: 226-20 (84-13, 38-7, 48-0, 56-0). That's some serious Gopher exterminating. Minnesota has remained relatively irrelevant since their incoherent decision to fire Glen Mason.
Wisconsin- Could foster into a good blue-collared annual rivalry filled with running games, hard hats, defense, and warm PBR's. Wisconsin won the last meeting in 1974, upsetting the #4 ranked Huskers. One of the newly formed matchups I am greatly looking forward to.
Illinois- The Fightin' Ron Zooks would've rather seen their true rival Missouri knighted into the conference, but instead will have to settle for a yearly beatdown from a non-rival. Not much history aside from two lopsided Husker victories from the mid-80's.
Northwestern- The fans of the new purple-clad Wildcats adversary most likely remember ending one of their most successful seasons with a 66-17 drubbing at the hands of a Nebraska team that felt it should've been playing in something better than the Alamo Bowl. This rounds out what could be a relatively weak Western division of the Beard n' Stache 12.
Purdue- Only one meeting between the two in their history and it was a 28-0 thrashing in favor of Purduhhhhhh in 1958. I assure you, Nebraska fans have not let go of that, and will finally get their chance at revenge. Purdue won't be anything until they hire Herm Edwards as their next head coach.
Indiana- Another red and white brethren actually leads the all-time series 9-7-3, despite Nebraska romping in the last four meetings. It'll be intriguing to see if this team on the rise can survive in the new landscape of the Fop 12.
Michigan- Here's where things get interesting. These two teams shared the 1997 National Championship after Nebraska was more impressive in beating the Tennessee Peytons than Michigan was in beating the Washington State Ryan Leafs (which of those seems more impressive now?). There was also the 2005 Alamo Bowl with one of the more improbable endings of all time...
Michigan State- Interesting fact: Bo Pelini's first game as head coach of Nebraska, when he was interim coach for the 2003 Alamo Bowl only, came against Michigan State (I'm told there was a coach in between there somewhere, but I just can't recall). Sure enough, we only allowed three points, and although I can't vouch for it, I'm sure we had dominant defensive tackle play. The Spartans also had the honor of getting bamboozled by the greatest team of all time, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Ohio State- These will be the two teams wrestling for alpha dog status in the immediate future in the Nissan Blaxima 12. It will be a spectacle every time these two juggernauts get together, and will prove to be one of the more captivating matchups that results from all the realigning. These two storied programs have met only two times in their history, both Buckeyes victories from the 1950's. Although, I faintly remember another encounter...
Penn State- Tom Osborne vs. Joe Paterno (the obviously disputable two best College Football coaches of all time). A history exists between these two programs, meeting five years in a row from 1979-1983, with both teams being ranked in every game, and Nebraska winning three of the five (not to mention, their heated volleyball past). There is also 1994, when both Nebraska and Penn State finished the season undefeated, that saw Nebraska emerge with the National Championship, which the Nittanies are sure to hold against the incoming Huskers. This traditional, powerhouse matchup should be fun every time they get together.
Go Big Red!