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November 19, 2012

Husker Buzz: What do Maryland and Rutgers bring?



When Nebraska announced they were joining the Big Ten in 2010 there were balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling.

It was a celebration. It was a special day, and most importantly Nebraska fans were happy to get away from the politics of Texas and former Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.

During Monday's press conference when the Big Ten announced Maryland would become the league's 13th member it didn't have that same feeling.

There wasn't that excitement or buzz in the room like there was in Lincoln a little over two years ago.

Instead there were a lot of questions directed towards Maryland's leadership on why they made this move. When Tom Osborne talked about joining the Big Ten in 2010 he called the league a better "cultural fit" for Nebraska.

When you look at that statement today it has a completely different feel. When comparing the culture of places like Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan the last thing that comes to my mind is Washington DC and New York City.

The bottom line is money talks. Rivalries and tradition mean nothing in today's financially driven college football world. Gone are the Nebraska vs. Oklahoma and the Texas vs. Texas A&M games. Both victims to conference expansion.

In the basketball world gone are the Kansas vs. Missouri, the Maryland vs. Duke and Maryland vs. North Carolina rivalries.

Conference expansion and the amount of money these institutions can gain by making moves to the SEC and the Big Ten is so much that it's enough to drop all your previous history and traditions. We saw it in Lincoln, we saw it in College Station and Columbia and now we are seeing it at Maryland.

With Rutgers, I don't blame them one bit for leaving. They are now the biggest winner of any institution in conference expansion. Rutgers is the guy that snuck on the lifeboat of the Titanic with the rest of the women and children. They got out and you can't blame them one bit.

For Nebraska's sake at least Illinois will be coming over to the Legends Division. What will the Big Ten do from there? With six future divisional games how will the league handle the crossover rivalry games?

You know Ohio State vs. Michigan is not going anywhere and Minnesota vs. Wisconsin will continue to play each other. Does Nebraska vs. Penn State make sense anymore on annual basis? These will be scheduling questions Jim Delany will have to answer going forward.

You also have to wonder if adding Maryland and Rutgers is the move to set up the next move. Is 14 the next step to eventually go to 16? Will teams like Clemson and Florida State look at the Big 12 and the SEC now if they don't feel the ACC is a viable option for them going forward? Most importantly could those moves shake up the ACC enough to mess up Notre Dame's new deal and force their hand to eventually join a league in football?

We thought this conference expansion carousel was done, but it looks like it's only just begun.


Some positives on the move

Some of the positives for Nebraska with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten are the potential opportunities it opens up in recruiting.

Nebraska has never had a ton of success recruiting the Northeast as of late, but this at least gives them something to open up more doors with.

"We hit those areas," head coach Bo Pelini said on Monday. "We obviously have a guy committed from one of those areas and we've signed a couple of kids out of the DC and Virginia and Maryland market. We've had a fairly active presence in Jersey and that area. Will that change how we approach it? We've had so many different recruiting areas and different changes that we've had to go through, it's kind of like everything else. You just wait and see and try and figure it out and make the decisions that are going to be best for the program in the long term.

"With the changes and conference and everything we've gone through, it seems like it's been one change after another. I think what we've done well is we've kept a solid base of certain areas and we dive into some other areas and see what kind of reception we get and kind of play it by ear as we go along."

Another positive in adding Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten is at least Omaha offers direct flights to both Newark and LaGuardia airports in the New York City area and to Reagan National Airport in Washington DC, which should make traveling to those two schools much easier in the future.

Three and out

***My All-Big Ten picks for Nebraska right now would be wide receiver Kenny Bell and offensive lineman Spencer Long on the first-team offense, and quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and offensive lineman Justin Jackson on the second-team.

Defensively I think defensive end Eric Martin and cornerback Ciante Evans and safety Daimion Stafford are all worthy of first-team honors, while linebacker Will Compton and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste have a case to make the second-team. It will be interesting to see what voters do with kicker Brett Maher. I think you can make a case for him to be on at least the second-team.

***With Iowa's struggles this year this game definitely doesn't feel like a "rivalry." In fact it feels no different than Nebraska traveling to Iowa State or Kansas. It won't be a rivalry until both teams are in contention to win the division at the same time.

***You can bet that defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski will have his guys ready on Saturday. Kaczenski has done an outstanding job with this season. A year ago the Iowa media and fans tried to blame him for the Hawkeyes lack of production up front. Going into Saturday Iowa ranks dead last in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss, while under Kaczenski NU ranks second and third in those same two categories. The bottom line is Iowa's recruiting and development of linemen has slipped big time the last few seasons. Line play is what built their program under Kirk Ferentz.

Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.



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