CHICAGO — Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was asked about competitive balance in the league Monday morning. Or, you know, a perceived lack thereof. He said when the conference was going about restructuring the divisions into the current East/West format, fans voiced a desire for geographic rivals to be preserved.
“Reinforce the historical rivalries,” Delany said.
The funny thing is, Nebraska doesn’t have any in this conference. Not really. Colorado comes to Lincoln to reignite an old Big Eight flame. Oklahoma comes around again in a couple years, but Nebraska doesn’t really have a current organic Big Ten rival. A true rival.
A few members of the team would disagree with that statement, but the current head ball coach is fine if that’s the truth.
“Nebraska has had historic rivalries, but part of the reason they might not have been as strong recently is Nebraska hasn't been what it should be,” Scott Frost said during his time at the podium. “Rivalries are going to come when we're playing the way we should. And I think the people are back at Nebraska who are going to make it what it should be in the pantheon of college football again.”
Even when Nebraska is playing at that level and does get one of those rivalries back — regardless of who it is — it seems as if there won’t be any bulletin board material posted up in the Huskers’ locker room when the game rolls around each year.
“We’re not going make any one game more important than another,” he said. “If you put more emphasis on games like that you’re not going to play very well in the other ones. We’re going to approach every game the same. Not try to make one more important, not try to fire up our kids artificially to play harder, we’re going to play hard no matter what.”
And that’s an interesting comment to make because on the other side of an overhauled downtown Marriott ballroom offensive guard Jerald Foster was talking quite candidly about his distaste for Iowa and defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg was essentially saying the Big Ten West has run through Madison and Nebraska isn’t too thrilled with that.
From the players’ standpoint, the Huskers very much have some bad blood with a couple Big Ten counterparts. Let’s start with Wisconsin.
“I would say last year we looked like Wisconsin’s little brother,” Foster, one of three Husker seniors tabbed to represent the school on the trip, said. “And I hated that completely. I hated the whole sense of that.”
Foster added that the thing with Wisconsin is consistency. He said Nebraska hasn’t had it in recent meetings. Wisconsin has.
“The Wisconsin games have been close, they’ve been in range for us to get the win and then it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “The thing is it’s all about consistency. Football is all about consistency. If you’re able to be a good player for half of a game, then you lost because that second half you’re going to get put down.
“I always see Wisconsin playing the same game they played at the start, playing it at the end of the game and they beat teams down. Some teams just can’t roll with it. I feel like the inconsistency we’ve had in the past has been our downfall when it gets to the end.”
Foster was later asked about Iowa. The question was phrased in a way that made him laugh. “You trying to get me to say I don’t like Iowa?” he quipped back, but he eventually obliged. He doesn’t like Iowa. It's obvious.
“That game is one I look forward to,” he said. “It’s been too long since we’ve won that game so this next year I want to go and get us one and leave them with a real nasty taste in their mouth so they can have that for a whole 364 days.
“For us to be able to finish off our regular season with a win over Iowa would be a great feeling for me.”
Frost wants his guys up for every game. No peaks mean no valleys. The fact of the matter is, some games are just inherently going to mean more than others. Nebraska hasn’t beaten Wisconsin in five years. Its lost to Iowa in four of the last five. Players want to change that.
Foster mentioned multiple times how excited he was to play the Akron Zips on Sept. 1, but there’s a fire burning when it comes to those other guys. Foster says Nebraska has found its identity again under Frost and that will help moving forward. They’ve got confidence now they didn’t have before. He advised against overlooking Nebraska because of what it has been
“For us to have our own identity again, us being who we are, this being Nebraska … hopefully that gives everybody a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “I know it does for me — so when we do play Wisconsin [and Iowa] again we’ll be able to have that little extra because that little extra is what’s not been there for us in these past four or five years.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.