Big Black? Huskers go mad in first Big Ten game

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In case you were wondering, black.

Nebraska fans, usually decked out in red and easily spotted on the road, will don black Saturday when the Cornhuskers play their first Big Ten game at Wisconsin.

You see, the Badgers also wear red, and a very similar shade at that. And Nebraska’s defense has been known as the Blackshirts since back in the Bob Devaney days, so there is a connection to Huskers history.

As for the Cornhuskers themselves, they traditionally wear white jerseys with red numbers on top of red pants on the road.

Helmets might cause a bit of confusion Saturday night at the Madhouse in Madison know as Camp Randall Stadium. Nebraska’s white helmet, with one red stripe down the middle and that familiar block N on the side, could be mistaken _ at least at a quick glance, with a linebacker chasing you _ for Wisconsin’s white helmet with two red stripes down the middle and a chunky W on the side.

There have even been rumors making the rounds on the Internet that the Cornhuskers will wear black helmets. Hard to imagine Huskers athletic director and icon-in-chief Tom Osborne would let that happen, but who knows?

“We’re pretty traditional,” Osborne said this week. “Anything is possible, but if it happens it was something I’m not aware of.”

It is a new era in Lincoln, one that has the potential to produce an interesting rivalry between the Huskers and Badgers.

Beyond the color schemes, the programs have an obvious link.

Former Wisconsin coach and now athletic director Barry Alvarez played linebacker at Nebraska in the 1960s.

He became the Badgers’ coach in 1990 and transformed a Big Ten doormat into a perennial Rose Bowl contender, one with some Nebraska flavor.

Much like Nebraska, Wisconsin, because of its location, has often had limited access to five-star recruits. But the Badgers have found success in knowing exactly what they want to be and finding players that fit their systems.

At their best, Nebraska and Wisconsin have kept things relatively simple offensively, using rugged defenses, and more than enough speed and skill to compete at the highest levels.

The Huskers (Legends) and Badgers (Leaders) aren’t in the same division and haven’t been designated as protected crossover rivals, so they won’t play every year.

But there’s potential for them to meet in the conference title game, and with the current state of each program, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Wisconsin and Nebraska see a lot of each other in the new Big Ten.

The picks:

THURSDAY

No. 16 South Florida (minus 2 1/2) at Pittsburgh

Panthers haven’t caught on to up-tempo, spread offense … USF 21-14.

SATURDAY

Kentucky (plus 29 1/2) at No. 1 LSU

From Gator Bait to Tiger Bait … LSU 45-10.

Ball State (plus 37 1/2) at No. 2 Oklahoma

Sooners WR Ryan Broyles is second in nation with 11 catches per game … OKLAHOMA 55-14.

No. 3 Alabama (minus 4) at No. 12 Florida

Gators Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combine to average 7.5 yards per carry … ALABAMA 27-24.

Nevada (plus 27 1/2) at No. 4 Boise State

Pay back time for Broncos … BOISE STATE 48-17.

UCLA (plus 20 1/2) at No. 6 Stanford

Loss of LB Shayne Skov (knee) will hurt Cardinal _ but not this week … STANFORD 45-16.

No. 8 Nebraska (plus 9 1/2) at No. 7 Wisconsin

That is one scary welcoming committee … WISCONSIN 42-24.

Auburn (plus 10) at No. 10 South Carolina

Stephen Garcia leads nation in head phone-toss inducing plays … SOUTH CAROLINA 35-31.

No. 13 Clemson (plus 7) at No. 11 Virginia Tech

Third straight big game for Tigers, first on road … VIRGINIA TECH 24-20.

No. 14 Texas A&M (minus 3) vs. No. 18 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas

Hey, Aggies, you do realize this is the THIRD-BEST team in the SEC West? … TEXAS A&M 28-21.

No. 15 Baylor (minus 3 1/2) at Kansas State

Robert Griffin III has yet to throw an interception … KANSAS STATE 31-27.

No. 17 Texas (minus 9) at Iowa State

Cyclones beat Texas for first time last season … TEXAS 28-14.

BEST BET

Minnesota (plus 20) at No. 19 Michigan

Little Brown Jug stays in Ann Arbor … MICHIGAN 48-21.

SMU (plus 11 1/2) at No. 20 TCU

Winner gets into the Big 12! Loser, Big East … TCU 35-21.

No. 21 Georgia Tech (minus 10) at N.C. State

Yellow Jackets WR Stephen Hill averaging 33 yards on his 14 catches … GEORGIA TECH 38-24.

Bowling Green (plus 20) at No. 22 West Virginia

Falcons lead nation in net punting at 45 yards per kick … WEST VIRGINIA 42-20.

UPSET SPECIAL

Northwestern (plus 8) at No. 24 Illinois

QB Dan Persa (Achilles) expected to return for Wildcats … NORTHWESTERN 24-21.

Oregon State (plus 18) at No. 25 Arizona State

Beavers have won three straight in series … ARIZONA STATE 45-24.

___

Last week’s record: 18-1 (straight); 8-9 (vs. spread).

Season record: 78-7 (straight); 43-28-1 (vs. spread).

Best bets: 3-1.

Upset specials: 1-3.

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