INDIANAPOLIS — Nebraska won't barge into Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night acting like the big, bad favorite with a better record and higher ranking for the Big Ten championship game.
Nor have the Huskers felt any extra pressure this week, coach Bo Pelini says, even though they're in a different position than for Big 12 title games in 2009 and '10 in Arlington, Texas.
“I don't think that's really entered into our thoughts,” Pelini said Friday.
Nebraska is a three-point favorite for the game that will kick off at 7:17 p.m. It also owns a 30-27 win over Wisconsin from a Sept. 29 game that it trailed 27-10 in Lincoln.
Nos. 13 and 14 Nebraska is 10-2 and secured a spot in Indianapolis by winning the Legends Division with a 7-1 record (5-0 against its division). Wisconsin is 7-5 overall and unranked, went 4-4 in Big Ten play and advanced out of the Leaders Division only because Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) and Penn State (8-4, 6-2) are ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
But Pelini said the Badgers still have all of the Huskers' attention.
“Our team, believe me, they have full respect for this University of Wisconsin football team and their program,” he said. “It's going to be a battle. We understand that. We understood that going in when we knew a couple weeks ago that that was going to be our opponent if we were able to win out and win our division.”
Nebraska was a decided underdog for the 2009 Big 12 championship game, when Texas was 12-0, ranked No. 3 and one step from playing Alabama for the national championship. The Huskers, 9-3 and ranked No. 22, lost 13-12 on a last-second field goal by the Longhorns.
The following year, both Oklahoma and Nebraska were 10-2, but the Sooners were ranked three spots higher at No. 10 — and had spent a week at No. 1 in the BCS standings during that season. OU rallied for a 23-20 victory and its second win over Nebraska in a Big 12 final in a five-year span.
If there is a danger for the Huskers, it might be a slow start like they had against the Badgers nine weeks ago, when players admitted to coming out overhyped in the game where both teams wore alternate uniforms and the Memorial Stadium crowd was electric.
“Obviously they're going to be excited,” Pelini said. “Wisconsin's going to be excited. There are always emotions when it comes to games like this. We've got to keep it under control. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution.”
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Pelini and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema went through a press conference Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium and posed together briefly behind the Big Ten championship trophy.
The Badgers already have one, the result of beating Michigan State 42-39 last year in the inaugural league championship game. And Bielema again wasn't about to apologize for how Wisconsin made its way back.
“How we got here really doesn't matter,” Bielema said. “I thought our kids have been kind of answering that question all week. Now that we're here, I can't speak on behalf of Nebraska, but we don't care how we got here. We just want to play the person we're playing, Nebraska, and we'll be ready to roll.”
His players, however, took to calling this an “eraser game” throughout the week.
It's a chance to avenge the first loss to Nebraska, as Wisconsin did a year ago against Michigan State. And a chance to make up for five losses that came by a total of 19 points.
“We haven't been able to finish those games in a positive way, but it can be washed away with one opportunity this Saturday,” Bielema said. “You win this, you get an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl.”
Did Bielema see a nothing-to-lose element from his team this week, even though he hinted he has played the underdog and chip-on-the-shoulder card with his team this week?
“Not really,” he said. “I don't think we ever think like that.”
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>> Video: Big Ten Championship preview from Indianapolis:
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