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We have football. We have a map. First stop: Rutgers.

The last time Nebraska opened a football season in New Jersey was the 1994 Kickoff Classic. But don’t get your hopes up.

How’s that for a way to start the season?

The Big Ten released its 2020 football schedule on Wednesday morning, sent it out at 7:45 a.m. sharp. Before the pessimists awoke.

Call it the road map to a football season.

What’s that?

This map has no directions.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad football season. There are 14 Big Ten football teams getting their cars gassed up.

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But some of them aren’t going to make it. Some will find quicksand or run out of gas or drive off a cliff.

There might be a Big Ten champion. Or, there might not be games after September.

Football season? It’s already the strangest one in our lifetime, or any lifetime.

This first week of August is always the best time of year in Nebraska. People buzz around. Adrenaline and hopes are high. You can feel football season.

But can it be football season when you don’t know if you’ll be allowed to go to Memorial Stadium?

Can it be football season when it looks like the postseason and bowl games are a long shot — for everyone?

Can it be football season when the season opener looks like a bye week — because the opponent might opt out of playing?

Rutgers is the state university in a state that has had nearly 16,000 COVID-19-related deaths. The entire Scarlet Knights football team is in quarantine — and that was before the number of positive COVID tests on the team went from 15 to 28.

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On Tuesday, Newark Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi called for the Big Ten season to be shut down. On Wednesday, Politi tweeted tongue-in-cheek that Rutgers would go undefeated this year.

Translation: Because the Scarlet Knights aren’t going to play.

If they do, well, good luck getting those 29 practices in before Sept. 5.

Meanwhile, put a giant mask on that jet carrying the Huskers into COVID Country.

Hello, August. But can you really get pumped when — just after handing out the schedule — Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said, “There’s a chance this might not happen”?

So we enter this fall campaign with a Charlie Brown complex. At least Lucy is telling us what she’s going to do.

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Look, we all know this is going to be bumpy. We all know there are going to be positive tests, quarantines and teams that don’t play. A muddled mess.

And while some schools will reflexively put the entire team in quarantine, others, like NU, will take things step by step to isolate positive cases and their contacts, while keeping COVID-free players ready to hit the field.

And every time there is a positive test, at any school, some folks are going to yell and call for the season to end. They’re going to say the schools are putting the players’ health at risk.

But all of these players have the ability to opt out at any time and keep their eligibility and scholarships.

And are they going to be safer without football? Do you think these players will sit at home every night and lock the door?

On a football team, that will be a rule.

On Wednesday, a parade of Nebraska football players posted support of their school’s health protocols and the idea of playing football this fall.

You can’t hide from COVID-19. But can you dart, dodge, head-fake and sprint through an opening in a football season with it, like Johnny Rodgers returning a punt?

Watch September. That will tell the tale. The first goal line is Oct. 1.

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Administrators, parents and kids are nervous going back to school. It’s the Great Unknown. It’s scary not knowing what will happen.

The same is true with school presidents, athletic directors, coaches, commissioners, everyone in college football. What they need to see is proof. Evidence.

The month of September is crucial for the Big Ten football season.

The league needs to get through the first weekend and get to a second set of games. Then, a third. And a fourth.

We expect positive cases and postponements. But can those teams move forward? Or is it just not logical or safe to proceed?

Get through that first week, and there will be a second week. Get through September, and there will be October.

This might be over early. Or, it might not.

Look at Major League Baseball. The Miami Marlins had an outbreak. Then St. Louis. Folks called for the season to end. But other teams played on. They’re still playing.

Day by day. Week to week. Game by game.

We don’t know where we’re going, but we know how we’re going to get there. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Patiently. Safely.

Hopefully.

And as we lose ourselves in talking Adrian Martinez at quarterback and Erik Chinander’s defense and the possible advantage of getting Wisconsin and Iowa early rather than late, let’s remember one thing about this mad, mad, mad, mad season.

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you play the game.

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The 2020 Nebraska football schedule