2011 Team Breakdown
Returning Starters: 12 (4 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams)
Nebraska officially joins the Big Ten on July 1st, but October 1st is the day many Husker fans have circled on their calendar. That's when the Huskers play their first conference game in the new league.
Nebraska opens Big Ten play at Wisconsin in a primetime game that is scheduled to air on national television. It figures to be a ceremonial event featuring two of the top football programs in the country.
"I think it will be exciting for them and us," Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said. "It'll be a little piece of history."
Alvarez, who played at Nebraska in the 1960s, was instrumental in bringing Nebraska into the Big Ten. He recalls meeting with league commissioner Jim Delany during expansion talks and making a hard sell for his alma mater.
"(NU) is a really good fit for our league," Alvarez said.
He feels Nebraska geographically fits into the Big Ten, as well as its "brand" of football.
"I saw the way the Big 12 was going and its emphasis on Texas and the southern division. You felt the northern division was just out there. That wasn't how Nebraska viewed themselves," Alvarez said.
As Nebraska transitions into the Big Ten, Alvarez doesn't see too many challenges for the Huskers. He says the main obstacles will be adjusting to new venues and a more physical style of football.
"Life in our league depends on schedule," Alvarez said. "You're going to lose some players. You have to have depth to survive."
Alvarez, who won three Big Ten championships at Wisconsin, retired from coaching after the 2005 season. His successor, Bret Bielema, has followed Nebraska over the years. Bielema considers Nebraska a model of success in college football and was hoping to have a yearly rivalry game with the Huskers.
The Big Ten's divisional alignment, though, put Nebraska and Wisconsin in separate divisions, meaning the schools will rotate off each other's schedule.
"It'll be buzzing," Bielema said of the October 1st Big Ten opener. "If Nebraska can take care of its non-conference schedule and we do the same, it should build up to something that will be a national prestige game."
Monday on 10/11 News at Ten: What Wisconsin fans are saying about their new rival - the Huskers.