“What if” – my two most (or least) favorite words in the English language. Put it this way, if I were a foot taller I’d be 6-foot-7, not 5-foot-7. If my Auntie Anna had a different set of equipment she’d be my uncle. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Auntie Anna but not my Uncle Anna.
While yours truly put the Big XII in my rearview mirror long ago, the question somewhat begs, would Nebraska’s record be different had it stayed in the Big XII rather than going to the Big Ten? Keep in mind, the Huskers enter their Capital One Bowl matchup against South Carolina with a 9-3 record and went 10-2 last season excluding the Big XII Title Game 23-20 loss to Oklahoma and a 19-7 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington.
So, based on what happened in the Big XII this season and how the Huskers 2011 season transpired, how would they have done had they and Colorado (which went to the Pac 12) stayed in the Big XII? Remember, this discussion has nothing to do with “did Nebraska make the right decision to leave the Big XII?” As for how would they have done, not an easy answer but the nonconference opponents would have stayed the same. Nebraska beat all four opponents: Tennessee-Chatanooga (40-7), Fresno State (42-29), Washington (51-38) and Wyoming (38-14). I have to think the outcomes of those games would have been the same.
For North Division games, the Huskers would have drawn Kansas State and Iowa State at home and visited Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. As for South division foes, Nebraska would have hosted Texas A&M and Oklahoma State while visiting Texas.
I do not know the order in which the Huskers would have faced those clubs but here is my best guess:
Here is where things get interesting. I couldn't Google the original 2011 schedule from when NU was still in the XII, but there are several things I know for certain:
Kansas State, the “coming home” angles seldom work out but Bill Snyder Part II has been a success. The Wildcats have gone 10-2 in Year 3 of Snyder Part II and are headed to the Cotton Bowl to take on 10-2 Arkansas. The Wildcats would have presented a matchup problem as far as having a mobile quarterback with good skill players around him but with this game in Lincoln, I think Nebraska gets it done.
The Huskers would have visited Texas, which just completed its 8-5 season with a 21-10 Holiday Bowl win over California. Call me a cynic but something screwy always happens when Nebraska plays Texas. In this case it would have been any combination of red zone drives stalling to make Nebraska kick field goals instead of score touchdowns. Then, Texas goes on a game-winning drive kept alive by two questionable defensive penalties. The Longhorns kick the go-ahead field goal as time expires and ABC commentator Brent Musburger masterbates all over himself as the kick sails through the uprights.
Nebraska is 5-1 going into its bye week as it hosts a blazing hot Oklahoma State club that is 11-1 going into its Fiesta Bowl matchup with Stanford. Both clubs have questionable defenses but Okie State’s offense is better equipped to trade punches. I think the Cowboys win by 10-14 points, sending Nebraska to 5-2 into a road matchup at Missouri.
The Tigers finished their season 8-5 after Monday’s 41-24 Independence Bowl win over North Carolina. Missouri could not stop Roy Helu, who rushed for a school-record 307 yards in a 31-17 win in Lincoln in 2010. The Tigers certainly would have no easier of a time stopping Rex Burkhead and as suspect as they are against the pass, even the much-maligned passing of quarterback Taylor Martinez would not have been stopped. I think Nebraska wins by three touchdowns to improve to 6-2 heading into a home game against Iowa State.
The Cyclones went 6-6 and will face Rutgers in the Pinestripe Bowl on Friday. Paul Rhodes has been a headache for the Huskers. His tea came into Lincoln and won 9-7 in 2009 and narrowly lost 31-30 in 2010 in Ames. The Cyclones are a scrappy bunch and would have made the Huskers sweat but I think Nebraska escapes to improve to 7-2 heading into a road game at Kansas.
The Jayhawks went 2-10 and though they gave Nebraska a tussle in 2010 in Lincoln, this would have been a “name the score” type of win to improve Nebraska to 8- heading into a home matchup with Texas A&M.
The Aggies would up with a disappointing 6-6 season that cost head coach Mike Sherman his job. Texas A&M will play Northwestern in the Meineke Car Bowl. Nebraska’s defense was not as stout in 2011 but the Aggies would have had a healthy Taylor Martinez to contend with unlike last season. Nebraska wins by two touchdowns to improve to 9-2 entering the season finale at Colorado.
The Buffs have been a headache for Nebraska on Black Friday before, including the 2001 62-36 blowout win over Nebraska but this Colorado team is a distant third cousin to that team. Nebraska wins going away and just like last year is 10-2 heading into the Big XII title game only this time the Huskers gets a rematch with Oklahoma State.
With the Cowboys playing for the first time I a conference title game and Nebraska having near misses the previous two years, Bo Pelini makes adjustments. The Huskers have a “bend but don’t break” effort defensively and produce enough offense for a 10-point win and an 11-2 record heading into the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford.
If this matchup happens, I don’t like the Huskers undermanned defense’s chances. As great as Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck is, Stanford can beat teams running or throwing. Stanford wins by 7-10 points.
Nebraska ends the 2011 season 11-3