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Nebraska gets acclimated to Big Ten

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By Matt Fortuna
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK — The excitement generated by Nebraska's addition to the Big Ten has ranged from blasphemy regarding a conference coaching icon ("There's a New Bo in Town") to the promise of a new intraconference border rivalry ("Farmageddon").

The Cornhuskers do not officially join the Big Ten until July 1. But Tuesday, four days before their spring game, coach Bo Pelini and linebacker Sean Fisher took part in the conference's spring teleconference for Legends Division coaches and players, fielding questions about the different personnel adjustments they will have to make and the new terrain they will play on this fall.

Pelini is easily the second-most famous Bo to coach in the Big Ten after Michigan's Schembechler, whom Pelini faced when he was a free safety at Ohio State. The Nebraska coach said the annual offseason viewing of new opponents' game footage has taken on a different feel this spring.

"We just have a few more to look at this year, but ultimately we're just trying to develop an idea of who they are, what their philosophies are, what they like to do," Pelini said. "And then obviously get into a week where you get ready to play that football team, then you dive into more specifics. But right now it's just kind of familiarizing yourself with what's coming up in the future."

That used to mean preparing for eight of 12 potential Big 12 opponents every year. But Fisher, a redshirt junior, is grateful for the rare opportunity to play what will look like a national schedule throughout his career.

The Cornhuskers will have no shortage of opportunities to make an early impression on their Big Ten brethren. Their first conference game is at Wisconsin, which played in the Rose Bowl last year. One week later, Nebraska will host six-time defending conference champion Ohio State in the first game back for suspended Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and his five penalized players

"To be able to go to places like Texas and Oklahoma and then be able to go to places also like Ohio State and Penn State, it just gives you an opportunity to see some really cool places, as well as play some really good opportunities," Fisher said.

Fisher will also have the chance to face his younger brother, Cole, who will be a freshman safety at Iowa this fall.

The intra-family and interstate rivalry will be played on Black Friday the next two seasons, and the thought of an annual "Farmageddon" game has the conference's western-most town abuzz.

"There's a feeling around campus and around Lincoln and the state that there's a real opportunity for the Iowa series to become a big rivalry," said Greg Sharpe, the radio voice of the Cornhuskers. "When the Big 12 was formed, Nebraska lost its hook to Oklahoma because we didn't play them every year, and it became a real loss to the Nebraska fanbase."

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