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  • Where Nebraska Should be Looking to Play an Old Big 12 or New College Football Classic

    Early season neutral site games have been making a comeback in college football over the past five years, and, with the reality of a weaker conference schedule upon Husker Nation, Nebraska should consider jumping into the fray. The last nonconference neutral site game Nebraska played was in 1994 against West Virginia in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Even though Nebraska's slated to play Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in 2016 (which still could be canceled), it's not like there would not be a shortage of major schools who would want to play Nebraska. Under Pelini, Nebraska has won enough to be a quality win for a team seeking a spot in the College Football Playoff, but rolls over versus top ten competition. No doubt Nick Saban would play Nebraska in a heartbeat (sorry, it's true).

    To that end, I have gone through four locations and evaluated the pros and cons for their use as Nebraska neutral site games. In all cases, I've evaluated the accessibility of the local airport and the breadth of corporate support, both essential to getting such a game scheduled. So here we go.

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    Kansas City. When the Huskers faced Oklahoma State at Arrowhead in 1998, Nebraska fans booked every hotel room on I-29 from Platte City to St. Joseph. With the Kansas-Missouri Border Showdown discontinued, Kansas City might be eager to welcome neutral site college games back, as they tried to unsuccessfully land Nebraska's 2013 “road game” with Southern Miss late last year.

    Arrowhead would be a spectacle if Nebraska played any of its old Big 12 foes, if for no other reason than to see if the Huskers could out-draw Missouri or Kansas in their own backyard. Nebraska's stature could even get Kansas State or Iowa State invited, in spite of their underwhelming “Farmaggedon” experiment in 2008 and 2009. (While those two games each drew about 40,000, K-State and Iowa drew 77,000 when the two schools played at Arrowhead in 2000 the Eddie Robinson Classic, an impressive feat, given the Hawkeyes were coming off back-to-back loosing season and would go 3-9 that year.)

    And as the Big 12 did back in 1998, the Big 10 might be willing to move the home game of a lesser program here. (In 2010, Indiana agreed to play their “home game” against Penn State at Fed Ex Field in Washington, DC.) But don't expect Arrowhead to host a Nebraska game against a national foe, unless it's a mid-major seeking attention. KC doesn't have the airport, corporate sponsorship, or recruiting hotbed necessary to attract a major program.

    Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
    Denver. The Huskers tried to play their 2011 game with Wyoming here, as part of what was originally envisioned as a five-game series between the Huskers and Cowboys. Nebraska's Colorado and West Coast contingent would love to see a game at Mile High, as they no longer get Nebraska games in Boulder every other year. (CU officials haven't ruled out that one of Nebraska's two scheduled road games at Colorado might be played here.) Denver has a great airport and good corporate support.

    The only problem would be the opponent. BYU and Boise State would be logical choices, and sponsors would likely be comfortable enough with Nebraska's traveling reputation to accept teams with more fickle fan bases, like Arizona or Arizona State. But given that the Pac-12 now has a presence in Colorado, it would be tougher to get USC or Stanford to consider playing here. And outside of maybe Kansas State, no Big 12 program would want to come here when they can play a neutral site game in Texas, so don't expect an annual “Mile High Classic”. But with Nebraska's ties in the area, Shawn Eichorst should have a goal to play in Denver in the next six years.

    Dallas and the state of Texas. Even though neither game went their way, Husker fans reveled in their Jerry World-experience at the 2009 and 2010 Big 12 Title Games, and an annual kickoff event is already here. With Nebraska's continued efforts to recruit Texas, playing here would make a lot of sense and could facilitate reunion game with Oklahoma, Texas, or a school from the SEC West, like Arkansas or LSU. Both Reliant Stadium in Houston and the Alamo Dome in San Antonio could also be viable candidates for a single games, but if the Longhorns have blackballed the Huskers for bolting the Big 12, it may be hard for Nebraska to play in any stadium in Texas.

    Atlanta. While Atlanta already has a kickoff event and a great airport, playing here would be a definitive road game. Factor in that Georgia is not as vital to Nebraska's recruiting efforts and that Nebraska may just be adding an early season beating by the SEC along with their annual bowl beat-down. Fans will come in droves.

    But the ACC plays here too, and the Georgia Dome would be a great spot to play Georgia Tech, Clemson, or the opponent Husker fans care most about, Florida State. But don't expect Chik-fil-A to let Nebraska play a North Carolina or NC State because, whoever the Huskers would play here has to be a great local draw to offset Nebraska. Perhaps Nebraska could follow LSU and Wisconsin's lead and schedule a neutral site game here and a return game in Kansas City.

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    Derek Johnson is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer and commission photographer. He has been a contributor to Husker Max since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. Visit his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com, and follow him on twitter @derekjohnson05 for regular updates.


    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Husker Mort's Avatar
      Husker Mort -
      What about neutral site games within the B1G footprint that would improve Nebraska's recruiting presence in major markets? The following venues come to mind:

      Yankee Stadium/MetLife/Lincoln Financial - vs. Rutgers
      M&T Bank/FedEx Field - vs. Maryland/Virginia
      Heinz Field - vs. Penn State/Pittsburgh
      Soldier Field - vs. Northwestern/Northern Illinois
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