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BIG TEN REPORT: Victory gives Nebraska coach Bo Pelini reprieve

Nebraskcoach Bo Pelini was outs with fans because private rant against them thwas made public this season. But winning will

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was on the outs with fans because of a private rant against them that was made public this season. But winning will win them back. | Nati Harnik/AP

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Updated: December 4, 2013 6:45AM



LINCOLN, Neb. — Coach Bo Pelini went from Public Enemy No. 1 among the Nebraska faithful to a fan favorite faster than any of the Huskers’ players can run the 40-yard dash.

Four seconds.

Before those four seconds, Pelini’s tenure was all but over and the Cornhuskers’ chances of winning the Big Ten championship looked more ominous than statewide crop disease. Nebraska was down three points and staring at a loss to Northwestern that would drop its conference record to 2-2.

At that point, the only people in Lincoln looking to gain Pelini’s favor were real-estate agents.

Then, in less time it took Pelini to rant against fans, ­Nebraska’s third-string quarterback, Ron Kellogg III, connected with receiver Jordan Westerkamp on a game-winning “Hail Mary” as time expired.

The conference title is still within reach. Pelini’s job is secure, for now, and the deafening tone of his publicized yet private rant against fans is getting decidedly quieter.

“We’re still the same football team coming in tomorrow,” Pelini said. “The same challenges lie ahead. It’s just a little easier to handle.”

A little? Hah. Let’s review.

Pelini’s job security entering the season was as questioned as that of any coach in the Big Ten. Then the defense he was hired to fix gave up so many yards that local farmers were jealous. And, of course, there’s the rant heard ’round the Internet that left arguably the country’s most rabid fan base screaming for a coaching change.

A loss to Northwestern could have turned things nuclear. If it had happened, Nebraska would have needed a lot of help to get to the conference title game.

Kellogg and Westerkamp changed all that for Pelini, leaving the fate of their season in Lincoln for now.

Nebraska has four games left. Win them all — including an all-important game against conference undefeated Michigan State on Nov. 16 — and they’ll play for the Big Ten championship Dec. 7.

The word “championship” eases the restlessness of title-starved Husker nation. But that doesn’t mean that winning it is what Pelini needs to save his job. Nebraska just wants to be in the conversation.

And Pelini?

Four seconds might have earned him another season.

WEEK 10 STARS

CB Ciante Evans, Nebraska

The senior nickel back had eight tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss.

TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State

The junior caught five passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game of the season.

RB James White, Wisconsin

The senior, who typically sits in the shadow of Melvin Gordon, ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

TEAM GAME, REALLY?

Coaches around the country may preach that football is a team game, but it seems that quarterback Devin Gardner has a lot of say for Michigan.

Yes, go ahead and chuckle; quarterback is the most important position in football and probably all of sports. But it seems a lackluster effort by the junior dragged the entire team down, even the defense.

Michigan had 168 total yards (including minus-48 rushing) and the defense allowed 13 fourth-quarter points to an average Michigan State offense.

BUCKEYE BUTT-KICKING

Watching Ohio State play Purdue was like watching the NFL RedZone channel, only the same team kept scoring.

The Buckeyes have scored 119 points in their last two games. In fact the Boilermakers are so bad, it’s likely Ohio State planned to play backup quarterback Kenny Guiton at the start of the second half.

But it’s lucky for the Buckeyes they’re winning with offense. Defensive slugfests aren’t only boring, but they aren’t as attractive when the all-important rankings are compiled. The more Ohio State scores, the more likely — and chances still aren’t good — it’ll get to play for a national championship.

IMPRESSED YET?

Wisconsin was ranked 24th by BCS computers and it’s likely that low because of the nonconference loss to Arizona State, the game with the horrific officiating gaffe at the end. But after the Badgers’ 28-9 win at Iowa, do they really have any more to prove? Wisconsin is the conference’s second-best team by far and is playing like a top-15 team. Any computer that says otherwise needs a hard-drive replacement. The Badgers have a defense that has allowed 10 points or less in five of their eight games. And offensively (that’s what bowl committees care about, right?), Wisconsin boasts one of the most exciting rushing attacks in the country.

BY THE NUMBERS

8 — Nebraska running backs who have had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Junior Ameer Abdullah became the latest.

394 — Total yards for Michigan State’s offense, thought to be the weak spot in the team’s hope for a conference championship.

1,069 — Offensive yards combined in Minnesota’s road win over Indiana.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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