Since the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams in 2011 and added a conference title game, Michigan State and Nebraska have both played for the conference hardware, but both have come up short to Wisconsin.
So, it is only appropriate that the winner of Saturday's Michigan State-Nebraska tilt in Lincoln (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) will have the inside track in deciding the Big Ten Legends Division and be the representative who will advance to the conference title game Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
“It will be a tremendous challenge for us as we (go there),” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said this week in a pregame Big Ten teleconference. “They have a great crowd, they have outstanding players, they are an extremely well-coached football team, and they play with passion on both sides of the ball.
“Right now, they are a lot like us. Back in September, people weren’t saying too many kind things about the Spartans. So, we have kind of risen from the ashes and I think you can make a parallel comparison with Nebraska in some respects. Both of us are playing good football right now.”
In seven games dating back to 1914, Michigan State has never beaten Nebraska. However, Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini knows that this isn’t his grandmother’s Michigan State team.
“When you’re (ranked) up there as high as they are in all the categories that they are in — they are as good as it comes,” Polini said during the same teleconference. “They’ve earned it. They are doing it, and they do it week after week. You have to give them a lot of credit. In coaching, you give credit where credit is due and they deserve it.”
No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) and Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) both lost to Wisconsin in the first two Big Ten title games. Dantonio said he isn't looking for postseason revenge just yet.
“The main focus that we have right now is to earn the opportunity to go to the (Big Ten) championship game and the road goes through Lincoln for Michigan State,” Dantonio said. “We can’t really worry about the past — we have to learn from the past.”