When the Big Ten announced its new division alignments in April 2013 to accommodate the additions of Rutgers and Maryland, many people pointed to the Wisconsin-Nebraska matchup as the marquee annual showdown in the Big Ten West.
Now, it appears that divisional dominance won’t be the only thing the Badgers and Cornhuskers will be squaring off for on a yearly basis, as Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst confirmed Monday that the two schools are working on creating a rivalry trophy for the game.
Once this is finalized, it will become Wisconsin’s third rivalry game in which they play for a trophy. Currently, the Badgers play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the Heartland Trophy against Minnesota and Iowa, respectively.
It makes perfect sense for these two programs to play for a trophy in their annual matchup, as the Badgers and Cornhuskers appear to be the two best teams in the Big Ten West. Since Nebraska jumped ship from the Big 12 to join the Big Ten in 2011, the Cornhuskers have gone 28-12 overall and 17-7 in conference play.
Over the same span, the Badgers are 28-12 overall and 16-8 in Big Ten play. The two teams even faced off in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game, while they were still in separate divisions.
An interesting side note to this rivalry is that current Wisconsin athletic director and Badgers football architect Barry Alvarez played for Nebraska in the ’60s, and largely tried to emulate the Cornhuskers while he was building the Wisconsin football program from basically scratch. The Badgers’ physical style of play and welcoming walk-on program implemented by Alvarez were heavily influenced by Nebraska.
Wisconsin and Nebraska have played each other eight times overall, with each team winning four of the meetings. This includes three games since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, during which the Badgers hold a 2-1 edge.
They took the field as conference foes for the first time at Camp Randall Stadium in 2011 in Nebraska’s first Big Ten game. With both teams ranked in the top 10, the hype surrounding the game was huge. However it didn’t quite live up to expectations, as Wisconsin trounced the Cornhuskers by a score of 48-17.
Bo Pelini’s team was able to exact a measure of revenge the next year at home, overcoming a 27-10 deficit in the third quarter to beat the Badgers 30-27. But Wisconsin would have the last laugh when they obliterated 12th-ranked Nebraska, 70-31, in the Big Ten Championship Game later that year.
The Badgers and Cornhuskers will once again face off in Madison this season on November 15th, in a meeting that promises to have major Big Ten West implications.
It’s very likely that this game will go a long way in deciding who represents the division in the Big Ten title game nearly every year, so it only makes sense that a trophy is added for this budding rivalry.