Late on Friday night, a message came through the main SB Nation Slack channel. In the middle of discussions regarding the recent Randy Gregory trade, Al Michaels not eating vegetables, and Brock Purdy having a roommate — you know, the kinds of things people often talk about at work — came this:
I’ve been watching Nebraska-Illinois and I think this is the worst football game I’ve ever seen.
We all fall victim to hyperbole at times, playing up what we are seeing in the moment. Sports media is replete with such examples. Every player we are watching is the greatest of all time, or the worst we have ever seen. Every game is the best we have ever seen, or the worst. We live our lives 280 characters at a time, and our sports coverage reflects that.
In this case, the statement “worst football game I’ve ever seen” might be right.
On a blustery Friday night in Champaign, these two teams combined to give us a display of football that will not exactly be featured on many year-end Big Ten highlight reels. Just look at how this game began:
Illinois marched down the field and eventually faced a third-and-goal situation at the Nebraska one-yard line. It was a chance to put an exclamation point on an emphatic opening drive that had covered over 70 yards and occupied nearly the entire first quarter. A chance to offer a fitting tribute to Dick Butkus, the Illini legend who was honored before kickoff.
Yet, on two-straight plays they were stopped, a feat that befuddled head coach Bret Bielema.
“It’s maddening, infuriating that we can’t gain six inches on two plays,” he said. “I’ve been coaching for 15 years and I’ve never been so frustrated. We’re keep having the same issues. We have to make changes. We have to change the equation.”
The first touchdown came early in the second quarter from the Cornhuskers, and they tacked on a second after Illinois mishandled the ensuing kickoff.
Actually, saying the Illini “mishandled” the kickoff might not be the best description, because to “mishandle” something implies that someone at one point actually attempted to “handle” it YOU KNOW WHAT LET’S JUST PLAY THE CLIP:
The kick gets held up by the wind, takes a favorable bounce for the Cornhuskers, and they recover to give them a second-straight possession. One they would cap off with a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.
Illinois managed to put a touchdown of their own on the board to make this a 17-7 game at the half, and as bad as the first half was, the second was, well, worse.
Just look at this:
Nebraska left town with the 20-7 victory, improving to 3-3 on the year. And, as befits a game like this, just read these words from the ESPN recap of the game: “The victory pushed the Huskers into the Big Ten West title picture. After a bye week next week, Nebraska hosts Big Ten West opponents Northwestern and Purdue then travels to Michigan State, all teams with losing records.”
It’s true! Here are the current Big Ten West standings:
After those three games — Northwestern, Purdue, and Michigan State — the Huskers play Maryland, Wisconsin, and Iowa to close out the season. The Terrapins are 5-0 at the moment, but play Ohio State today and will have a game against Penn State before taking on Nebraska. Wisconsin has games against Iowa and Ohio State coming up.
All these means there is a non-zero chance that the Black Friday game between Iowa and Nebraska is for the Big Ten West title. It may be a single-digit chance, but it is possible.
One can only imagine the Slack messages such a situation would inspire.