Ohio State vs. Nebraska might be the future of the Big Ten – 247Sports

Posted: September 28, 2019 at 5:43 pm


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A decade ago,Chip Kelly a decade ago was footballs preeminent innovator and coach. Oregons head coach paired modern science with a lightning-fast system to produce 46 wins in four seasons at Oregon. After that run, he jumped to the NFL where he found moderate success with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kellys career track matters little to the Big Ten outside of any games against UCLA but its worth pondering leading into a Saturday evening showdown (6:30 p.m. CT, ABC) between No 5 Ohio State and Nebraska.

Theres a strong argument to be made that game, featuring a pair of Kelly disciples, represents the future of Big Ten football. Well get there in a minute, though.

First, lets meet the lead actors in this Big Ten East vs. West drama.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day will likely always be placed in the Urban Meyer coaching tree; he was a graduate assistant under Meyer in 2005 at Florida and later joined him in Columbus. But Days coaching career began in 2002 under Kellys direction at New Hampshire, where Kelly served as the teams offensive coordinator. Day previously set records as Kellys quarterback from 1998-01. Day later joined Kelly in the NFL with the Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.

Scott Frost crossed paths with Kelly later in life, coaching under Kelly from 2009-12 at Oregon as the teams wide receiver coach. When Kelly left for the NFL, Frost stayed and became the Ducks OC under Mark Helfrich.

Thats a long preamble, but its good context to have.

Day (40) and Frost (44) are both about the age Kelly was at the start of his Oregon run. Theyve never worked together meeting initially at a Chip Kelly golf event in Maine many years ago but theyre potentially going to be connected in the Big Ten for an extended period of time.

Frost, due to his UCF tenure, is viewed as one of the nations elite coaches. Day, for his part, has long been considered one of the top young offensive minds in the country. With these Kelly disciples at Nebraska and Ohio State, they could set off an intriguing cross-division rivalry.

Ohio State is much further ahead of the Huskers.

The Buckeyes have won 10-plus games for the last seven seasons, winning a trio of Big Ten titles in that stretch; Day helped the Buckeyes win the Big Ten as an offensive coordinator a year ago. Now, as Meyers successor, he leads a 4-0 team. Looking at his competition for the week, Frost sees a program thats taken a step from the group that Nebraska pushed to the final minutes a season ago.

Hes done a good job everywhere hes gone, climbed the coaching ranks and landed in this spot, Frost said to reporters this week. Theres no question in my mind Ohio State is a better team this year than they were a year ago.

Nebraska is more of a reclamation project. Frost returned to his alma mater after two years in Orlando in an effort to restore the Huskers to glory. Year 1 didnt go great at 4-8 overall, but the Huskers won four of their final six. Theyve started 2019 at 3-1 overall with a top 40 offense and defense, a unit thats made a major step in 2019.

Scott has done a great job here of building this team up, Day said to reporters. He's increased the talent, picked up some really good players, both sides of the ball.

This game, while important, is sort of notwithstanding when it comes to the big-picture future of this matchup.

The Big West has long been the domain of Wisconsin and Iowa, programs built on development to help overcome a lacking blue-chip ratio, a talent floor needed to compete for championships. That might sound harsh, but consider the West is yet to win a division championship under the Big Tens current divisional format.

The Huskers havent factored into the Big Tens championship formula since 2012 when they were blown out by the Badgers. Yet you cant help but point out Nebraska is actually the most naturally gifted team in the division, sitting at No. 24 in the 247Sports Team Talent Composite; Wisconsin is 33rd and Iowa 43rd. For perspective, the Buckeyes are second in the Team Talent Rankings.

When you just consider ceiling, Nebraskas is the highest of anyone among the Big Ten West. That the Huskers signed the No. 18 class in the country following a losing season suggests theres plenty of remaining room for upward mobility in Lincoln.

Im not suggesting Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern will just fall away. But the Huskers have the foundation and head coach to fill a power vacuum in the West, much like the Buckeyes have become the alpha in the East. Thats what Nebraska was supposed to do in the first place. Theres a reason the Huskers got pushed into the West away from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

With a pair of young head coaches fronting blueblood programs, its easy to see this Saturday matchup being only the second act in a rivalry that has a chance to truly blossom.

It could well be a glimpse at the future of the Big Ten.

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Ohio State vs. Nebraska might be the future of the Big Ten - 247Sports

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September 28th, 2019 at 5:43 pm

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