A year of experience and familiarity with Big Ten football has helped Nebraska with its second trip through the league, head coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday.
The Huskers (9-2) are currently 6-1 in conference play and one win from clinching their first spot in the Big Ten championship game. They can reach the Dec. 1 game in Indianapolis with any combination of a win Friday at Iowa or Michigan losing Saturday at Ohio State.
Pelini was asked how 2012 has been different than 2011 — when NU lost three league games — during the Big Ten coaches teleconference.
“It’s a good conference and we have a lot of respect for all the teams we’ve played,” Pelini said. “You learn a lot in year two that you probably didn’t know going into year one. You get some experience in the conference going through it one time.
“It takes a few years to get up to speed with what you’re seeing week to week and the types of teams you’re going to play. It’s one thing seeing them on film, it’s a whole other thing to play against them.”
This second trip hasn’t been perfect, either.
NU was 4-2 overall and smarting at midseason after a 63-38 loss at Ohio State. Pelini acknowledged that it has taken some resiliency and toughness to respond with a five-game winning streak.
“We talked in the offseason about really doing a lot of things to build mental toughness, and with mental toughness comes resiliency – belief in team, belief in each other,” Pelini said. “We’ve had to overcome some things. I think we’ve done a good job with that.
“But we’re not there. We’re still working to get there and hoping to put ourselves in a position to compete for a championship. That was our goal all along.”
Some other items of note:
>> Pelini on playing Friday and dealing with the shorter week: “We’ve done this before. We had some short weeks obviously when I was in the Big 12 and we’d play the games against Colorado. Last year we played (Iowa) on a short week. We’ve had experience at it. I think we have a pretty good recipe.”
>> Pelini was a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1991 under former head coach Hayden Fry: “It was a great experience for me at a young age in the coaching profession to have that opportunity.”
>> Most coaches at the start of the Big Ten call offered little when asked how they would like to see the league realign, protect rivalries or balance divisions with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers. Pelini said: “I think they’ve done a really good job in the Big Ten so far of addressing those things. That’s not something we have a whole heck of a lot of say in as coaches. I trust Commissioner (Jim) Delany and everybody involved to get together and make the decisions that are best for the conference.”