- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Saturday's Big Ten championship game features two teams that played a very close game earlier this year and two large fan bases. But that doesn't mean it's a hot ticket.
Prepare to see some empty pockets of seats at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Nebraska, which has maybe the best traveling fan base in the country, sold only 7,800 tickets out of its allotment of 15,000. Wisconsin had sold a little more than a third of its allotment as of Monday, and a school official told ESPN.com that the school returned about 8,000 tickets. Nearly 2,000 tickets were available Thursday morning on StubHub.com, some for as low as $22.
There are a couple of factors at play here. This game has no BCS title implications. Wisconsin is 7-5, has lost two straight games and finished third in the Leaders Division. Nebraska fans could be saving up for a possible trip to the Rose Bowl instead of making a similarly long trip to Indianapolis -- which is nearly 650 miles from Lincoln.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany understands the dynamic.
"The fact that we have a couple of ineligible teams and the fact that we have a different matchup that would have happened if other teams had been eligible will probably affect us at the gate," Delany said on our Big Ten podcast this week. "I don't know how much."
Last year's inaugural game between Wisconsin and Michigan State drew an announced crowd of 64,152 to Lucas Oil Stadium, which has a capacity of 66,159. Delany said that about 20,000 public-sale tickets were gobbled up in the first couple of hours last year, but that was an unique situation.
"You get a certain bounce off the inaugural game," he told us. "Then it kind of settles."
This year's game probably will fall far short of a sellout, though Nebraska and Wisconsin fans may use the secondary ticket market to score cheaper seats and find their way into the stadium Saturday night. The game also isn't drawing a lot of national buzz because of Wisconsin's record and the lack of a BCS title contender. It is unlikely to draw anywhere near the TV rating of the SEC championship game, whose winner appears headed to the national championship game.
If 12-0 Ohio State were eligible and playing Nebraska, we'd be talking about a highly-charged atmosphere in Indianapolis with tickets at a premium. Alas, that's not the case.
"We have to be realistic and sort of honest about what we have here," Delany said.
And that's a Big Ten championship game that can still be a fun event, even if there are plenty of good seats still available.
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