CHICAGO -- Bo Pelini has relayed a simple message to Nebraska’s players this offseason.
After no conference championships since 1999, Nebraska is focused on ending the drought in its second year as a Big Ten member. Although several Huskers players spoke openly this spring about winning a national title, Pelini made it clear that the first step is getting to Indianapolis on Dec. 1 -- and winning.
"We've been too close to not have a championship right now," senior tight end Kyler Reed told ESPN.com. "It started with Bo, and it spread throughout the team. That was the first message he had for us this winter, after training started. It's been since '99 that Nebraska had a conference championship. That's the goal. We're not even talking national. Just Big Ten championship."
Nebraska reached the Big 12 title game in 2009 and 2010, falling seconds shy of a victory in the first game and taking an early lead in the second before collapsing. The Huskers moved to their new league pegged by many as the preseason favorite, but they ended up finishing third in the Legends division.
Although division competitors Michigan and Michigan State likely will enter the season rated higher than the Huskers, Nebraska returns its core on offense and could be a deeper defensive team. The Huskers are undoubtedly more comfortable in their second Big Ten go-round.
"You don't want to put that added pressure on," senior running back Rex Burkhead said, "but [a league title] is our expectation. If we don't achieve it, we feel like we've fallen short. Especially being in those two Big 12 title games and being so close, we feel like it is time.
"Coach Bo's done a tremendous job here, and we don't want to let him down."