Every game carries significance over the course of a college football season, when only 12 are guaranteed to FBS teams. But sometimes, certain contests take on an even greater level of importance -- whether that is because it comes against a bitter rival, represents an opportunity to qualify for a bowl or simply because it would help to build positive momentum.
This week on the Big Ten blog, we're taking stock of which regular-season game on each team's schedule is considered a "must-win." Next up: Nebraska.
Must-win game: Oct. 29 at Wisconsin
Camp Randall Stadium has been a house of horrors for Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. Finding a way to win in Madison would do wonders for Nebraska's collective psyche -- and provide a significant boost one week before a difficult matchup at Ohio State.
Nebraska fans likely aren't too keen on revisiting the Cornhuskers' two previous matchups at Camp Randall. In 2011, Wisconsin annihilated Nebraska 48-17 in a nationally televised, prime-time matchup of two top-10 teams as part of the Cornhuskers' first Big Ten game. In 2014, Badgers tailback Melvin Gordon rushed for a then-FBS single-game record 408 yards in Wisconsin's 59-24 victory. At the time, the Cornhuskers were 8-1 and in position to win the Big Ten West. Two weeks later, coach Bo Pelini was fired.
Of course, those games are in the past and took place under different coaching staffs. This year's matchup is important in its own right because it will go a long way toward keeping Nebraska in the Big Ten West race. Nebraska opens league play Sept. 24 at Northwestern, which defeated the Cornhuskers 30-28 last season. If Nebraska can win in Evanston, the Cornhuskers could be looking at a 4-0 start to Big Ten play ahead of the Wisconsin game. Nebraska plays Illinois and Purdue at home, sandwiched around a winnable road game against Indiana.
Iowa remains the favorite to capture the Big Ten West title again, but Nebraska can give itself a chance with a victory in Madison. Wisconsin's brutal early league schedule could knock the Badgers out even before their matchup with the Cornhuskers. There is no reason for Nebraska not to play more competitive football than it has at Camp Randall the past two trips.