By Jimmy English
The long-delayed clash between the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Northwestern University Wildcats is a little over two months away, and Irish American football fans are starting the countdown to the return of college football to our shores. The Big 10 conference rivals are set to meet on August 27th during the so called “Week 0” of the 2022 college football season, with kickoff scheduled for 5.30pm Irish time. (12.30pm EST and 11.30am CST)
This year’s iteration of the college football classic is the first on a slate of five games to be hosted by Ireland in the coming years. Of the remaining 4 games, only the 2023 matchup is known at this point: Notre Dame and Navy are returning to Ireland to renew their long-standing rivalry. And while this year’s teams are far from college football powerhouses, they are big enough names to attract attention, and viewership at home and overseas.
Both the Huskers and the Wildcats Drastically underperformed in 2021, with records of 3-9 overall respectively. The two teams finished 1-8 in Big 10 conference play. Nebraska however, will have the advantage, defeating Northwestern by a score of 56 -7 the last time these sides met. Wildcats Coach Pat Fitzgerald will be keen to get his season off to a winning start in Dublin, and what better way to do so than with an early conference win. (With a name like Fitzgerald, we’re sure he’ll want to explore his heritage while he’s here as well!)
The Big 10 is a highly competitive Power 5 conference featuring the likes of Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. If Nebraska and Northwestern want to improve on last season then a strong display will be required in Dublin. Past results from visiting teams have been very mixed – Notre Dame blew Navy out of the water in 2012(pun intended) while in 2014, Penn State and UCF came down to a last second field goal. We also had Boston College and Georgia Tech play here in 2016, but to be honest that one was so boring we hardly remember what happened!
Past performances on the field are sure to be overshadowed by the pageantry and fanfare that entails a spectacle such as this. For the uninitiated, a big time college football game is equally about what takes place off the field as on. You can expect feather hat wearing bands, chanting cheerleaders and a tailgating experience as close to the real thing as you’ll find this side of the Atlantic. If this is going to be your first time attending a college football game here or abroad, then you have a lot to look forward to! There is always a real buzz around the stadium before a game. Just be prepared for the flux of Americans!
Conversely, if you’re like me and you often frequent college games in their natural American environment then you’re probably finding it hard to get hyped up about this one. Once you’ve experienced the “real thing”, the Irish version doesn’t quite cut it. College games just hit differently when they’re played on home soil. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great for the growth of the sport here. Some bigger teams would be nice though.
As we mentioned above, the meeting of the Huskers and the Wildcats in Dublin is the first on a slate of five college games scheduled here for future years. While the popularity of the sport is still very much in growth mode and the organisers can get away with bringing over “smaller” colleges, landing big name programs in the future is essential to guarantee that fans don’t lose interest.
Having said that we can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon in August than watching live football with a few beers!