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Badgers vs. Huskers rivalry will have new twist with Riley, Chryst hires

Nebraska and Wisconsin established a trophy game ahead of the 2014 matchup, playing annually for the “Freedom Trophy.” Yet for many it felt a bit forced and a bit early for Badgers vs. Huskers as a true rivalry game.

However, after Wisconsin won for a third time in four games between the two as Big Ten schools there was little doubt that things were taking a turn to a serious rivalry.

Nebraska fans were none too happy losing in embarrassing fashion for a second straight game against the Badgers. Wisconsin fans basked in the glory of another history-making performance against the Huskers.

Little did we know that things were only about to heat up in the rivalry though, and it has little to do with the two schools themselves. Instead it has everything to do with the scenario that led to mentor and protégé ending up on opposite sidelines in this new rivalry.

While most saw Bo Pelini’s firing at Nebraska coming, few saw Gary Andersen leaving the Badgers program so quickly. Yet, what followed just made things a whole lot more interesting to say the least.

That’s because Nebraska went on to hire Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, Andersen would replace Riley as the head man for the Beavers and Paul Chryst would come back home to coach the Wisconsin Badgers.

So, what’s the big deal and why does it make things more interesting? It means that Mike Riley will match wits with the guy who served as an assistant coach with him at Oregon Stat and in the NFL.

The two coaches have a relationship that dates back to their time with the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football back in 1991. At that time Riley was head coach and Chryst an offensive assistant. Since then, the duo get together yearly and speak often via phone.

When the two teams get together on October 10, 2015 it won’t be the first matchup between the two though, as UW met up with the Beavers in 2011.

Back then it was revealed that the two offensive-minded coaches held a meeting every year in San Antonio. Something tells me that meeting is likely to come to an abrupt end with both of them coaching in the same division these days.

Ahead of the 2011 meeting between Oregon State and Wisconsin, Riley admitted coaching against a guy you know so well isn’t easy, via Oregonlive.com.

“Paul and I grew up putting offenses together when we started back in ’91,’’ Riley said, recalling the budding kinship with the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football. “Knowing people is one thing, but defeating them and out-executing them is another. That’s a whole other deal.’’

As for the on-field meeting between the two coaches and teams? It just so happened the Beavers were running in to a buzzsaw of epic proportions and the Badgers won 35-0.

Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson went 17 of 21 passing for 189 yards and three touchdowns, while UW outrushed the Beavers by 185 yards (208 to 23). However, Oregon’s young quarterback, Sean Mannion, had 244 yards on 25 of 38 passing and threw for no interceptions or touchdowns while being under constant pressure (sacked three times).

That was offensive coordinator Paul Chryst vs. head coach Mike Riley though, and it remains to be seen how the two will stack up as head coach vs. head coach. As that matchup will only happen for the first time this upcoming season.

Of course, nothing will help more than the two teams clashing on what could be a near annual basis for the Big Ten West division championship. Having it happen with two coaches who know each other so well is just icing on the cake for everyone not involved in the game.

Sometimes familiarity can breed contempt, and with the Badgers and Huskers very likely to look a lot like each other on offense, it will be interesting to see how this all develops within an already budding rivalry.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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