MANHATTAN — Ever since Nebraska announced its intentions last summer to join the Big Ten Conference, fans across the Big 12 have wondered how the Cornhuskers will be treated during their farewell tour.
Their decision to leave the conference caused a great deal of headaches across the region during the great conference realignment cliffhanger, and most assume they will be met with louder boos and harsher words than normal in road venues this season.
We won't know for sure until Thursday when Nebraska opens up Big 12 play by traveling to Kansas State for the final time as a conference opponent. But Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini isn't expecting anything out of the ordinary in Manhattan.
"They're good fans, but they're also very classy people," he said. "I would think they are going to treat our football team the right way."
Players from both sides have played down the topic by saying similar remarks this season, but there is no doubt the crowd at Snyder Family Stadium will be amped up for the seventh-ranked Huskers.
The nationally-televised game has already been announced as a sellout.
"This game means a lot to us and our fans," defensive lineman Raphael Guidry said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere."
Through the years, K-State coach Bill Snyder has come to count on the Wildcats' fan base for support during big games.
He thinks Thursday's crowd could be as good as the one that helped K-State defeat Southern California 27-20 in 2002 and impressed then-coach Pete Carroll.
"Afterward he spoke to the way that our fans and our crowd acted in that ballgame and how he felt that they were instrumental in that ballgame," Snyder said. "I've always known that and had a great appreciation for it."
But like any good coach, Snyder is more concerned about how his team handles the big game than how the crowd reacts.
This is a statement game for the Wildcats. If they want to give the Huskers a fan-pleasing defeat they will need to play their best game of the season — farewell tour or not.
"Our focus is always about keeping the ballgame between the white lines and not letting anything else become a distraction for you," Snyder said. "Those are certain things that you learn just with experience — game in, game out, not necessarily who the opponent is or the magnitude of the game."