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Big 12 farewell felt in NFL locker rooms, too

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos tailback Correll Buckhalter is going to have to find a new smack-talking partner to replace teammate Daniel Graham.

Their alma maters meet Friday when Colorado visits Nebraska in the last Big 12 game for both schools, and they’re not scheduled to meet again anytime soon.

Graham’s Buffaloes are bolting to the Pac-12 and Buckhalter’s Cornhuskers are heading to the Big Ten next year, ending the rivalry after 69 games — unless or until they play each other down the road in a non-conference game. The schools played six games early last century before beginning their run of annual meetings in 1948.

So, Graham will have to turn his trash talk on teammates who went to maybe USC or UCLA, and Buckhalter will have to find somebody from Michigan State or Minnesota to razz.

“Well, I can smack talk against them I guess, but it’s not the same doing it with guys that I played against,” Buckhalter said with a laugh. “It’s a little different.”

While the series has been close lately with Colorado winning four times in the last nine years, it was lopsided during Tom Osborne’s time. He lost to the Buffs just three times in 23 years.

Overall, the Huskers lead the series 48-18-2, though the Buffaloes have had their moments like in 2001, when they whipped Nebraska 62-36 to knock the Cornhuskers out of the top spot in the BCS standings and pave the way for Colorado’s only Big 12 title.

Like Buckhalter, Broncos offensive linemen Russ Hochstein went to college in Lincoln, Neb., but he was hesitant to discuss his feelings with a reporter this week.

“I don’t want to get into a war of words with Graham,” he said. “I’m excited and I hope they win.”

Buckhalter and Graham said they were both sorry to see their schools leave the Big 12 and for the annual rivalry game played on the day after Thanksgiving to end.

“Every year, we always looked forward to that big game, the rival game and hopefully we can end it off with a blast this Friday,” Graham said. “Nebraska was our rival game and there’s still trash-talking with me and Russ and Buck. We all remember those games, the years that I was there it was always a close game.”

After Friday, all they’ll have are the memories.

“Yeah it is a bummer,” Graham said. “Every year, I think both teams always looked forward to that game. It was always a big game and it was always played the day after Thanksgiving. Everybody’s watching. So, just that whole atmosphere, it’s going to be a hard loss.”

That one thing he and Buckhalter can agree on.

“Yeah, I don’t even know who the rivalries are going to be with once they go to the Big Ten,” Buckhalter said.

Graham said it’s going to be strange watching the Buffs in a new conference.

“I think next year, the first year, is going to be weird, just not seeing any Big 12 schools. That’s the only thing I’ve known is the Big Eight, Big 12, I didn’t play in the Big Eight, but you know just growing up watching so it’s going to be real different just seeing all of the Pac-10 schools,” he said.

Buckhalter feels the same about having to turn his attention to the likes of Wisconsin and Ohio State.

“Seeing them play a whole new conference is going to be different. I’m pretty sure every guy that went to Nebraska feels that way,” he said. “I think it will be good. A different change. A lot of Big Ten guys talk about the Big Ten and I’m going to be interested to see Nebraska go in there and see what success we have.”

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn has indicated he’d like to try to schedule Nebraska in the future, although that might prove difficult as both schools will have tough-as-nails conference schedules already and might be more in the mood to schedule cupcakes than an old rival.

“It would be tough,” Graham said, “but at the same time it wouldn’t be the same, I don’t think, because every year the game was always after Thanksgiving. We always knew when that game was and if we set them up as a non-conference game, it would be, what, the first few days or so?”

“Yeah,” Buckhalter said. “It wouldn’t be the same.”

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