Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten... From Penn State

Get out your Yeunglings and Iron City's, boys: it is officially time to pass along the title of "new guy."

There are a lot of reasons for Penn State fans to be excited about adding Nebraska to the league.  For one, it's another traditional power with national appeal that will only help to put the days of the conference as the "Big Two Little Eight" even further in the past.  There has been a significant minority of Penn State fans that have always thought the Big Ten brain trust put the OSU-Michigan rivalry above all else, but I think as Nebraska becomes entrenched in the league that these tinfoil-hat-wearers will begin to dwindle. 

On the other hand, Nebraska is going to be our cross-division rival.  And unlike the Michigan State "rivalry" they forced upon us last time, there is already some built-in hate between the Cornhusker and Nittany Lion faithful.  We have a contentious MNC game in '82, a contentious MNC poll in '94, and if those weren't enough (and yes, they are), Penn State and Nebraska are the two Big Ten teams to have most recently played in one another's home stadiums in a series held from 2002-2003.  

Past Welcome Letters...

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten... From Minnesota

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Michigan State

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Indiana

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Iowa

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Wisconsin

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Ohio State

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten...From Purdue

Dear Nebraska, Welcome to the Big Ten

 

Hit the jump and we'll take a look at a couple of the reasons the Penn State-Nebraska rivalry will be heated from the get-go as well as another reason Penn Staters should be happy to see another new guy in the league.

The Penn State vs. Nebraska Rivalry

Every fellow Penn State fan I have spoken to is consistently enthusiastic about starting a yearly rivalry with Nebraska.  The Michigan State rivalry was forced, at best, and flat-out boring most of the time.  With Nebraska, Penn State will have another yearly marquee national matchup, and one that already has a lot of juice going into the first game.  

Penn State and Nebraska have played a total of 13 times, with Penn State ahead 7-6 as of today:

Individual Game Results of Penn State (vs Nebraska), 1869-2009

Date   Opponent (record) Result Score Site
9/13/2003 @ Nebraska (10-3) L 10 18
9/14/2002 vs. Nebraska (7-7) W 40 7
8/29/1983 vs. Nebraska (12-1) L 6 44 @ East Rutherford, NJ Kick-off Classic
9/25/1982 vs. Nebraska (12-1) W 27 24
9/26/1981 @ Nebraska (9-3) W 30 24
9/27/1980 vs. Nebraska (10-2) L 7 21
9/29/1979 @ Nebraska (10-2) L 17 42
9/20/1958 @ Nebraska (3-7) L 7 14
10/18/1952 vs. Nebraska (5-4-1) W 10 0
10/13/1951 @ Nebraska (1-8-1) W 15 7
10/21/1950 @ Nebraska (6-2-1) L 0 19
10/15/1949 vs. Nebraska (4-5) W 22 7
11/6/1920 vs. Nebraska (5-3-1) W 20 0

The two biggest points of contention between our schools may not be immediately apparent to your average Big Ten fan.  In fact, I would imagine that when the protected cross-division rivalries were announced that many Midwestern folks thought it was a strange match, but was made sense from a TV-rating perspective.  After all, as this extremely professional and expensive graphic shows, the two schools are the farthest apart geographically in the conference:

Bigtenusamapfar_medium

You have to go back to Penn State's first years in the Big Ten, and before, to find the two biggest sources of hate between Penn State and Nebraska: 1982 and 1994.  In both years, the national championship was awarded to one of the schools at the other's expense.  In both years there are arguments to be made that it was less than fair.

Nebraska @ Penn State, September 1982:

The best re-telling of the game (and the call) is over at Prolate Spheroid, and I'll include the most important parts below.  I recommend that you check it out.  To set, the scene, one of Nebraska's great teams comes to Penn State on a Saturday night, and goes ahead late in the game.  Penn State is making a final drive with less than 20 seconds left.  A field goal would tie, but PSU's kicker has already gone 0 for 3 on the day and Paterno decides to win or lose on the arm of QB Todd Blackledge:

It was at that moment that the game attained college football infamy. With all of the team's timeouts expended, Blackledge went deep along left sideline to his other tight end Mike McCloskey. The Nittany Lion receiver was heading out of bounds as the ball reached him and the play ended with him well into the Nebraska bench area. Osborne and Co. could not believe their eyes when the sideline umpire signalled a catch, giving Penn State a first-and-goal from the two with those four precious seconds remaining. Nebraska coaches and players were still crying bloody-murder when Bowman fell backwards out of the endzone clutching his third TD ball of the day, giving number eight Penn State a banner victory as the clock expired.

...

The call, which was unquestionably wrong, had far-reaching repercussions for both teams. After having gone undefeated in 1968, 1969, and 1973 without winning a national championship, Joe paterno finally gained the AP voters' respect in 1982 despite picking up a loss. The '82 Nittany Lions finished the season 11-1 with a 21-42 road loss to Paul Bryant's Crimson Tide. Despite that loss, several key wins earned the necessary grace for Penn State to be voted number one over 11-0-1 SMU following the bowls. Penn State's opponents combined for a national best record of .687. On New Year's Day, while Nebraska only managed a narrow 21-20 Orange Bowl win over 8-2-1 LSU and SMU failed to impress en route to a 7-3 victory over 9-2 Pitt in Dallas, the Nittany Lions knocked off Herschel Walker and the number one Georgia Bulldogs in New Orleans. Wins over Notre Dame and Nebraska combined with Penn State's impressive Sugar Bowl victory to crown a national championship resume. Without a blown call in the dying seconds on September 25th, the 1982 Nittany Lions would have been just another very good 10-2 Paterno team.

Ouch, Nebraska.  I mean, Let's Go State Wooo.  Paterno's first official national championship, and at your expense.  We're on our way to a rivalry, but we're not there yet.  

The 1994 AP Vote

This time around Penn State gets the short end of the stick.  Again it's for something that is essentially out of the their hands: the AP vote to select the national championship.  Nebraska and Penn State both turn in undefeated regular seasons, and are neck-and-neck for first place throughout the fall:

Even though Nebraska finished its business by going 13-0, it remained for voters in the Associated Press and USA Today/CNN polls to certify the Cornhuskers as national champions. Penn State also went through the season undefeated and untied at 12-0. The Nittany Lions argued to no avail.

Nebraska began the season ranked No. 4 by the Associated Press, moved to No. 1 after the Kickoff Classic, then inexplicably dropped to No. 2 following a 42-16 victory at Texas Tech. Sophomore safety Mike Minter suffered a season-ending knee injury during the game televised by ESPN.

...

The Cornhuskers dropped to No. 3 in the AP poll after the Kansas State victory, before finally moving to No. 1 following the Colorado game. The Buffaloes came to Lincoln undefeated, untied and ranked No. 2 by the AP and No. 3 by USA Today/CNN. Nebraska was No. 2 according to the coaches. The Cornhuskers remained No. 2 in the USA Today/CNN rankings another week, before ascending to the top spot on the strength of a 45-17 victory over Kansas, despite a Penn State victory against Indiana.

...

Even though Nebraska finished its business by going 13-0, it remained for voters in the Associated Press and USA Today/CNN polls to certify the Cornhuskers as national champions. Penn State also went through the season undefeated and untied at 12-0. The Nittany Lions argued to no avail.

So Nebraska jumps Penn State the last week of the season to end in first place.  Painful enough for us.  What made it worse?  

94_ap_poll_square_medium

Not exactly a lot of love for a fellow Big Ten institution in Big Ten country.  To this day, a considerable amount of those PSU fans that think the Big Ten is out to exclude them probably got that idea right around this time.  Penn State fielded one of the best offenses in the history of college football, just their second season as part of the league, and there are those out there that would say that the former land of the "Big Two Little Eight" were trying to put the then-new guy in his place.  (I can only imagine a similar situation now, but instead of '94 Penn State you had a team out of today's SEC.)

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.  

Regardless, between '82 and '94 Penn State and Nebraska fans have enough beef that a protected rivalry is sure to get each fanbase's blood up.  

Recent Games

One more reason that I think the Penn State-Nebraska rivalry will have some spark from the get-go is that the teams have played in one another's home stadiums within the last ten years.  I for one did not have the opportunity to catch the '82 game, my excuse being that I wasn't born yet.  But the 2002 game at Beaver Stadium was my freshman year at PSU and marks the day when I really got the full effect of Penn State football for the first time.  To this day, I think it only comes in second to the 2005 Ohio State game as the most intense sporting event I've ever been to, and even that is arguable.  40-7 shellings of a top-ten team with record attendance under the lights tend to have that effect, I guess.  If you missed it, here is linebackeru.com's excellent "Ten Minutes or Less" version:

2002 Penn State vs Nebraska (10 Minutes Or Less) (via LBUvideos).

Did I mention 40-7?  Just making sure.

Oh yeah, and then we lost the next year when we visited them.  I scoured the internet but could not provide a video.  Weird how that works out.

...

Another Reason Penn Staters will Embrace Nebraska: THE END OF CO-CHAMPIONSHIPS

No one is going to deny that Ohio State has ruled the conference with an iron fist the last ten or so years.  But since Penn State has gotten back on the wagon in 2005, they've managed to knock off the big dog and win the league two times.  And what we've had to endure both times, despite beating the Buckeyes head-to-head, was sharing the title of Big Ten Co-Champions.  

Sour apples?  Yeah.  But I know that looking forward, the fact that this ridiculous co-championship mess will be a thing of the past is a good thing.  And that is a sentiment I am sure any of the team that have split the league the last couple years will share.  So Nebraska: hats off to you.

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