I have come not to praise Nebraska, but I’m really not looking to bury them either. So maybe this hate piece will lack some fire. Sorry.
But can you blame me?
A thought experiment: What if your favorite team was sitting at 8-1 on the year and their lead RB had 218 carries for 1,727 yds and 21 TDS (for a 12-game projection of 291/2305/28)? You’d be ecstatic, right?
Well, those are the cumulative stats for the Wisconsin RB who had the most carries in each of UW’s 9 games vs. Nebraska since the Huskers joined the B1G, 8 of which were Badger victories.
NOTE: This means that Melvin Gordon’s 9 carry, 216 yard performance in the B1G title game is NOT included in these numbers. Though, UW may have just scored again. Let’s check:
Of course, his 2014 performance—408 yards in 3 quarters—DOES make the count:
Jonathan Taylor went over 200 yds three different times against Nebraska (74/674/7 in three games), but this is already getting boring (not really). How bonkers is it, though, that a 30/151/4 performance (Montee Ball in 2011) is consigned to the lower half?
How can you hate Nebraska when they’re so accommodating?
I can’t, but some of you probably can. My best guess is that it would be for one of two primary reasons: 1) Nebraska football has basically been a bust since joining the B1G, and 2) Nebraska fans are in complete denial about this and, led by their delusional head coach, conduct themselves with the sense of entitlement of a national powerhouse.
Fair points. Let’s explore each.
Nebraska’s Performance in the B1G
Counting the aforementioned shellacking (70-31! 63-17 when UW stopped trying!!) in the 2012 B1G title game, Nebraska is 43-42 in conference games as a member of the B1G. You probably weren’t aware of the drama last fall, but after losing to Iowa (for the 6th straight year, because that’s what powerhouses do), the Huskers dropped to 41-41. But they rallied with a win at Purdue to stay above .500, then lost to Minnesota to fall to 42-42. But a gutty, come-from-behind victory @ Rutgers (nothing says blue blood like trailing Rutgers in the 2nd half) allowed Nebraska to stay on the right side of .500 through the ‘20-’21 offseason.
Will the Huskers fall below .500 this year? It should be riveting.
But maybe you’re looking at this all wrong. Maybe, just maybe, Nebraska’s greatness was ALWAYS a function of being in the Big Eight with Oklahoma and a bunch of chumps. Yes, the ‘97 title was as a member of the Big XII, but that was a dead cat bounce lead by noted transfer, QB Scott Frost. As current Nebraska head coach Scott Frost will tell you, relying on transfers isn’t sound. Big XII Nebraska was competitive, but a second-tier power. Upon joining the B1G, Nebraska merely continued on the slow glide downward that they’ve been on for a couple of decades now. From 2011-2020, Iowa State is 36-55 in Big XII play and Kansas State is 53-37. Do you think either of these teams would have racked up the same record in the B1G? The B1G thought they were getting NEBRASKA, but what they got was Northern Kansas State.
Just embrace it.
Nebraska, who, since joining the B1G, has not produced a first round draft pick, IS the plucky underdog trying to find some traction. Scott Frost turned out not to be Matt Campbell, but I’m sure the Huskers could raid North Dakota State for the next Chris Klieman.
If you hate Nebraska’s on-the-field shortcomings, you’re hating it based on your own unrealistic expectations. Speaking of which...
Nebraska’s Fan’s Refusal to Accept Reality
I realize that every fan base has their idiots. I further realize that the non-idiots in every fan base point out that THEIR ratio of idiots to non-idiots is actually lower that you’d think.
Thing is, again, I’m kinda with (non-idiot) Nebraska on this. Review the stats on UW/Nebraska games above. How many Nebraska fans do you think are really delusional enough to believe that UW was “ducking” Nebraska last year? Right. Not that many. (It’s not non-idiot Nebraska fan’s fault that a disproportionate number of the idiots work for Nebraska athletics. Or the Omaha World-Herald.)
Was it stupid to even feint that being denied the chance to play Chattanooga might be a hill you would die on? Yes. But, again, the on-the-field product has been “meh” so you can’t begrudge a little chest-puffing. Or, at least, I, a UW fan can’t begrudge it:
Iowa fan, are you really that put off by histrionics out of a minority of the Nebraska fan base?
Iowa fan: “Nah, man, we’re good.”
What about you, Minnesota fan? You’re part of the Quadrangle of Hate. Do you really hate Nebraska?
Minnesota fan: “Honestly?
I can’t say that we really hate Nebraska. We’ve kind of made out peace with them.”
Bottom line: Nebraska really isn’t hateworthy. Take it from the rest of the Quadrangle. Maybe pitiable, but not really hateable.
Try to keep some perspective. If you were the fan of the a team that had five national titles* and had a plausible claim to two of those teams being in the “greatest team of all-time” conversation, you, too, would feel your
oats corn. But, as the years pass, you would probably get grumpy, cling to the past, and project outward. I mean, anniversaries are nice, but 50 years is a pretty big number. How many of you even know who Johnny Rodgers is?
So you double down and really grab onto the most recent run of titles. But the ‘94 and ‘95 squads are now closer in time to the ‘70 and ‘71 teams than they are to today, and ‘97 will be there soon enough.
With each passing year, maybe, just maybe, a little bit of self-doubt creeps in. You try to banish the thought, but perhaps you notice that while the ‘95 team did totally demolish Florida in 1 vs. 2 showdown, the next year Florida hired Bob Stoops to coordinate their defense and they won it all. And, gee, he had a pretty good run at Oklahoma. ‘95 was a long time ago. The sport has changed. Athletes are bigger and more athletic. Maybe, just may—-Nah, forgot it, that’s the greatest team ever and you’ll hear nothing to the contrary.
It’s fine. You’re entitled to hold on as tight as you want for as long as you want. Most of us don’t actually hate you for it.
The real question, though, is are you okay being pitied? Or is that the hate we should be talking about?