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Nebraska Football’s Best Rivalries

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The Huskers have historically had some rivals. Here is a breakdown of some of the best.

Barry Switzer/Tom Osborne

The Nebraska Cornhusker football team has had many “rivals” over the years. I say “rivals” because it seems that there are many definitions of what fans consider rivals.

Technically, a rival is a person or thing competing with another for with another for superiority in the same field of activity.

This my friends, is a fairly broad definition and can be manipulated into whatever you want. To some, this might just mean winning a game. To others, it might take a bigger meaning like winning a championship.

Honestly, anyone could be a rival.

But we as fans do not look at it that way. We want something with more substance. We want flair. We want meaning. We want our emotions out of control when we think of something or someone that is our “rival”.

So I have come up with a list of what I consider the top rivals for Nebraska. I am going more off of what has happened on the field and less what happens in the stands. So, if the Huskers have lost 7 straight, that team is most likely going to be lower on the list. Again, I am also considering what the fever is off the field, but it is only secondary.

I hope you all enjoy and please, feel free to give us your list of “rivals” in the comments section below.

Honorable Mention:

Missouri — They tried really hard to be a rival. They really did. I give then kudos for that. It was also our only trophy game before joining the B!G.

Nebraska v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kansas — We beat them up in football. They beat us up in basketball. Both records are lopsided. Lawrence is also a beautiful campus. Not enough to warrant rival status at all. Just a mention.

NCAA Football - Nebraska vs Kansas - November 5, 2005 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

Texas — The record isn’t pretty for Nebraska but the hate is strong on both sides. /m\

NCAA Football - Texas vs Nebraska - October 21, 2006 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

The List

7. Wisconsin

This is the rivalry that most Nebraskans through was going to flourish when they joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin was a mirror image of old school Nebraska football that pounded the rock and played a stiff defense. Taken from then head coach Barry Alvarz was a player on Bob Devaney’s teams in the late 1960’s. It worked well for Nebraska and has worked well for Wisconsin.

Nebraska’s fans respect what Wisconsin is/was. Many really want this rivalry to happen. Unfortunately, that has not been with Wisconsin winning the past 7 games. The last couple has been competitive, but not enough for a higher ranking. Until the Huskers start sending some hurt up to Madison, this will be on the outskirts of the fabled rivals. Thus, they are so low on the list.

Nebraska v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

6. Kansas State

This is our first “dormant” rivalry. In the history of the series the Huskers have a substantial lead in wins. This was a non existent rivalry until Bill Snyder came to Manhattan, Kansas and built a powerhouse in the Sunflower state. Put together with wheat farmers, community college transfers, and limestone from the surrounding area. KSU played hard and won enough games in the latter part of Nebraska’s history in the Big 12 to make this list. I have never felt hate towards Nebraska until I met a Wildcat fan. Man, they really don’t like us.

Nebraska v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

5. Iowa

We share borders and Omaha. I say Omaha because it seems like so many Iowans live in the metro area. Was it a bit of a manufactured rivalry? Sure, it was to an extent. The proximity to fan bases warranted it. Marketing made it an awkward reality. The first few years in the Big Ten had the games going back and fourth but the last five have been in the Hawkeyes favor. The last couple fairly close, but like Wisconsin close doesn’t matter in the history books.

Like Wisconsin, this rivalry should move up if Nebraska starts winning games in this series. Unlike Wisconsin, the divide and location of the two fanbases will keep the fires burning for years to come. I would expect this series to move up the list as time goes on.

Nebraska v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

4. Oklahoma

I know what you are thinking, why is Oklahoma ranked so low on this list? I mean, the 70’s and 80’s were defined by these two teams battling it out for the Big 8 crown. Many years, to play for a national championship.

To be honest, this one started sliding once the Big 12 was created and it was a two games on and two games off series. Making the competition dormant for two years at a time. Once the 2000’s came around Oklahoma started to become a power again and Nebraska was on its oh so very slow fall from grace.

I can only imagine what the record would be like if we were still playing them on a regular basis. This dormant series will have a little life breathed into it this fall when Nebraska heads down south to play the Sooners once again.

Also, and I just find this interesting. Tom Osbornes record against Barry Switzer was 5–12 during this rivalry. Many of those losses were close, but they were still losses. Someone needs to do an article on Sooner Magic and the impact that had on the series. Think that’s bad? Nebraska went 3-14 against Bud Wilkinson when he was dominating college football before Switzer.

Nebraska v Oklahoma

3. Colorado

Yes, Colorado beat out OU in the rankings. I’m sorry folks but this game just meant more during Nebraska’s years in the Big 12 than the Oklahoma game. The Huskers and of course their fans may not have recognized them as rivals, but they were. Colorado hated the Huskers and was a thorn in Nebraska’s side for years.

Bill McCartney made Nebraska Colorado’s main target and it worked. Heck, he even got a National Championship before Osborne did. Well, half of one but it still counts.

Even when Nebraska was good and Colorado was not the Buffs would usually push Nebraska to the very end of the game. Making the score closer than Husker fans would have liked. This my friends, may not be something you want but it is a rivalry.

Also, their mascot is a Bison and not a Buffalo.

Nebraska v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

2. Minnesota

There are a lot of reason that this being on here. I could probably write a couple of paragraphs on the series history and how the last few games have gone about. But the real reason this is ranked so high is the chair. Yes, the games have gone back and fourth and for some reason P.J. Fleck has it over Frost. Even this past season the Gophers pulled off a win with only 7 players on the field.

I do believe this team deserved it’s place on the list. But the reason it is so high is the trophy. When the internet gives, it gives gloriously.

It is all about The Chair!

Nurture this rivalry folks. It is good, wholesome, and natural. Feed the chair. Cherish the chair. Love the chair. Bring the chair back to Lincoln!

Nebraska v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
  1. Northwestern

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Why is Northwestern on this list? Let alone at #1. The schools have a short history. They have very little in common. The fan bases seem to have no issues with each other. How can this make the list?

It all comes down to what has happened on the field. This has actually been one of the more competitive series that Nebraska has had since they joined the Big Ten. A very many games have gone down to the wire. Including a couple late game heroics that came into play at the very end.

The Huskers have a 5-4 advantage since joining the Big Ten. Many of those wins were closer than most of us would have liked. Many of those loses are the same. For some reason, these two play each other and one cannot hold on to or even get a comfortable lead. When Nebraska and Northwestern it turns into a “who has the ball last, wins” situation more often than not.

The games may not be great, but they are entertaining. There is no shortage of drama. The series has been fairly back and fourth. Especially over the past few years. Could that change someday? Sure, it can. Will the fans get into it as much as they do Iowa, Colorado, or Oklahoma? I highly doubt it but there is always hope.

Am I stretching this out because I want this to be a rival? Of course I am! If we can hold on to an old rivalry that goes all the way back to the Johnson administration or earlier that has been relatively meh and dormant over the past 20 years then we can embrace something that actually has substance.

Nebraska vs. Northwestern is not the rivalry you expect or really even want. I mean, how can you truly root against the conference’s resident smart kids?

For some reason these two team just make these games worthwhile. Northwestern’s coach is not going anywhere and Pat Fitzgerald will continue to have off and on success in Evanston. Frost will “hopefully” turn Nebraska into a juggernaut again and is also not going anywhere anytime soon. We might as well embrace what this game is and consider Northwestern what is really is.....Nebraska’s best rival.

Nebraska v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images