One of the greatest rivalries in college football is dead.
A border rivalry that is one of the longest rivalries in NCAA history, dating back to 1892, is dead.
Border rivals that did not like each other or the Black Friday clash are dead.
Nebraska has essentially only played in one conference that has evolved over the decades, until the Big Ten move. During that time, the Huskers developed one of their greatest rivalries with the Sooners. The Huskers also played Missouri for the Missouri-Nebraska Bell, and when Colorado declared the Huskers as their main rival, it developed into a rivalry as well.
Nebraska's traditional rival, Oklahoma, border rival Missouri and Black Friday rival Colorado, are no longer in the same conference, which leaves a gap in the lore of Nebraska football. Nebraska will not be seeing any of these rivals for a long time, unless they meet in a bowl game.
Husker fans lost these traditional games, but gained a former/renewed border rival in Iowa, a former rival in Minnesota and a mashed-up rival in Penn State. Hmm. None of these are rivalries that Nebraska fans know and love. This brings up the question: Who is Nebraska's main rival?
Can we really say it's Oklahoma? It feels like that rivalry was doomed to die once the Big 12 was formed, and now the Sooners and Huskers won't play for years, if not decades. How can your rival be someone who you don't play at least somewhat often?
Missouri and Colorado are out of the question, unless Missouri realizes their dream of joining the Big Ten.
So here are the candidates for Nebraska's main rival: Iowa, the border rival, Penn State, the permanent cross division rival and Minnesota, the long lost rival or perhaps another Big Ten, like Northwestern or Michigan or Michigan State. The one problem with these teams is they all have someone they see as more important than Nebraska.
Iowa wants Wisconsin and views them as more of a rival than Nebraska. Minnesota is also occupied with Wisconsin; the Minnesota-Wisconsin game is the most frequently played game in the history of college football. Michigan has Ohio State, Northwestern has Illinois, Michigan State has Michigan, and apparently Penn State has Ohio State.
So who does that leave for Nebraska?
Since Iowa will no longer play Wisconsin every year, the rivalry will diminish some—like the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry—only the people who lived during, it remember it. As such, the new border Black Friday Showdown could be the Husker's new main rival. Nebraska and Iowa have a long history with the series, sitting at 27-12-2 Nebraska. The downside is that Iowa may never let go of Wisconsin, and Nebraska may be the other rival.
Penn State is a team that the Husker's have to play every year, thanks to the Big Ten. There is history between the two—Penn State's receiver was once clearly out of bounds and yet Penn State won the national title—or when Penn State thought they should have had or split the title with Nebraska in 1994. The series is also split at seven games a piece. The downside to Penn State is that we have no idea what is going to happen with the Sandusky scandal. If they get nailed with sanctions, it will be a while before Penn State is competitive, and they are about as far apart as you can be. Nebraska and Penn State represent the most extreme eastern and western points—a very hard drive and no direct flights, which make it hard to travel.
Minnesota is Nebraska's most familiar opponent in the Big Ten, having played them 52 times, and Minnesota leads the series 29-21-2. When Nebraska joined the Big Ten, Tom Osborne requested that Nebraska be paired with Minnesota, and Minnesota wanted the same. Minnesota is also relatively close to Nebraska and is a fairly easy drive for fans of both sides. The downside is that Wisconsin will always be the main rival for Minnesota, and also that Minnesota is not exactly at the same level as Nebraska right now; they might move up, but currently they are not on the same level.
Michigan will never view Nebraska as more important than Ohio State, and Michigan State will most likely not view Nebraska as more important than Michigan. Northwestern might be a candidate, but there is really no history between the two, though if Northwestern keeps upsetting Nebraska like last year, that might change.
So of the three, Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota, I would have to say Iowa is Nebraska's main rival at this point. The so called Heroes Game has a name, a trophy and a date that is special—the Friday after Thanksgiving. Penn State might become our main rival—there is bad blood between the two fanbases over national titles—but at this point, I would say Iowa is the main rival, followed by Penn State and then Minnesota.