Oklahoma and Nebraska. Ask any college football fan who's been around for more than 20 years about these two teams, and they'll tell you the same thing: It used to be one of the all-time best rivalries in college football.
Used to be.
After the two schools dominated the Big 8 for decades upon decades, the Big 8 expanded and became the Big 12. And the Big 12 not only put Nebraska and Oklahoma in different divisions, it didn't take any steps to protect the annual rivalry. All of a sudden, the two teams were only playing each other half the time.
Now, sure, conferences split up their two powers when they move to a divisional format all the time. Recall the convoluted split of the ACC into "Atlantic" and "Coastal" divisions for the purpose of setting up Miami and Florida State for conference championship matchups, a pairing that has happened exactly zero times. The Big Ten also split up Michigan and Ohio State; perhaps at some point they'll meet in the conference championship. Perhaps.
At the very least, though, Michigan and Ohio State play every year. Miami and Florida State play every year. Nebraska and Oklahoma should play every year. And now they will—if by "now" we really mean "starting in a decade." Here's more from the Nebraska athletic department, which announced Thursday that the rivalry is back on, baby:
The Nebraska Athletic Department announced Thursday that it has signed a contract for a home-and-home football series with the University of Oklahoma. The two long-time rivals will renew their historic rivalry with games in 2021 in Norman and 2022 in Lincoln.
The first matchup is scheduled for Sept. 18, 2021, at Oklahoma, and the teams will meet at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Sept. 17, 2022.
"Our rivalry with Oklahoma has been one of the great traditional matchups in the history of college football," Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne said. "The games between the two schools were generally to decide a conference championship, and many times helped determine the national champion. Those matchups were always played with great intensity on the field, but with a great deal of respect from both sides and among the fan bases.
"I know our fans look forward to non-conference games against high-profile opponents like Oklahoma. I'm pleased we were able to finalize this series."
How excited are you for the return of the Oklahoma-Nebraska series?
Now, look. Any amount of Nebraska-Oklahoma games on the schedule is better than no Nebraska-Oklahoma games on the schedule. We're not about to get ungrateful about this. It's a historically great rivalry, and even adding two games to the slate that far down the road is a great first step.
What we'd really like to see, however, is a commitment for more than just two games. That's not a renewal of the rivalry, that's a fling. That's hooking up with your first spouse when you're both on your second. And starting the series in 2021 means that barring a bowl/playoff meeting between the two programs between now and then (not out of the question, by the way), this historic rivalry will have taken a full 11 years off; the two teams last met in the Big 12 Championship in 2010, Nebraska's last game in the conference.
And hey, we get it; scheduling big names is typically done way down the road, and it's not like the two schools can start back at it in 2013 or anything. This is not an unusually postdated series, by today's standards in college football.
The thing of it is, Nebraska doesn't have much of anything on its schedule from 2017 on, per FBSchedules.com; Oklahoma's future non-conference slates aren't much more populated from then on either, although there are series with Ohio State and then LSU around then.
Still, though: If these two programs wanted to get this rivalry back on and popping sooner than 2021, they could. They just chose not to, for whatever reason. That's basically how scheduling a big name for a two-game series goes in today's college football landscape.
We just hope this is going to be more than a two-game series. The press release about this series specifically calls it "renewing the rivalry," and if you're going to use words like that, you'd better mean it. Otherwise it's just another game—and college football has already been worsened once by Nebraska and Oklahoma becoming just another game.