Nebraska-Missouri: True Football Rivalry or Over-Hyped BCS Game?

Lake CruiseAnalyst IOctober 28, 2010

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 31:  Head coach Gary Pinkel of the Missouri Tigers is congratulated on his teams win over the Illinois Fighting Illini during the game at the Edward Jones Dome on August 31, 2002 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Missouri won 33-20.   (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After the gates close at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday evening (Oct. 30), what is next to come?

With a chance to lay claim to being the best team in the Big 12, Nebraska should come hyped into this game.

With a win over Missouri, they will be the top one-loss team in the conference.  And they have already played the meaty part of their schedule.

Ranked as the No. 5 rushing offense in the FBS, only Air Force, Georgia Tech, Oregon, and Auburn are ahead of the 'Huskers.

They average 290 yards per game and 6.63 per carry.  So far, they have scored 21 touchdowns on the ground.

Kansas State, the second-best Big 12 rushing team, gets 205 yards per game.  That is good for a No. 24 national ranking in the rushing category.

Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri come next, in that order. 

Mizzou averages 4.4 yards per carry and 138.47 yards per game.

They are ranked No. 79 in the nation in rushing. Nebraska is ranked No. 79 in rushing defense. 

Looks strange on paper, but it should be a stalemate in that sector of the game, right?

Missouri is ranked at No. 23 in rushing defense; they allow an average of 114 yards per game. 

Something has to give between Nebraska’s rushing attack and Mizzou’s ability to hamper their opponent’s rushing attack.

That will be one of the plot points to dissect during the game: Will Mizzou be able to stop the ground assault?

If they can make Nebraska one-dimensional, then Missouri’s blitzers and defensive backfield could make it a long game for Taylor Martinez.

On the other hand, if the Huskers dominate with their rushing offense, then the promising freshman will find it easier to complete passes against Mizzou’s acclaimed secondary.

The two programs have, in fact, played in the second-oldest rivalry in the Big 12.

Mizzou-Kansas is the oldest by about one year and 100 days.

Nebraska-Mizzou has been played on the gridiron 103-105 times. 

According to multiple sources including the University of Nebraska football program’s official site, Cornhuskers football began playing opponents in 1890.

A whopping total of two games were played that year.  Get this—the first game was against the Omaha YMCA, a game that took place the day after Thanksgiving.

Nebraska won 10-0.

In 1891, Iowa became Big Red’s first major college opponent.  Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, in that order, were next.

All the way back to November 5, 1892: That is how far back Mizzou-Nebraska goes. 

That was the first scheduled meeting, and it was supposed to happen in Omaha, but it was a forfeit in favor of Nebraska.

George A. Flippin was the quarterback of that team; he was also the first African-American to play for Nebraska. According to the University of Nebraska, Mizzou refused to play the 1892 game because of Flippin’s presence.

He was also the fifth African-American to play for a predominantly white university. (Google Frank Kinney Holbrook and Archie Alphonso Alexander.)

Both teams played in the Western Interstate University Football Association (WIUFA) from 1892-1897 along with Iowa and Kansas.

In 1893, Mizzou won the first actual meeting, 30-18.  They also won the second meeting.

Nebraska won by a score of 41-0 in 1897, and they have not looked back since.

The Huskers were originally nicknamed the Grasshoppers, and the football program had several nicknames in the early years: Tree Planters, Rattlesnake Boys, Bugeaters, Antelopes and Old Gold Knights, to name a few.

The team was first called Cornhuskers in 1899, and the school’s colors were changed to red and cream around 1900.

Sports editor Charles “Sy” Sherman is credited with giving the nickname, and he was known as “father of the Cornhuskers.”

From 1903-1910, they did not play Mizzou at all.  After that, the matchup was discontinued until 1922.

Nebraska joined Mizzou in the Missouri Valley Conference, before they moved to the Big Eight.

Since 1927, the winner has gotten the engraved Victory Bell Trophy.

Mizzou was ranked No. 5 in the nation at one point, after an 8-4 season under Warren Powers in 1978 that ended with a 35-31 victory over Nebraska.

The rivalry was within five games until 1979, before Nebraska ran off 24 wins in a row.

On November 3, 1979, Tom Osborne defeated Powers in Columbia, 23-20, in front of 74,000.  Nebraska was ranked No. 2, and Mizzou was not ranked.

Jarvis Redwine, Dave Rimington, Russel Gary, Andra Franklin and Bill Barnett played big roles on that 'Huskers roster.

Leo Lewis, Kellen Winslow and Phil Bradley played in the Veer offense.  James Wilder, Eric Wright, Kevin Potter and Wendell Ray were also Missouri standouts.

Tom Osborne was seven and 10 in 1979.  That is, he was head coaching the team for his seventh season, and he was in his tenth season as the offensive coordinator.

Nebraska finished at (10-2, 6-0-1).  A dominant Oklahoma team (11-1, 7-0) won the Big Eight under Barry Switzer, who was in his seventh season as head coach.

Billy Simms and George Cumby were All-American Sooners, and JC Watts was a capable wishbone-triple option quarterback.

OU had won seven straight Big Eight titles under Switzer, with four undefeated conference records in those seven seasons.

I have published articles in many seasoned markets, in all of the major genres.  And I believe that the best fans, not just college football, but in sports—period—belong to Huskers Nation.

Astonishing in their sportsmanship and in their knowledge of the game, Nebraska football fans are the superlative in the country, in my opinion. 

St. Louis Cardinals fans are ranked No. 2 on my list.

Why should the Tigers be on the Cornhuskers’ playlist after this game?

They have shared or won a total of five national titles. Mizzou has yet to win one.

Can one football game end friendships? You bet, unfortunately. Earlier this week, I wrote that the rivalry between Nebraska and Missouri was like the “Hatfields and the McCoys.” Too much hyperbole for some, I guess; the team’s fans are not bitterly feuding, and they are more sophisticated than that. 

No one that I know of has fallen victim to raging rifle-fire from their neighbors.

After this game is over, and ex-neighbors who golfed in their red/cream and black/gold go their separate ways, will this game be considered an ex-rivalry?

Will the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska football programs meet again?  I sure hope so.

College football will be missing a very antiquated pastime.

Thank you for your passed time. 

I will now carefully step past my soapbox to leave you with my bold affirmation for this game’s ending. 

Prediction: Missouri will slow down the vaunted Nebraska rushing offense and open a sizable lead.  Nebraska will have to pass, and that plays into Mizzou’s hands: 37-24, Tigers.


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