Nebraska in the Big Ten: Which Teams Will Nebraska Establish Rivalries with?

Mike WehlingAnalyst IJanuary 7, 2011

Nebraska in the Big Ten: Which Teams Will Nebraska Establish Rivalries with?

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    I've decided to continue my series on Nebraska in the Big Ten, pretty much just to get my mind off the Holiday Bowl.

    Speaking of which, the Big Ten was just awful this year in bowl games: 3-6 including Nebraska. Congratulations to the Buckeyes on breaking their SEC curse with their win in the Sugar Bowl over the Razorbacks.

    Nebraska has been playing the same teams for decades. Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri have all had over 95 meetings with Nebraska, with Kansas and Nebraska having 117 meetings together. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado have all had over 40 meetings with Nebraska.

    While it may take years to develop, Nebraska will develop new rivalries with its new conference rivals. In this article, I will look at the six teams that will show up on the Huskers' schedule the most and determine the best rivalries out of them.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Overall Series: 5-0

    Last Meeting: 2003 in San Antonio, Nebraska 17-3

    As far as I know, there is no bad blood between the Huskers and the Spartans. Nebraska and Michigan State have only met five times, and Nebraska has emerged victorious each time.

    Interestingly, Michigan State has never led in any of the games. None of the games in the series has been particularly close either; the average points scored is Nebraska 36.2, Michigan State 6.8.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 3

    Not really any bad blood that I know of. I am sure that the Spartans are upset about the lopsided series, as well as the recent loss in the Alamo Bowl. Other than that there is no real background to set up this rivalry. It was Bo Pelini's first win as a Nebraska coach, so maybe that will lead to something.

    Rivalry Name: Battle of the First Meeting

    Lame-sounding, but it is the first Big Ten team Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini coached against.

    Rivalry Trophy: The Corn Spear

    A spear with a cob of corn as the point. Spartans use spears, and Cornhuskers husk corn. Clever, right?

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Overall Series: 3-1

    Last Meeting: 2000 in San Antonio, Nebraska 66-17

    The No. 4 team in all-time wins versus the No. 1 team in all-time losses.

    A rivalry between these two schools would be strikingly similar for Nebraska fans. Kansas State fluctuates between No. 1 and 2 in all-time losses, wears purple, is called the Wildcats and gave Nebraska fits at times. While Northwestern has not given Nebraska fits since 1931, the potential for a rivalry is still there.

    By the way, to Northwestern fans, I am not trying to put you down; you have accomplished more than Kansas State has.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 3

    Like I mentioned above, there are a lot of similarities between Northwestern and Kansas State. Nebraska and Kansas State became an important game, so what is to stop Nebraska-Northwestern from becoming important?

    Rivalry Name: Battle of the NUs

    Both Nebraska and Northwestern use NU as their abbreviated name for sports.

    Rivalry Trophy: The Name NU

    The winner gets to use the NU abbreviation, while the loser has to come up with something else.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Overall Series: 20-29-2

    Last Meeting: 1990 in Lincoln, Nebraska 56-0

    Minnesota has the most history with Nebraska with 51 meetings. Minnesota dominated the series until Nebraska reeled off 14 straight victories. Nebraska gave Minnesota its worst loss, 84-13, while Minnesota gave Nebraska its worst loss, 61-7, until it was broken by Kansas.

    This had been a usual series between the two, but with the Big Ten adding Penn State to the conference, Minnesota dropped the series.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 6

    Tom Osborne reportedly said that he wanted Nebraska to be in the same division as Iowa and Minnesota, which shows how much he thinks of the rivalry. While there is plenty of history and some great games, Minnesota's recent decline tarnishes the initial value of the rivalry.

    Rivalry Name: The Blizzard Bowl

    Nebraska and Minnesota both have a history of terrible snowstorms.

    Rivalry Trophy: The Golden Shovel

    Since both Minnesotans and Nebraskans have to deal with snow and have to dig out of it, what better than to have an awesome shovel to dig yourself out of the snow?

Michigan Wolverines

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    Overall Series: 2-3-1

    Last Meeting: 2005 in San Antonio, Nebraska 32-28

    Michigan ranks No. 1 in all-time wins, while Nebraska is No. 4. The teams are both rich in tradition and have had some memorable games and moments together.

    In 1986, Nebraska's disastrous third quarter in the Fiesta Bowl doomed them against the Wolverines 27-24. Who was the quarterback for Michigan? Just a guy named Jim Harbaugh.

    In 2005, the Alamo Bowl had controversy on a last-minute play that involved a hook and lateral by Michigan. Nebraska thought Michigan was down, and the band and coaches came onto the field, resembling the infamous Stanford-Cal game. Luckily the Michigan player was tackled at the 13-yard line, so they did not review the play.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 8

    No doubt both fanbases remember the last few meetings and will want to get the upper hand in the series. In addition to the two games mentioned, there is also the matter of Nebraska and Michigan splitting the national title in 1997, which angered quite a few people.

    Rivalry Name: Clash of the Best of the Midwest

    When you think of tradition, history, national championships and the top programs in college football, odds are Nebraska and Michigan would come to your mind.

    Rivalry Trophy: The Victory Bell

    I know a lot of teams use a bell as their trophy, but I kind of like the idea of a bell with one side blue with a maize M and the other side cream with a scarlet N.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Overall Series: 6-7

    Last Meeting: 2003 in Lincoln, Nebraska 18-10

    As Nebraska's designated other division permanent rival, it's almost certain that Nebraska will establish a rivalry with Penn State.

    This series already has bitterness to it. In 1982 eighth-ranked Penn State defeated second-ranked Nebraska 27-24 on its way to a national title. The game had a controversial ruling in which Penn State tight end Mike McCloskey, who was out of bounds when he caught a crucial pass, was ruled inbounds, which would set up a Penn State win. McCloskey himself admitted later that he was indeed out of bounds.

    In 1994 both Penn State and Nebraska finished undefeated, but only Nebraska was awarded the national title.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 8

    There is quite a bit of bad blood between the two programs over the incidents that were previously mentioned. This should be a great game that both fanbases look forward to.

    Rivalry Name: Battle of the Outliers

    Penn State and Nebraska are the most eastern and western teams in the conference respectively.

    Rivalry Trophy: A pair of glasses

    Why? Because the refs needed glasses when they made the terrible call in 1982, and Joe Pa and glasses go hand in hand.

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Overall Series: 26-12-2

    Last Meeting: 2000 in Lincoln, Nebraska 42-13

    Iowa is Nebraska's only border to the Big Ten. This used to be an annual series that was big in both states. It still is big to both fanbases.

    Many households in Nebraska and Iowa are divided. Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, has Iowa fans in it and is located on the border of Nebraska and Iowa. The series is one that both fanbases have wanted to resume; now they get their wish.

    Rivalry Intensity (1-10): 10

    I have heard both sides say that their fanbase and team is better, and now they will have a chance to prove that every year. By the look of the Big Ten schedule, this will be Nebraska's annual rivalry weekend game, taking place at the end of the regular season. This will be a great game, and from talking to other Nebraska fans, this is the game they are most looking forward to.

    Rivalry Name: Battle of the Plains

    Iowa and Nebraska both share similar types of geography—well, at least Eastern Nebraska does.

    Rivalry Trophy: A bronze trophy of a cob of corn

    Nebraska and Iowa are both major producers of corn, and both have used the name Cornhuskers.


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    In conclusion, Iowa will most likely be an instant rival for Nebraska. Michigan and Penn State will also become rivals due to their competitiveness and history. The Minnesota series will also look to be a rivalry and one day may return to its former glory from back in the '70s.

    Northwestern and Michigan State do not have much history with Nebraska, but that's the glory of rivalry games. They are born by what happens on the field between teams, something that Nebraska will be able to do more with those teams.

    I really want to know what you guys as readers think. Was I way off? Let me know. If you come up with a better rivalry name or trophy, post it.