When Nebraska was pushed onto Iowa football as a new rival, the Hawkeyes expected to play an annual contender. That didn’t happen with the Heroes Trophy.
Since Eichorst’s ill-advised statement after firing Bo Pelini, Nebraska has looked a lot more like historical Iowa State than historical Nebraska. And they especially haven’t been better than the Iowa football program.
While credit does need to be paid to Matt Campbell and our friends in Ames, credit also needs to go to Eichorst and Nebraska fans alike for expecting the 1990s to return to Lincoln.
For context to those too young to remember Big Red as a good team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers dominated the Big 8 (the Big 12 before the Texas teams joined the conference) from the 1960s to the Big 8’s expansion in 1996.
Nebraska split a national championship with Michigan in 1997, Tom Osbourne’s final season as the head coach of the Huskers, and won the relatively new Big 12 Conference in 1999. Nebraska has not won a conference championship – in the Big 12 or the Big Ten – since 1999.
Nebraska was great when the only hurdle they had was Oklahoma. When they had more competition in Texas, they slowly dropped in the Big 12 pecking order.
Nebraska was close to regaining some of their historical greatness under Bo Pelini. In 2012, Pelini won Nebraska’s only Big Ten division title. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, Wisconsin dropped 70 points against them in one of the most lopsided conference championship games in Big Ten history.
In 2014, Nebraska finished its ninth consecutive season with 4 losses and decided to move on from coach Bo Pelini. They have had one winning season since then.
The Huskers are now fighting to avoid the third consecutive season without bowl eligibility. In 1999, most college football fans would expect this performance from Iowa State, not Nebraska.
Iowa State is a perennial eight to nine-win team, Nebraska and Texas are annually disappointing and Cher, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t releasing number 1 songs. It isn’t 1999 anymore.
The point of this all is to simply point out what Nebraska has become. They are that guy that absolutely owned high school. He was cool, popular and incredible at sports.
Since then, he blew out his knee in college, and despite being 40 years old, has become obsessed with his Big-Man-On-Campus status in high school.
At a certain point, what you did 20 years ago doesn’t matter anymore. After all, the kids actually playing the games don’t remember what happened 20 years ago. They were either in diapers or not alive yet.
On Friday, Iowa football has the opportunity to end Nebraska’s season. The game that fans in Lincoln didn’t want provides more meaning to their season than it does to Iowa football’s season.
To Iowa football fans, beating Nebraska is only a means towards getting one step closer to 10 wins. Nebraska is not our rival.
If Nebraska wins, they will have earned their signature win under Scott Frost, and have the opportunity to end the season over .500. If Iowa wins, they beat yet another inferior opponent that isn’t even bowl eligible.
I’m sure when Eichorst made his remarks in 2014, he didn’t expect this to be where Nebraska – or Iowa football – was as a program.