"Nebraska’s last win over a ranked squad on the road came on Dec. 28, 2016 against none other than Indiana." That's opening sentence to Derek Peterson's three takeaways from the Huskers' 66-51 win over Indiana last night, a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak against ranked teams on the road for Nebraska.
Because my mind is mostly football at this point –– 1999 me would be very surprised by this –– I immediately wondered when the last time was that Nebraska football had beaten a ranked team. If you bleed red, what follows isn't a pretty picture.
It didn't take long to find the last win over a ranked team. It seems that Nebraska is destined to face three ranked teams each year. Sometimes it's two, sometimes it's four, but in six of the last eight seasons it has been three. The Huskers went 0-3 against ranked teams each of the past two seasons.
That makes Nebraska's last win against a team ranked in the Associated Press top 25 –– drumroll, please –– Mike Riley's 35-32 win over No. 22 Oregon at Memorial Stadium in 2016. It was a game that, according to Bill Connelly's statistical model, the Ducks would win 82 percent of the time with the stats both teams put up in that game. But, hey, given Nebraska's recent track record here, this is no place to be choosy.
Pair that win with the 2015 upset of No. 6 Michigan State at Memorial Stadium and you have just the second time in Nebraska's Big Ten era that the Huskers won consecutive games against ranked opponents. The only other back-to-back ranked wins came in 2011, the Huskers’ first year in the conference, when Nebraska beat No. 9 Michigan State on Oct. 29 in Lincoln and No. 12 Penn State on Nov. 12 at State College.
But here's the really shocking thing. I knew it had been a while since Nebraska football had beaten a ranked team when I began this quick exercise inspired by a road win in basketball. I did not know that the 2011 win over Penn State –– the Nittany Lions' first game after the firing of Joe Paterno –– was the Huskers' only road win over a top-25 team since joining the Big Ten.
A week after beating Penn State, Nebraska lost to No. 20 Michigan 45-17 at Michigan Stadium, the start of an 11-game losing streak to ranked teams on the road that is still active today. The Huskers have also currently lost eight straight against ranked teams, home or away and are 6-18 against top 25 teams overall (1-12 on the road).
So here's your chance to call your shot: When will Nebraska snap the losing streak in general and when will it snap the road losing streak to top-25 teams?
It's a safe bet that Ohio State will be ranked when it visits Lincoln on Sept. 28. That's the Huskers' first shot. Northwestern, a week later, might be ranked but probably won't be given that it plays Stanford, Michigan State and Wisconsin all before facing the Huskers. Wisconsin in Lincoln on Nov. 16? Iowa at Memorial Stadium on Black Friday? Those are the next two best bets in my view, but being in November there's plenty of opportunity for any way-too-early top-25 team to fade by that point.
It's also possible, maybe even likely, that the Huskers won't have the opportunity to snap the road streak in 2019. Colorado isn't starting the season ranked and beating Colorado State in the opener won't change that before Nebraska visits in Week 2. Illinois two weeks later? No.
What about Minnesota in mid-October? Maybe. We'll know a lot about the Gophers by the time they host Nebraska on Oct. 12. Don't know if you've looked at Minnesota's 2019 schedule, but it is fascinating for a team generating a little preseason buzz. The Gophers open with South Dakota State, a 2018 FCS Playoff semifinalist, then travel to Fresno State (12-2 last season), return home to play Georgia Southern (10-3 in 2018) and then hit the road to play Purdue. Get through that at 3-1 or 4-0, then beat Illinois, and Minnesota could be ranked for the Nebraska game. (Alternately, Minnesota could also be facing some tough questions at the midpoint of an important season for P.J. Fleck if that quietly tough opening month goes south.)
I'd put Purdue in the same "could be in the back half of the top 25 category" as Minnesota. After traveling to West Lafayette on Nov. 2, the Huskers only remaining road game is their first trip to College Park to face Maryland. The Terps probably aren't ranked.
So, mark me down for this as it pertains to the streaks: Nebraska won't have the opportunity to snap the road streak, but snaps the ranked-team losing streak against . . . Ohio State.
I only have 256 days to change my mind.
The Grab Bag
- Here’s more on Nebraska basketball’s win over Indiana at Assembly Hall.
- It too a little longer than expected, but junior college running back Dedrick Mills is officially a Husker.
- Maybe the Mills news scratched the itch, but if not Greg Smith writes that new commits for the 2019 class are coming soon enough.
- Jacob Padilla is back with his weekly roundup of the high school hoops scene in Nebraska.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.