Photo by Aaron Babcock
Nebraska Football

Rivalries Building for Huskers, Look for Old Big Eight Foes in Meantime

May 27, 2019
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When Bill Moos landed in Eugene, Oregon, in 1995 to lead the Oregon Ducks, he looked at Washington with respect. Washington did not view Oregon with the same reverence. The Huskies had won 16 of the previous 20 meetings. That included a 54-0 loss, a 38-3 loss and a string of five straight defeats that had only ended the season before Moos’ arrival.

“When I went to the University of Oregon in 1995, to the University of Washington we were a doormat,” Moos told Hail Varsity recently. “It was ‘Hey, we’ve got Oregon this week, let’s put a day or two in on them and then spend the rest of the week on USC because we have them the following week.’”

Then from 2004 to 2015, Oregon won every meeting. Twelve straight games.

“That produced a rivalry,” Moos said plainly. “Now, not going to say this is going to happen but could you imagine if Nebraska beat Michigan 12 straight times? Would there be a rivalry there?”

Many still view the Huskers as a transplant in the Big Ten. Nebraska is fully financially vested in the conference by now, and Moos says the Huskers are in the league “for the long haul,” but the Big Red is still fighting for some respect amongst the other decades-long members of the conference. 

Rivalry games are a benchmark in that regard. If a team doesn’t respect you, they won’t view you as a rival. And if you don’t beat them… Nebraska is still working on building rivals in the conference. 

“You can be lonely in the Big Ten,” Moos admitted. “We’re developing rivalries and we’ve got the Black Friday situation set with Iowa and we’re going to work hard to really grow that rivalry, but we came in like the new kid in school.

“We’ve got to establish ourselves, we’ve got a lot of work to do but we’re moving in the right direction within the conference and that’s very pleasing.”

For players, rivalry games are either about bad blood or pride or trophies or a mixture of the bunch. (Unless you’re UCF or UCONN and you have absolute indifference towards your “rivalry trophy.”) For fans, those games are about bragging rights. For someone in Moos’ position, it’s about exposure.

That’s where the Big Eight comes into play.

Nebraska’s non-conference schedule is full through the 2022-23 season. It’ll finish the first of multiple home-and-home series with Colorado this season and then play the Buffs again in 2023 and 2024. In 2021, Nebraska begins a home-and-home with longtime rival Oklahoma. The two will play another two-game series in 2029 and 2030. Over the next decade, Nebraska also has games with Tennessee and Arizona on the schedule. 

But the Huskers have already had conversations with both Kansas and Kansas State about re-upping with each other for a future home-and-home as soon as the openings in the non-conference start. 

Missouri and Iowa State are the other two partners on Moos’ wishlist, though he said Nebraska has not started conversations with either yet. 

“We can play those old rivals from the Big Eight and touch upon four different Power 5 conferences,” Moos said. “The only one that isn’t in there is the ACC. The exposure that gives our brand… All of the sudden the game of the week is Colorado-Nebraska and then it’s Missouri-Nebraska in that big footprint of the SEC and then it’s the Big 12 matchups with Oklahoma and maybe Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and then of course we play in the Big Ten.”

Ultimately, that’s about one thing.

“When we get — and I’m saying when — in a position to be seriously considered in Playoffs and all that, (if) you’ve got that exposure in four different conferences, that can help,” Moos said.

Of course, the other piece of it is nostalgia for Husker fans who still live in Kansas and throughout the Midwest. “It’s memory lane,” Moos said. Let’s say Nebraska reaches the level of play both Moos and head coach Scott Frost hope to reach and the Kansas Jayhawks are still floundering. Would it still make sense for — and more important, benefit — Nebraska to put Kansas on the schedule?

Absolutely.

“If we were to play Kansas in a home-and-home and they’re still building their program or whatever and not filling their stadium, we’ll fill it for them,” Moos said. “That’s revenue for them, that’s our fans getting to see us play a relatively close destination. Kansas State, of course, same thing. You’re getting a Power 5 opponent (with) great history, an ability for fans to get there easily, there’s all kinds of pluses there.”

Now, re-upping with old flames is a supplement for the kind of year-after-year hatred that festers between conference foes. Wisconsin feels natural in that regard. Program similarity, similar aspirations. The only problem is the Huskers haven’t won that game in six tries. 

“The rivalries will start,” Moos says, “when people start getting beat by us.”

 
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