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For those that don’t remember, and considering most reading this blog are Penn State fans how can you not, but Nebraska won the 1994 National Championship (pre-BCS) rather than Penn State. Instantly, the vast majority of the Nittany Nation had deep animosity towards the children of the corn.
Now, of course it is not their fault, it was the fault of the sports writers, who decided National Championships prior to the BCS. But the Nittany Nation had to blame someone for not winning a National Championship after another undefeated season, including a Rose Bowl win (where may I remind you, even though the #2 Lions played a #17 Oregon Ducks team, we covered the 17 point spread), they were left with nothing to show for it (oh, except the New York Times National Championship).
What probably hurts the worst is that the precedent for many years prior was that if two national powers, from strong conferences both went undefeated, the National Championship was split (one team receiving the coaches vote and the other the AP); but this go-around Nebraska got both. More frustrating was that when the roles were reversed just a few years later, Nebraska came into the bowl season ranked #2 (like Penn State did in 1994) and Michigan was #1. Both won their bowl games, just like 1994, but because Tom Osborne (Nebraska’s coach was retiring); the Cornhuskers got a share of the National Championship.
The display of Penn State fans anger, justified or not, was clearly on display when a ranked Nebraska team came into Happy Valley on an early fall evening for a night game in Beaver Stadium back in 2002. The Nittany Lions had come off a few tough years (losing seasons) and for all intense and purposes were given little chance against the Cornhuskers.
The fans were very anxious for this one, “settling the score for ’94” was the theme of the weekend. And unfortunately, I saw some pretty intense behavior towards Cornhusker fans that ultimately I was not very proud of. And honestly, fans of the Cornhuskers are probably some of the nicest fans in the nation. The Lions stunned the Cornhuskers and put together a solid victory, 40-7 and a rivalry was born.
Now that Nebraska has joined the Big Ten, in all likelihood the two teams will not be in the same ‘division’ of the conference (see a blog in the very near future about that topic), but will probably play each other every 4-6 years. And of course, could meet in a new conference championship game, which imagine will be in Chicago.
I see future Penn State v. Nebraska games as huge events for Penn State fans, as they continue to see Nebraska as the team which prevented them from their third National Championship game. On the other hand, I think Cornhusker fans will simply see the games vs. Penn State as another game in a new conference against a proud and storied program, with a legendary coach (if he is still coaching, of course he will be).
Until next time, We are Penn State.
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