Husker playoff scenarios

What if a four-team playoff had always existed? Here is a look back at how it would have affected Nebraska over the years.

When the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., the way college football determines its champion will likely change forever. With a four-team playoff likely, teams who once thought they were out of the running for the championship game might sneak in.

The change is likely to excite most and create debate from others.

But what if the system had been set up since the beginning of 1960s? The same time Nebraska football really became relevant on the national scene.

Using the Associated Press Poll, the only constant rating system from the 1960s to present day, Big Red Report examined how many times the Huskers would have participated in a four-team playoff.

The National Championships


No. 1 Texas (10-0) vs. No. 4 Tennessee (10-1)

No. 2 Ohio State (9-0) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (10-0-1)

What really happened: Playing No. 6 Notre Dame, the Texas Longhorns fell 24-11 in the Cotton Bowl, leaving the National Title up for grabs. Nebraska capitalized, beating LSU 17-12 in the Orange Bowl, after No. 2 Ohio State lost to No. 12 Stanford.


No. 1 Nebraska (12-0) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (10-1)

No. 2 Alabama (11-0) vs. No. 3 Michigan (11-0)

What really happened: Nebraska crushed No. 2 Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl, in the process likely becoming the greatest team ever in college football. But how great would have a rematch against Oklahoma been? The two had already met on November 25th, with Nebraska snagging a 35-31 road win against at the time the No. 2 Sooners. The game is still considered by many as the best in college football - nicknamed "The game of the century."

Nebraska vs Oklahoma in 1971(NU Media Relations)


No. 1 Nebraska (12-0) vs. No. 4 Colorado (10-1)

No. 2 Penn State (11-0) vs. No. 3 Miami (10-1)

What really happened: Nebraska beat Miami 24-17 to finish No. 1 in both polls – in the process winning the consensus National Title, despite Penn State going undefeated. A rematch against Colorado in the semi-finals would have been the second time Nebraska would have played the Buffs, edging them earlier in the season 24-7 at home.


No. 1 Nebraska (11-0) vs. No. 4 Tennessee (10-1)

No. 2 Florida (12-0) vs. No. 3 Northwestern (10-1)

What really happened: Nebraska flexed it's muscles against Florida, beating the Gators 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl – once again earning consensus National Champion honors.


No. 1 Michigan (11-0) vs. No. 4 Florida State (10-1)

No. 2 Nebraska (12-0) vs. No. 3 Tennessee (11-1)

What really happened: Nebraska did in fact play the Vols, easily winning 42-17 in the Orange Bowl in front of 72,000 fans. Michigan played No. 8 Washington State and barely won 21-16. Michigan and Nebraska would share the title, with the Wolverines taking the Associated Press hardware while Nebraska would take the ESPN/USA Today Coaches National Championship. But what if Michigan had played Florida State? The Seminoles had no trouble downing No. 10 Ohio State 31-14 in the Sugar Bowl – a same Ohio State team who only lost to Michigan on the road, 20-14.

The Huskers celebrate an Orange Bowl win

Other Husker teams who would have participated


No. 1 Miami (12-0) vs. No. 4 Nebraska (11-1)

Same story new day, the Huskers played Miami in the Rose Bowl, losing 37-14 – dropping two straight games and falling to No. 8 in the AP poll to close out the season.


No. 2 Virginia Tech (11-0) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (11-1)

The Hokies were blown out by Florida State 46-29 in the BCS National Title game, while Nebraska beat a top ten squad in Tennessee, 31-21.


No. 2 Nebraska (11-0) vs. No. 3 West Virginia (11-0)

Once again, different scenario probably the same outcome. The Mountaineers were outmatched in the Sugar Bowl, losing to Florida 41-7. Nebraska would have won their semi-final, to only play No. 1 Florida State – the same Seminole squad they lost to 18-16 in the Orange Bowl for the National Championship.

Turner Gil's Nebraska would have never played Miami in a four-team playoff (Getty Images)


No. 1 Nebraska (12-0) vs. No. 4 Illinois (10-1)

Nebraska's 31-30 loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl cost the Huskers the National Championship. It also allowed No. 5 Miami to move all the way up to No. 1 in the AP Poll. But in a four-team playoff, Nebraska would have never played Miami. The Huskers would have played Illinois, who lost 45-9 to an unranked UCLA team at the Rose Bowl.


No. 2 Penn State (10-1) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (11-1)

Many would argue that the two teams were the best at the end of the season. Penn State would go on to beat No. 1 Georgia 27-23 to take the AP National Championship, while Nebraska would squeak by LSU 21-20. The Huskers would finish 3rd in voting that year, with two first place votes.


No. 1 Clemson (11-0) vs. No. 4 Nebraska (9-2)

Same story, same results. Clemson beat Nebraska 22-15 to claim their first and only National Title.


No. 2 Arkansas (10-0) vs. No. 3 Nebraska (10-0)

It's not hard to believe the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds would have been playing for a National Title. No. 1 Michigan lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, while No. 3 Arkansas was beat by an unranked LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Nebraska ended up playing No. 4 Alabama and lost 39-28. It would move the Crimson Tide all the way up to No. 1 for an AP National Championship.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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