Ok, so Colorado is the biggest game of the year. It seems like Nebraska has had a few of those, but how many years has it been since the very last contest of the season determined whether there would be any more games for the Big Red? Yes, it's another streak and in the last five years the Husker faithful have gotten used to losing them and in bunches. This is one that they would like to keep.
36 years. That's how long it has been since the last time Nebraska went into the last game of the season with a bowl-bid on the line. Not surprisingly enough considering the date, It was a game against Oklahoma that would make or break the Huskers that season.
It broke them, of course, Oklahoma beating Bob Devaney's big red 47-0 in 1968. The good news though, that's when "the streak" began.
11 years beyond a quarter of a century, here we are again, on the precipice of either bowl-bound or bowl oblivion and it's not Oklahoma standing in the way, it's the Colorado Buffaloes.
I find it a little ironic in that while Colorado could only be considered even a marginal rival in the early 90s when the ‘Buffs beat NU twice and tied them once, CU at one point grabbing a share of the national title in that run, it was during this time back in the late 60s where Oklahoma/Nebraska really started to heat up.
You see, prior to Bob Devaney showing up, Oklahoma owned Nebraska. Pure and simple, even taking into account the monumental upset of the Sooners in 1959 as the Huskers busted the OU's 74-game conference unbeaten streak, it was usually all Oklahoma, the Sooners actually winning 16 in a row.
That's not a rivalry.
Even when Nebraska did beat Oklahoma in Devaney's second year at the helm, not that one or the victory in 1965 would make this one of the greatest college football rivalries ever.
No, at least in my estimation, it started in 1969, the year after Bob Devaney finished a bowless mini-streak of 2 after going to the post-season his first 5 years at Nebraska. After that, Nebraska won the next 3 and that's when it officially began.
Well, Nebraska has had its fill of streaks or at least, losing them. Winning streaks, home winning streaks, streaks over opponents, poll streaks, etc. so on and so forth.
Really, there's two streaks left that are of any considerable merit; the home sellout and the one that Nebraska will be defending this weekend, a bowl every year since 1969.
Another irony, don't you think? Last year, Colorado went into this game on the cusp of making a bowl only to have it taken away by a home-loss to the Huskers. This year, it's Nebraska in that particular predicament and you know that Colorado would like nothing more than to inflict upon NU another monumental defeat.
The day that has now become known as "black Friday" was a big enough notch in their belt, the CU administration put the final score of the lopsided loss into their rings. I wonder if they win this game if they'll just replace the Buffalo on the sides of their helmets with "No Bowl for NU".
It's also a little funny that after losing to a team by 27 points, Nebraska could go into this game riding about as high as it has ridden all year. The loss to OU stunk and every player looks at you funny when you ask if they were at least proud of the effort they gave. Of course they aren't, because effort only matters to a player if there's a "W" on the other end.
A coach looks at the effort and the outcome in different respects. He knows that if his players gave all they had, did what he asked, if they ended up losing, there's little you can do.
What you CAN do, though, is take solace in knowing that the outcome wasn't what you wanted, but at least you never had to question how hard your players tried during the entirety of the game.
They'll need that at least one more time this year.
The good news for the Huskers is that this game is at home. More good news is that Cory Ross and his aching turf-toe will have two weeks, not one to get some sort of rest on that foot. Thirdly, this will give Nebraska two weeks to prepare for a team that honestly isn't all that good.
Colorado has a losing record in the conference, their starting QB (Joel Klatt) has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and their top runningback (Bobby Purfiy) isn't averaging even 90 yards a game. That means if "Hyde" shows up rather than Dr. Jekyl for this schizophrenic Husker defense, Nebraska should have a lot of success.
Of course, there is the fact that this same defense made Iowa State receiver, Todd Blythe look like Randy Moss. They made fill-in QB, Allen Webb for Kansas State look like Michael Vick. And, the Nebraska offense has made almost nobody pay for the fact that teams can't consistently cover all of the NU wideouts.
So, there's drama here, a lot more than any Husker fan wants to see. They look at the bowl-streak and instead of going into this game full of confidence, resolute that Nebraska will get it done, they bite their nails down to the nub, grit their teeth until they are smooth, hoping and some even praying that Nebraska's season doesn't stop here.
This is a big game.
The biggest, because the difference between winning this game and losing this game could be incredible in the disparity.
If you win, Nebraska goes to a bowl and win or lose in that game, The Huskers will have a 5-1 record at home this year versus being 4-2. With all that has happened with Nebraska this year, that isn't bad, especially when you consider the fact that the loss was one where Nebraska literally gave the game away.
If you lose, season over, time to regroup and in a few years where Nebraska fans have had time to put streaks lost into perspective, they will do so with this one and unfortunately, it's probably not going to be all that hard.
To me, that's the biggest reason why this is a big game. Over the last few years, when it comes to what Nebraska fans have become used to, this is about as bad as it gets. We shrugged off the 7-7 to a degree, rationalizing that for most teams, that is one helluva year. Well, even for those teams, what NU has managed to do this year is just bad.
Needing to count a win over a Division 1-AA team to qualify for a bowl? In Nebraska?
Where a single loss used to set Nebraska fans into a frenzy, as the losses have mounted this season, the numbness to those losses has apparently set in. It's not like Nebraska fans don't care anymore, it's just that they have gotten used to losing games, big games, road games, all kinds of games.
Hell, even a moral victory down in Norman has some actually hopeful about the future.
This game is to keep that hope alive and maybe even get it to the point where Nebraska fans will look at a Big XII title and think that there's no reason they can't win it. They will look at a national title and think that it's just a little ways down the road. Basically, they will think just like Nebraska fans are used to thinking.
Bill Callahan was brought on board to bring back the NU tradition. He and his staff were charged with putting the sting back into the Nebraska name. People used to fear even playing the Huskers. Now, it's the Husker fan-base itself that fears becoming like all those other teams.
A win over Colorado won't cement the Huskers as being back to prominence. It's not the quick fix to what are still a lot of issues with this team. It will, however, continue a season that for players that have given everything even in a losing effort, deserve at least some sort of reward.
A bowl being a reward. At one point of my life, I though it was a birthright to every Husker that played. Now, that particular Husker hand-me-down exists one game away.
One game, THE game of the year.
To continue a season like this might almost seem painful to some. If you think that's true, imagine the pain you'll feel if it doesn't.
Is there a prescription for that? Do they have therapy for that kind of angst?
Oh hell, just win the damn game!!!