The shoe is DEFINITELY on the other foot

It's perhaps an odd situation: Nebraska having nothing to lose. Conversely, the Colorado Buffaloes have everything to lose. We can remember countless times where the roles were decidedly reversed and for years Colorado couldn't manage to get over the hump. When they finally traversed that mountain, however, it's been a lot different series with the Huskers. Now the shoe is definitely on the other foot.

I could ask you how many times Nebraska has been favored over Colorado by more than 10 points and you would sit there, knowing that you couldn't remember them all. If I asked you how many times it has been the other way around, though, you would sit there, pondering with equal intensity, trying to remember if that had ever happened before.

 

At this point you could talk about how much the tables have turned and how it is Colorado sitting on top of the college football mountain and it was Nebraska that was struggling simply for wins week to week.

Derek McCoy catches a TD pass from
Robert Hodges in 2002. This would
mark the 2nd straight time Colorado
beat Nebraska.
The only problem is Colorado isn't that good.

 

No, this isn't a world-beater Buffalo team, standing amongst the top five teams in the country, looking at this game as the one that could catapult them to the conference title game, hoping for that shot at the national title.

 

No, with the win against Nebraska, an unranked Colorado team would have the wonderful fortune of meeting Texas again, a team that lambasted them earlier in the year 42-17.

 

That said, there are better bowl aspirations on the line along with bettering your record and being the winner of the Big 12 North Division. Granted, winning the Big 12 North isn't exactly like winning the BCS, but hardware is hardware and if it comes at the cost of the Huskers, that makes it all the sweeter.

 

Remember, Colorado thought so much of their 62-36 victory over the Huskers in 2001 they had rings made with the score permanently emblazoned on the side. You think Nebraska would do the same thing if the roles were reversed? Even now?

 

No, probably not

 

Don't think that the win over Colorado wouldn't be huge, though, because it would. It would probably be the biggest win of the brief Bill Callahan era. For two years he's watched his team struggle offensively, resemble Jekyl and Hyde defensively and they have managed to lose almost as many games as they have won.

 

Well, that is except for on the road. When the Huskers trip away from the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln , Nebraska , they have won just two games in eight under their new head coach.

This was the last man that could say his
Husker team put a pounding on CU,
Tom Osborne's 2nd ranked NU team
beating no. 7 Colorado 44-21

So, when you look at the fact that Colorado is on paper a much better team, they have everything to play for, and the game is in their house, home of some of the rowdiest fans in the conference, it's a no-brainer how this game is going to turn out. Heck, 15 points might be a kind deficit for the Huskers.

 

Of course, except for the 62-36 humiliation of the Huskers, the series has been oh-so-close the last nine years. It's actually the Buffaloes that when the ending of the game sees a double-digit disparity, they are the one on top. In Nebraska 's last six victories over CU, the total difference in points between the two sits at 24.

Even in the two double-digit victories for the ‘Buffs, both games were close at times, Eric Crouch leading the Huskers back against Colorado after going down 35-3, eventually narrowing the game to just 12 points in the second half. When Colorado beat Nebraska in Lincoln in 2002, the Buffaloes had the lead 14-13 going into the fourth. And in the most recent loss to the black and gold, Colorado had a 26-7 lead, before Nebraska closed the gap, falling just short, Colorado running out the clock to secure a 26-20 victory.

 

Basically putting it and it would be the latent Husker fan in me that clinches my teeth when saying this, this is the closest thing to a rivalry Nebraska has since the Big 12 was formed, eliminating the vaunted series between the Huskers and the Oklahoma Sooners.

 

I doubt, however, that many long time Husker fans can remember as many recent nail-biters with the Sooners, at least close to the kind of heart stopping conclusions this series has seen in just the last 10 years.

-                      In 1996, fourth ranked Nebraska is barely holding onto a 17-12 lead over the fifth ranked Buffaloes. Nebraska had turned the ball over to CU on four downs or less in the last seven possessions of the second half. With 2:53 remaining in the game, Nebraska managed to get the option game going and ran out the clock, securing the narrow win.

-                      In 1997, The unranked Colorado Buffaloes entered the game as three touchdown underdogs to the No. 2 Huskers. Nebraska went up on CU early 27-10. Colorado rallied late, though, CU quarterback throwing for two touchdowns, one coming off of a successful on-side kick, narrowing the score 27-24 in the fourth. On fourth and 25, CU receiver Phil Savoy caught a Hessler pass, but came just short of the first down, sealing the game for NU.

-                      Trailing 14-13 late in the game, the 15th ranked Huskers relied on defensive end Mike Rucker and kicker Kris Brown to steal a victory from defeat as Nebraska beat Colorado 16-14 in 1998. Rucker caused two fumbles in the second half, the second one, a sack turned fumble by CU quarterback Mike Moschetti, coming at the mid point of the fourth quarter. The Huskers drove 49 yards in 10 plays, Kris Brown kicking the game-winner for the big red.

-                      In 1999, it was Nebraska once again ranked amongst the best (3rd) and Colorado unranked at all, but the game came down to the wire even though Nebraska at one point held a 27-3 lead. 24 fourth quarter points by the ‘Buffs erased that, sending the game into overtime. CU struck first with a field goal, but it was Nebraska that scored the TD, Eric Crouch sneaking in from the one, escaping Boulder with a 33-30 win

-                      2000 saw the most dramatic ending of them all, a game that was surely Colorado's to lose, holding a 31-30 lead over the Huskers, just 47 seconds remaining on the clock. After the kickoffs following the go-ahead score, though, Eric Crouch lead the Huskers 47 yards in 44 seconds and kicker Kris Brown finished Colorado off, hitting the game-winner as time ticked off the clock. Running back Corlton Johnson was quoted after the game: "Right now, they have this mystique over us," he said. "We haven't found a way to pull it out yet ... But times are changing."

 

Times did change and just that next year, Colorado setting all kinds of records against Nebraska, ending all kinds of frustrations that CU players, coaches and fans have felt long before they were ever there.

That disparity doesn't change the fact that this game has now become so well thought of, even the Wall Street Journal rates it as one of the top 10 rivalries in the country.

 

You know what they say about rivalries: Throw out the rankings, throw out the records, because this one is going to be a good old-fashioned football game, the winner being the team that wants it more.

Obviously, you'd think that is Colorado , having more to play for, at least on paper. But Nebraska isn't without their motivation for this game as well. It's not so much about what others think this time around, though, but what they think of themselves. Or to put it a better way, what they KNOW.

 

All year long the theme has been "I don't know", when talking about why the team can't get going early in the games. They don't know why they seemingly can't execute when it matters most. They don't know why when the chips are down, while they aren't giving up, just to watch game, you'd thought they actually had.

 

TE, Daniel Graham was just one of
many that stuck it to the big red in
2001 as CU routed NU 62-36
When a team doesn't even know itself, you as a fan or even an opposing fan aren't quite sure what you'll see.

 

For Husker fans, that's about the most optimistic way to look at it at this point.

 

The Huskers will take the field tomorrow a decided underdog, just like Colorado used to be. The Huskers will be playing for bowl opportunities that just six years ago, they would have called even being in that bowl an indication of failure. Colorado isn't quite at that point, at least not now, but I am sure that if you brought up to them the mere thought of playing in the Independence Bowl, they would laugh at just the thought.

 

Oh, how times have changed. Or perhaps ‘how the tables have turned' works even better than that. I guess it doesn't really matter what you call it in the end, outside of it being the last regular season game of the year, the traditional post-Holiday brouhaha.

 

Oh, and it's Colorado versus Nebraska, something that has come to mean more and more each year the game is played. Will this still fairly new tradition find itself with yet another tale of late-game heroics, stealing away a victory or will this be the predicted Husker beat down in Boulder?

 

We'll have to watch to find out, but you can bet that while Husker fans are still ticked off that they are even in the position of being a possible spoiler, they would love nothing more than their team to be just that. And to do it in Boulder would make things that much sweeter.

 

Face it Husker fans, the shoe is DEFINITELY on the other foot.


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