ESPN released its 150 greatest college football team rankings, and we weren’t surprised to see Nebraska dominate the list. During their heyday, the Cornhuskers had one of the best option running attacks in all of college football.
It came as a slight surprise to see them finish with a team at the top of the rankings, but their second team included in the top-5 wasn’t a slouch either. Today we will look at both teams and determine what Nebraska must do to return to college football prominence.
1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-0)
This team has a strong claim for the No. 1 spot. The Cornhuskers held 10 of their 13 opponents to a touchdown or less. One of the team’s most memorable moments was taking care of business against Oklahoma in “The Game of the Century,” winning 35-31.
The Cornhuskers also defeated Alabama and Colorado in blowouts. At the end of the season, the final AP poll had them defeat the No. 2 (Alabama), No. 3 (Oklahoma), and No. 4 (Colorado) teams. The Alabama game was a beatdown of epic proportions, as Nebraska won the Orange Bowl 38-6.
The team also had three consensus first-team All-Americans, including Outland Trophy (best lineman) winner Larry Jacobsen. You will be hard-pressed to find a more complete team in college football history, and we don’t have any arguments with this decision.
1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-0)
Although this team wasn’t littered with All-Americans, the 1995 Nebraska football program steamrolled opponents. They won each game by at least 14 points. The Cornhuskers dominated on the ground running the football.
They set an NCAA record for rushing yards per carry, averaging seven per attempt. As a team, there was a major controversy off the field. Starting tailback Lawrence Phillips was not kicked off of the team after assaulting a member of the women’s basketball program. The athlete was very talented and could have been a Heisman Trophy winner. However, Phillips’ run-ins with the law ultimately doomed his professional career.
Instead of getting booted off of the team, head coach Tom Osborne suspended him for the first six games of the season. It allowed freshman running back Ahman Green to run for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns.
This Nebraska team made things look incredibly easy. Quarterback Tommy Frazier spearheaded the team’s well-known option attack, as he finished second in Heisman voting that season.
Can Nebraska football return to dominance?
The move to the Big Ten has not been helpful for the Cornhuskers. They brought in young coaching talent with Scott Frost. (He was actually a member of that 1995 national championship team.)
So far Frost hasn’t done much, as he is just 5-9 in the early portion of his career in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers did get off to a fast star this season though. They have a 3-1 record, as Ohio State looms ahead.
The key for Nebraska will be the ability to recruit locally and keep a link to Florida, where Frost coached at UCF. It may be a hard sell to bring in Florida recruits all the way to Nebraska. However, if the Cornhuskers can start winning and land a few three or four-star players from the state, it could help them turn things around.
What do you think of the greatest Nebraska football teams of all time?
Do you agree with ESPN’s rankings of the 1971 and 1995 Nebraska football teams? We personally would put the 2004 USC Trojans at the top spot but completely understand ESPN’s argument for the ’71 Cornhuskers.
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