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Friday's Nebraska-Colorado football game will become a footnote in Big 12 Conference history ... a final meeting between two universities heading to different conferences in different parts of the country.
Next summer, Nebraska will become an official member of the Big Ten Conference, headquartered in Chicago, and Colorado will become an official member of the Pac-Ten Conference, headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif.
You can't help but see irony in two schools that will play in a 15th straight nationally televised post-Thanksgiving game while preparing to leave the same conference at the same time.
Nebraska, no doubt, would like to thank the Big 12 for the memories, and Colorado probably wouldn't mind saying goodbye yellow brick road at this stage of the game either. Both schools, after all, will pursue their intercollegiate dreams in conferences they believe fit their respective cultures better than the Big 12 has.
Even though NU and CU look at their rivalry against each other through decidedly different lenses, the truth is the Huskers and Buffs have given ABC Television and college football fans some dramatic games since Nebraska beat CU in 1996, the year the Big 12 was formed.
Games Were Memorable and Evenly Matched
Nebraska won the head-to-head matchup against CU the first five times they met in the Big 12, but each game was memorable and evenly matched. The Huskers won by scores of 17-12, 27-24, 16-14, 33-30 in overtime and 34-32. Those five straight wins continued Nebraska's series-long dominance over CU, but that mastery could not prevent one of the greatest oddities in college football history from happening.
Friday, Nov. 23, 2001, is a day that will live in infamy among Nebraska fans. Led by Heisman Trophy winner, Eric Crouch, Nebraska lost to CU, 62-36, but somehow still secured a Rose Bowl spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Miami.
Talk about quirks in the BCS system at the time. The math that can qualify a team for a national championship appearance when that same team can't even qualify for its own conference championship game, was simultaneously analyzed and apologized for, scrutinized and neutralized, and finally, after much debate, revolutionized with a clause to make sure a similar scenario would never happen again.
In another interesting twist to this series, Shawn Watson, CU's offensive coordinator for that explosive offensive display in 2001, is now Nebraska's offensive coordinator. And Ted Gilmore, the receiver coach on that '01 Buff staff, is now the Huskers' receiver coach and recruiting coordinator.
Both ex-Buffs love being on the Nebraska sideline in a series that shows the Huskers with 48 wins, 18 losses and two ties overall. Since the launch of the Big 12, Nebraska has won 10 of the 14 games in the new era of the series.
Osborne Teams Occupy Four Spots in Top 10
Even though Tom Osborne coached in only the first two years of the Big 12 Conference, four of his teams' games are on our all-time Big 12 Husker win chart. Nebraska's 54-15 win over Texas A&M in the 1997 Big 12 Championship Game ranks No. 1 all-time.
The Huskers' 45-38 overtime victory at Missouri that same year ranks No. 3. The Huskers' 39-3 thumping of Kansas State in 1996 ranks No. 6, and the Huskers' 56-26 win over an 11-1 Wildcat team in '97 ranks No. 9.
Frank Solich and Bo Pelini each coached in three games that made our Huskers' 10 Best Big 12 Wins chart.
Solich's Big 12 championship win over Texas in 1999 ranks No. 2 on the chart, followed by his memorable 20-10 win over Bob Stoops and Oklahoma in 2001 - a game that ranks No. 4 on the chart. The Huskers' 34-32 triumph over Colorado in 2000 - on a Josh Brown walk-off field goal - ranks No. 7 on the chart.
The three Pelini-coached games that made the chart are: 1) Nebraska's 40-31 win over CU in 2008 when Alex Henery made a record 57-yard field goal with the game on the line; 2) Pelini's 10-3 upset of Oklahoma friend/former boss Stoops in 2009 in Lincoln; and 3) this year's 31-17 triumph over Missouri when the Tigers rolled into Lincoln unbeaten and ranked seventh nationally. Those three Pelini-coached wins rank 5th, 8th and 10th on our Big 12 best-win chart.
A 2010 Championship Would Top This Chart
The list is fundamentally solid, but in dire need of a modern-day makeover. Given the timing, context and circumstances, Pelini would move to No. 1 overall if the Huskers would play and win their first Big 12 football title in 11 years at Cowboys Stadium on Dec. 4. After last year's 13-12 heartbreaking loss to Texas in the same stadium, can anyone imagine a better way to exit from the Big 12 than stage left and into, perhaps, the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen?
Please check out our Top 10 List of Nebraska's best wins in Big 12 history and then take your own trip down memory lane and tell us what games and plays you treasure the most.
Nebraska's 10 Best Big 12 Wins
1. Nebraska 54, Texas A&M 15, Dec. 6, 1997, San Antonio, Texas
Quarterback Scott Frost set the tone for a national championship Orange Bowl rout of Tennessee with a 54-15 cruise past the Aggies in the Big 12 Championship Game. Frost rushed for 79 yards, passed for another 201 (on 12-of-18) and scored two touchdowns.
2. Nebraska 22, Texas 6, Dec. 4, 1999, San Antonio, Texas
The Blackshirts sacked quarterback Major Applewhite seven times and intercepted three of his passes to dominate the rematch and avenge Nebraska's only loss of the season with a 22-6 mastery of Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game at the Alamodome.
3. Nebraska 45, Missouri 38, (overtime), Nov. 8, 1997, Columbia, Mo.
Everyone remembers Matt Davison's diving catch off Shevin Wiggins' miracle foot to send this game into overtime. But the end was equally fitting as Missouri natives Grant Wistrom and Mike Rucker converged on Corby Jones to finish off this all-time thriller.
4. Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10, Oct. 27, 2001, Lincoln, Neb.
It took a signature Heisman Trophy moment with six minutes left - a gadget pass play from Mike Stuntz to quarterback Eric Crouch, who raced 63 yards to the end zone - to upset the defending national champion Sooners and end their 20-game win streak.
5. Nebraska 40, Colorado 31, Nov. 28, 2008, Lincoln, Neb.
Call it the kick that defined Nebraska's season. Who can forget sophomore Alex Henery's record 57-yard field goal with 1:37 remaining to give Nebraska a 33-31 lead, followed by Ndamukong Suh's clinching 30-yard interception return for a touchdown?
6. Nebraska 39, Kansas State 3, Oct. 5, 1996, Manhattan, Kan.
DeAngelo Evans was booed every time his name was announced, but the Wichita, Kan., freshman rushed for 168 yards to help 7th-ranked Nebraska beat the 16th-ranked Wildcats a 28th consecutive time in the Big 12 Conference debut for Nebraska.
7. Nebraska 34, Colorado 32, Nov. 24, 2000, Lincoln, Neb.
Josh Brown's 29-yard field goal as time expired lifted eighth-ranked Nebraska to a 34-32 walk-off win over Colorado. The game-winning kick marked the first time since play-by-plays were on file in 1960 that the Huskers had won a game on the last play.
8. Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3, Nov. 7, 2009, Lincoln, Neb.
In a defensive slugfest, Bo Pelini earned his biggest win by combining a dominant defense with a conservative, ball-control offense. It was the fewest points ever scored by a Bob Stoops-coached team and the first time OU did not score a touchdown in 11 years.
9. Nebraska 56, Kansas State 26, Oct. 4, 1997, Lincoln, Neb.
Ahman Green rushed for 193 yards and four touchdowns to rout a Wildcat team that finished 11-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl by 17 points. No other conference team came within single digits of KSU, which won its seven league games by an average of 20 points.
10. Nebraska 31, Missouri 17, Oct. 31, 2010, Lincoln, Neb.
Senior Roy Helu Jr. raced untouched on three long touchdown runs of 66, 73 and 53 yards to finish with a school-record 307 rushing yards to power Nebraska to a win over No. 7 Missouri - the Huskers' second straight victory over an unbeaten top-15 team.
Voices from Husker Nation
I agree with your top 10 with one exception. I would insert the Kansas State at Nebraska game played on November 13, 1999, in place of the 1996 NU at KSU game. The 7th-ranked Big Red blasted No. 5 Kansas State, 41-15, enroute to a 12-1 season. QB Eric Crouch and RB Dahrran Diedrick combined for 251 yards rushing on an 84-degree shirtsleeve day. The Blackshirts also recorded a safety on a blocked punt early in the first quarter. It was one of Coach Frank Solich's biggest wins at NU. Great memories! Kevin Horn, Alliance, Nebraska
It's hard to dispute any game in your top 10, but I would find a spot somewhere for Nebraska's 28-27 upset win at Texas A&M in 2006. Who can forget Zac Taylor's nine-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify with 21 seconds left, followed by Jordan Congdon's crucial extra point? I also remember losing to Oklahoma in the coldest Big 12 Championship Game ever at Arrrowhead Stadium. With a win there, both the A&M and the OU game would have been in your top 10. Thanks for the memories, and here's hoping we leave this league in style next weekend at Cowboys Stadium. Steve Sorum, Lincoln, Nebraska