Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week he will break down the biggest mismatches in college football. Considering the number of Bowl Championship Series teams tanking at this point in the season, Mike's task is more challenging than getting presidential pardons on Thanksgiving turkeys revoked.
There was a time in which the annual Colorado-Nebraska game on the day after Thanksgiving meant something.
Meant a lot, really.
The last time was 2001. The Buffaloes shocked the 11-0 Cornhuskers in Boulder, 62-36, to steal away the Big 12 North’s spot in the league’s title game. Nebraska still had enough BCS points built up to go to the national-title contest, where it got humbled by Miami in Pasadena.
Not that other CU-NU games haven’t mattered since, but not in good ways. In 2005, Colorado got drilled by the Huskers, 30-3, to throw away the Big 12 North title. But Iowa State choked at Kansas the next day, putting the Buffaloes in the Big 12 title game the next week. That wasn’t a blessing. Colorado lost to Texas, 70-3.
Last year, Colorado upended Nebraska, 65-51, to finish the regular-season 6-6 and become bowl-eligible. They liked that in Boulder. But the Buffs lost to Alabama in an Independence Bowl clash of 6-6 squads, and had a losing season.
That 2001 season was the last time either Colorado or Nebraska went to a BCS bowl. Both programs have optimism under coaches Dan Hawkins and Bo Pelini, and maybe one or the other will get back in the habit of playing in January bowls that mean something. But this year, they are again afterthoughts on the national scene.
Colorado is 5-6 and needs to win in Lincoln to get to, yes, the fabulous Independence Bowl for a second consecutive year. The good people of Shreveport-Bossier probably have their fingers crossed that the Huskers do the right thing and put the Buffs out of their misery so the Indy Bowl people won’t have a Big 12 team foisted upon them. Then they can invite Louisiana Tech or Louisiana Lafayette or Louisiana Anybody and actually sell a few tickets.
Nebraska is 7-4, a bit of a renaissance after last year’s 5-7 debacle that included a 76-39 loss at Kansas. But the Huskers don’t have a signature win this season and appear headed to the Alamo Bowl for the third time in six years to play a Big Ten team. Nebraska is 3-0 in the Alamo Bowl, so it has that going for it.
The Huskers also have the sting of a 52-17 loss at home to Missouri, and a 62-28 pounding at Oklahoma. These still are not your father’s Cornhuskers. And Colorado-Nebraska still isn’t what it used to be.
Don’t spend your day after Thanksgiving watching this game. Save up your Big 12 football energy for Saturday night when Oklahoma visits Oklahoma State. The Big 12 does still have some very good teams.