Joe Burrow is on the verge of leading the Cincinnati Bengals to their second straight Super Bowl.

The Bengals.

Who for decades were 1 of the NFL’s running punchlines. Prior to Burrow, Cincinnati’s most recent playoff win was over a team that no longer exists — the Houston Oilers — in the 1990 postseason.

All he does is win, including the 2019 national championship at LSU.

But there’s a great “what-if?” angle to Burrow’s career.

What if, instead of becoming an LSU legend, Burrow followed his heart to Nebraska?

Burrow’s dad, Jimmy, was a Cornhuskers defensive back in the ’70s. The reason Joe grew up an Ohio kid is because Jimmy was Frank Solich’s defensive coordinator at Ohio University. Joe’s much-older brothers, Jamie and Dan, both played at Nebraska as well.

But when Joe decided to transfer from Ohio State in 2018, Scott Frost wasn’t very interested.

In hindsight, it looks like a typical piece of dunderheaded Frost jackassery. Not unlike: “I hope the Big Ten has to modify their system for us.”

At the time, though, most coaches probably would have made the same choice as Frost.

Adrian Martinez was a highly touted freshman, and Frost had hitched everything on recruiting him. The synergy of a 1st-year coach and freshman quarterback growing the Cornhuskers back up together was difficult to resist.

But let’s say Frost was imbued with the power of foresight. That he had the power to envision what Joe Burrow was to become. This is no place to end an article, after all. We, therefore, have to give Frost that imaginary power.

Welcome to the Burrow-verse. Here, we’ll head down the rabbit holes of the possible outcomes had Burrow signed with Nebraska.

Much like Wayne’s World or Choose Your Own Adventure, each path brings us to a different ending:

The Happy Herbie Husker ending

If Burrow can win with the Bengals, he can win anywhere, right?

Maybe not at Nebraska. Not at first, anyhow.

Frost still loses his 1st 5 games coaching his alma mater, just as in the current universe. But in Week 6, things begin to change.

Burrow leads the Huskers to an overtime win at Northwestern to get Nebraska off the schneid. That kicks off a 6-game winning streak, which includes a 38-36 upset at No. 8 Ohio State. Never put Joe Burrow in a revenge scenario.

The Huskers drop the season finale against Iowa but still head to the Quick Lane Bowl at 6-6. A blowout win over Georgia Tech sets the table for 2019.

This isn’t a fantasy land, however.

Burrow is good, but he’s not good enough to overcome the nation’s 94th-best rushing defense. Opponents desperately work to keep Burrow off the field. Nebraska goes 9-3, with losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

But Burrow is still a fan favorite after the best season for a Nebraska quarterback since Eric Crouch. On Senior Day, he runs out of the tunnel in a customized jersey that says “BURRUNZA” on the back.

Burrow finishes a respectable 7th in Heisman voting and closes his Cornhuskers career with a win over USC in the Holiday Bowl.

But it’s his legacy that matters most. Burrow is still drafted 1st overall, as the Bengals can’t resist the appeal of a southeast Ohio native playing for fellow former Cornhusker quarterback Zac Taylor.

Nebraska capitalizes on that connection on the recruiting trail. Lincoln is a quarterback pipeline to the NFL.

And the Huskers finally break through in 2021, winning a remarkable 8 1-score games on their way to an 11-1 record and the Big Ten West title.

The future is bright for Joe Burrow, Scott Frost and Nebraska.

The Scott Frost Ruins Everything ending

An alternate possibility: Scott Frost is too powerful for even Joe Burrow to overcome. It might be more likely than the happy ending.

Without Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase to throw to, Burrow never finds the groove that transforms him into “Joe Brrr.” Nebraska fails to make a bowl game in either of Burrow’s 2 seasons.

The Ohio and Nebraska connections get Burrow a look in Bengals’ training camp, but Cincinnati has little reason to keep him around after drafting Justin Herbert 1st overall.

Burrow’s career does take him to Louisiana, sort of, as he signs with the New Orleans Breakers of the new USFL in 2021.

Out of football by 2026, Burrow instead enters national prominence in the 2030s as 1 of America’s premier fashion designers. When “Back to the Future” is remade in 2035, Marty McFly’s mom in 2005 wonders why Marty has a pair of underwear that says “Joe Burrow” on the waistband.

Just like on the current timeline, Frost is fired in 2022 after failing to reach a bowl in 5 straight seasons. But here, Matt Rhule doesn’t come in to turn the program around.

Without Burrow, LSU fires Ed Orgeron after the 2019 season — and hires Rhule, who finds the Tigers a better opportunity than the NFL.

Without the perfect former NFL coach available, Trev Alberts goes a completely different direction. Nebraska hires Army coach Todd Monken and returns to the triple-option.

The Equal Powers Scenario

There is 1 mystery we may never be able to solve.

Which force is more all-powerful: Joe Burrow’s ability to win, or Scott Frost’s ability to lose?

In this scenario, we assume that they are equally powerful, like a bicameral state legislature.

Burrow transfers to Nebraska, but his performance in preseason camp doesn’t sway Frost. He insists on starting Martinez.

And Martinez lives up to the hype in his debut against Colorado until leaving the game with an injury in the 4th quarter. Coming off the bench, Burrow connects with Stanley Morgan Jr. on a dramatic walk-off touchdown throw to give the Huskers a 34-33 win over the Buffaloes.

With Martinez out the following week, Burrow starts, and Nebraska fends off upset-minded Troy. But Nebraska’s supposed to beat Troy. Burrow returns to the bench as Frost rides with Martinez the rest of the season.

It’s a rollercoaster, but thanks to a 2-0 start the Huskers finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl.

With strong family ties to the program, Burrow decides against transferring in 2019. Martinez once again gets the nod in camp.

The Huskers are 4-2 when Martinez is injured before the Minnesota game. Burrow finally gets another shot. But because Nebraska can’t stop the Gophers on the ground, it’s still an ugly loss.

The following week, Burrow leads a comeback win over Indiana. But with Martinez back from the injury, he returns to the bench for the Purdue game.

After Martinez struggles in the loss to the Boilermakers, Frost finally sees the light. A highly motivated Burrow starts against No. 11 Wisconsin and leads Nebraska to the win. Wins over Maryland and Iowa follow, and the Huskers finish 8-4.

Minnesota fans end up appreciating Burrow every bit as much as Nebraska fans, as the win over Wisconsin puts the Gophers in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Still needing to improve his draft status, Burrow leads Nebraska past Tennessee in the Gator Bowl. But he remains a bit of an unknown heading into the draft process.

Rather than spending their 4th-round pick on Florida International quarterback James Morgan — according to the internet, he’s real — the Jets take Burrow.

Because his coach is Adam Gase, Burrow remains on the practice squad for his rookie season. But after Gase is fired, New York’s brass and new coach Robert Saleh realize Burrow could be the guy.

With no need to draft Zach Wilson No. 2 overall, the Jets eye a receiver out of LSU who grabs everything in his vicinity despite erratic quarterback play: Ja’Marr Chase.

A new Broadway Joe is born. The Jets reach the Super Bowl in his 1st year as a starter, and his fashion sense makes Burrow a New York icon.

Nebraska, meanwhile, has tailed off dramatically since his departure. The 2022 season was Nebraska’s 3rd straight losing campaign, and 2023 will be the 4th.

At that point, Trev Alberts makes the uncomfortable decision to part ways with Frost. But Alberts has a vision for the future that also ties into Nebraska’s past. He decides to hire an NFL coach who was fired in the middle of the season: former Cornhusker Zac Taylor.