Nebraska vs. Michigan: 10 things every fan needs to know about this rivalry
Ok, so it’s not really a rivalry. Eleven total games between the schools doesn’t qualify as a rivalry.
But Nebraska and Michigan do share some unique history. Who can forget the 1997 shared national championship between the 2 unbeaten schools? Michigan looked to have things sewn up before a shaky 21-16 Rose Bowl win over Washington State left the door ajar for Nebraska.
In Tom Osborne’s final game as coach of the Huskers, Scott Frost quarterbacked a 42-17 shellacking of Tennessee the following night in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska jumped to the top spot in the Coaches Poll, while Michigan won the AP title.
Let’s relive a little history that each fan should know about the 2 college football bluebloods and their previous matchups as they get set to square off Saturday in Ann Arbor.
First meeting in 1905
While the schools have met just 11 times in football, the original tussle took place in Ann Arbor back in 1905. A 31-0 Michigan win on Oct. 21.
Walter C. Booth coached the Huskers, while the Wolverines were led by Fielding H. Yost. Yost went 165-29-10 during his 25-year tenure in Ann Arbor.
A tie affair in 1911
The second meeting between the schools resulted in the only tie. A 6-6 final in Lincoln was 1 of 2 identical tie scores for the Huskers that year, the other coming against Iowa State.
The Nebraska schedule that year included games against Kearney State (a 117-0 win) and Doane (a 27-0 win). Time sure have changed in Lincoln over the years.
The Wolverines also had a pair of 6-6 ties that year, the other coming against Syracuse.
1917 — Wolverines shut out Nebraska
The 1917 game would be the last between the schools for 45 years. Yost earned his final win over Nebraska, defeating head coach “Doc” Stewart.
The Wolverines would win their first 8 games of the season before dropping the final 2 to Penn and Northwestern.
Devaney’s inaugural season results in NU win
Bob Devaney came to Nebraska in 1962 from Wyoming. Devaney replaced Bill Jennings and immediately put Nebraska football on the map.
Devaney earned his 1st signature win in Week 2 with a 25-13 victory in Ann Arbor. The Huskers would go on to finish 9-2, winning an exciting Gotham Bowl, 36-34 over Miami (Fla.) at Yankee Stadium.
Michigan, under coach Bump Elliott, suffered through a 2-7 season in which it was outscored 214-70.
QB Jim Harbaugh leads Fiesta Bowl win
Current Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh started under center for Michigan as it held off a late 4th-quarter Nebraska rally to win 27-23 in Tempe on New Year’s Day 1986.
Harbaugh had 2 rushing TDs as the Wolverines overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit, rallying with 24 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter.
The game pitted 2 of the most legendary coaches of all-time in Tom Osborne and Bo Schembechler. It was also the game where Nebraska QB Steve Taylor made his debut as a freshman. Taylor replaced McCathorn Clayton and led Nebraska to a 4th quarter TD.
Taylor had 1 final chance to put the Huskers on top, but an errant pass in the end zone was intercepted and the Wolverines held on for victory.
Wild finish on the Riverwalk
It’s safe to say the 2005 Alamo Bowl had one of the craziest endings of all time.
More than 63,000 fans were entertained with a back and forth affair, with the drama reaching its peak on the final play.
With Nebraska taking a 32-28 lead with under 5 minutes to play on a Terrance Nunn TD reception, the game finally came down on a single play.
The 1982 Cal-Stanford game would be reminiscent of what was to come. Michigan used 7 laterals with the ball in Tyler Ecker’s hands as time expired. Players on both sides thought the ball was dead and came on the field. A few of the officials were already headed to the locker room.
Yet the play continued, and Ecker bolted nearly 60 yards to the Nebraska 16 before Zack Bowman knocked him out of bounds to save the day for the Huskers.
A wild ending to a wildly entertaining game.
Related: Online sports and iGaming have been live in Michigan for some time. Check out the Michigan online casinos available here. With online sports betting coming to the state of Maryland in a few weeks, check out Maryland DraftKings and Maryland FanDuel for more information.
Wolverines welcome Huskers to B1G with a beatdown
Nebraska’s 1st year in the B1G was met with a bit of resistance. There was talk of how Nebraska would come in and dominate the league.
Michigan, under first-year coach Brady Hoke, dismantled Bo Pelini’s team 45-17 in Ann Arbor. The Huskers dropped a near-identical 48-17 game in Madison earlier, as Pelini’s team would finish 9-4.
The Wolverines would finish 11-2, with losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Hoke’s team would go on to defeat Virginia Tech 23-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
Defense helps Huskers flip script in 2012
Michigan made its first-ever trip to Memorial Stadium in 2012. Pelini’s defense was ready this time around, and the Huskers stymied the Michigan offense in a 23-9 win.
It’s the only season Nebraska has qualified for the B1G championship game. It didn’t go well, with a 70-31 loss to Wisconsin. However, the Huskers won 6 straight league games en route to the Legends Division title.
The Wolverines had another successful season under Hoke, finishing 6-2 in the division and a game behind the Huskers.
Abdullah saves the day in 2013
The 2013 game was another nail-biter between the schools. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah took it in from 5 yards out with 2 minutes remaining to give Nebraska a 17-13 come-from-behind win. It was Abdullah’s 2nd TD of the day.
Michigan would finish the game with negative rushing yards — even with QB Devin Gardner’s sack losses taken out of the equation.
The Wolverines would stumble to a 7-6 finish, losing 5 of their last 6.
Frost with rude awakening in 1st year
Scott Frost’s 1st season in Lincoln didn’t go well. And things certainly weren’t roses and sunshine when he took his team to the Big House for his 1st B1G game.
Michigan cruised to a 56-10 win. A game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate, the Wolverines led 39-0 at half. A complete and total mismatch. A more-physical Michigan team had its way with the Huskers in front of 111,000 fans.
It was 1 of 10 straight wins Michigan put together that year. Losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State bookended the season.
Instant classic in Lincoln in 2021
Michigan’s 32-29 win in Memorial Stadium had a little of everything: drama, comebacks, ebb-and-flow, high intensity.
The Wolverines held Nebraska scoreless in the opening half, as they sprinted to a 13-0 lead. Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum provided the lethal 1-2 rushing punch for Harbaugh’s squad.
However, Adrian Martinez, who threw 3 TDs, would rally Nebraska with a 22-point 3rd quarter. And his 4th quarter rushing touchdown put Nebraska ahead 29-26.
But Michigan rallied with a pair of Jake Moody field goals and a strip of Martinez on the Huskers’ final possession to escape with the win and remain unbeaten.
A little of everything for a limited series
With only a small sample size, the Nebraska-Michigan series has seen a lot. Close games, blowouts, thrilling finishes, controversy … you name it.
Saturday will be just the 12th meeting. On paper it’s a complete mismatch. Michigan is a 29-point favorite over the struggling 3-6 Huskers.
Teams headed in different directions, no doubt. Michigan is squarely in the hunt for a 2nd straight invite to the College Football Playoff.
Nebraska? Well, AD Trev Alberts sometime soon will be hiring the school’s 5th head coach since Frank Solich’s firing in 2003.
Here’s hoping the Huskers can turn it around. And quick. Not only for the betterment of this series, but for the good of the league and college football bluebloods everywhere.