Nebraska. The almighty Cornhuskers. A blue blood in the college football landscape. But are they really? Or is Nebraska living off a reputation from years gone by?
I was fascinating by a conversation I saw unfolding on Twitter (yes, I’m trying to pump up Twitter, so the stock price goes up). The debate was being had as to whether or not Kansas State has had the better football program than Nebraska since the year 2000.
@RedDirtSport I just thought about this yesterday, you could make an argument, K-State has been a better program since 2000 than Nebraska.
— Wichita Is Good (@ChuckJames919) May 11, 2017
I don’t think that’s a hard argument to make. Nebraska is printing money hand over fist so they could recover but on field isn’t a question https://t.co/zkqLHQgZah
— RedDirtSports (@RedDirtSport) May 11, 2017
So rather than just spouting off on Twitter without having a good understanding of the facts, I went ahead and crunched the numbers.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (since 2000)
Overall record: 146-75
Average wins per season: 8.6
Division titles: 7
Conference titles: 0
Bowl record: 7-8
Kansas State Wildcats (since 2000)
Overall record: 131-85
Average wins per season: 7.7
Division titles: 3
Conference titles: 2
Bowl record: 4-8
Overall, I would still give the edge to Nebraska as having a better program than Kansas State since the turn of the century. The only benchmark that K-State has on Nebraska is conference titles. That’s definitely worth something, but the Cornhuskers beat out the Wildcats in wins, division titles and bowl wins by a significant margin.
A couple of different thoughts though: how might this have been different if there was never a “Ron Prince era” in Manhattan. Since Bill Snyder had to basically rebuild a second time around, had he just been able to keep his program running as is, might things have been different? In fairness, Kansas State was struggling towards the end of Snyder’s first tenure, going 4-7 and 5-6 in 2004 and 2005.
Also, had Nebraska not left the Big 12, what could have changed? While there’s clearly been a big financial gain and more stability by joining the Big Ten, I will forever believe, until proven otherwise, that it has not helped Nebraska football. Plus, the Big 12’s current stability would be much more concrete if Nebraska were still in the conference.
The Cornhuskers haven’t recruited nearly as well since leaving the Big 12, as their pipeline to Texas dwindled, and they lost some great rivals, such as Oklahoma. Now they’re stuck in the Big Ten West, clearly the “little brother” of the two divisions, yet have only won their division once.
As a Big 12 fan, I miss Nebraska in the conference, and wish the Cornhuskers hadn’t left. And I believe if you talk to the majority of Nebraska fans, they’d likely agree (you may need to warm ’em up with a cocktail or two, first).
But overall, Nebraska has still been the better program than Kansas State since 2000, but it’s likely much closer a resume than most average college football fans would realize. Rather than being an indictment on Nebraska, I think it’s a combination of the Cornhuskers no longer being that traditional, national, blue blood program of a generation ago, combined with Bill Snyder still hanging on to pull off miracles in Manhattan.
So who’s ready for a reunion? Or maybe at least a non-conference game in, say, 2035?
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