The premier rivalry for the first decade of the Big 12 Conference is being resumed, except this time around it will be Pac-12 versus Big 10 as Colorado and Nebraska will renew their football series later this decade, University of Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn announced Feb. 7, 2013.
The Buffaloes and Huskers will reunite for a four-game series from 2018 through 2024, with the first meeting in Lincoln on Sept. 8, 2018; CU will host the following year (Sept. 7, 2019). Then after a three-year break, Colorado will play host to the Huskers on Sept. 9, 2023, with Nebraska the home team the next year (Sept. 7, 2024).
Bohn made the announcement at the school’s annual recruiting luncheon in downtown Denver, much to the approval of the nearly 1,000 people in attendance. He arranged the series with Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne just prior to his retirement.
For years, the Big 8 Conference title was often decided by the winner of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game, highlighted by the Game of the Century in 1971 when the Huskers won, 35-31. That year, NU finished No. 1, Oklahoma No. 2 and Colorado No. 3, still the only time in history the top three teams in the final poll came from the same conference. But at the end of the 1980s, Colorado supplanted the Sooners as the threat to Nebraska, and overtook it for Big 8 titles in 1989 and 1990; the two tied for the crown in 1991, thanks to the pair dueling to a 19-19 tie in the snow and cold in Boulder. But a longstanding series, though decidedly one-sided, between the schools of neighboring states dating back to before 1900, and which CU fans called a rivalry but many NU fans would not, was now intensified.
The outcome of the CU-NU game determined the Big 8 champion in the league’s final seven years of existence (1989-95). When the Big 12 Conference was formed, that battle carried over to the Big 12 North Division, with the game being moved to the Friday after Thanksgiving, the spot previously occupied by the annual NU-Oklahoma game.
The Huskers won the first five meetings between the two as members of the Big 12, referred to as the “Frustrating Five” by some in Colorado – the five losses came by a combined 15 points, all going down to the wire (17-12, 27-24, 16-14, 33-30 in overtime and 34-32). All that pent up frustration was vented on Nov. 23, 2001, when the Huskers came to Boulder as the No. 2 team in the nation in the AP and Coaches polls, but No. 1 in the BCS Standings.
Colorado had rebounded from an opening season loss to Fresno State to post an 8-2 record entering the regular season finale, trailing Nebraska by one game in the standings; the winner would earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. The Buffaloes ran rampant that day, Chris Brown scoring six touchdowns and combining with Bobby Purify for 352 rushing yards as CU rolled to a 62-36 win to claim the division crown. (CU beat Texas, 39-37, in Irving the next Saturday to win the Big 12 title).
The two have had a pension for knocking the other out of postseason contention. CU’s 26-20 win in Lincoln in 2004 ended two significant Husker streaks: 43 straight winning seasons and 35 consecutive years of bowl appearances. The only other year NU didn’t make a bowl was in 2007, and yes, Colorado ended the Husker hopes with a wild 65-51 win in Boulder.
Not that Nebraska hadn’t enjoyed doing the same to Colorado; Cornhuskers wins in season finales in 1987, 1997, 2003, 2008 and 2010 all kept the Buffs from becoming bowl eligible.
The schools have met on the gridiron 69 times, with Nebraska owning an overall 49-18-2 edge. The first 20 games were almost a draw, with the Buffs owning a 10-9-1 advantage. But between 1962 and 1985, Nebraska dominated in winning 23 of 24 games to pull well ahead in the head-to-head battle. NU won 11 of the 15 between the two as members of the Big 12, though has won six of the last 10.
Many games have also had significance to them. CU’s first big win over a regional foe in its football history came over Nebraska – a 6-0 win in Boulder in 1904. In 1951, the Buffaloes won 36-14 in Lincoln in the first televised game in CU history. In 1992, it was the believed to be the only game in the history of the Associated Press poll where both teams entered the game with the same ranking; in the eighth game of the season, both teams were tied for No. 8 in the poll.
The contract calls for $300,000 payments from the home team to the visitor in each of the four designated years of the games, with a buyout clause of $1 million if either team wants to cancel out of a game.