Nebraska football: 5 best seasons in program history

Tom Osborne of the University of Nebraska Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport
Tom Osborne of the University of Nebraska Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport /
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Best Nebraska football seasons ever
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

The Nebraska Cornhuskers dominated the old Big Eight and Big 12 before changing conferences. Here are the five best seasons in Nebraska football history.

It seems like a long way away, but there was a time when the Nebraska Cornhuskers dominated college football. Nebraska football was a Big Eight/Big 12 institution. Usually, whoever won between Nebraska and the Oklahoma Sooners would win the conference title and play in the Orange Bowl. My how times have changed…

To date, Nebraska has won an absurd 46 conference championships, but not a single one this century. Despite winning over 900 games in their history, the Cornhuskers have not won a Big Ten Championship since switching conferences in the early 2010s. One would think Nebraska leaving a conference it used to own for one it hasn’t yet might yield a tinge of regret.

But that’s not what this is about. What we’re going to do today is highlight the best seasons Nebraska football has ever given us, and there have been a bunch! Nebraska has claimed five national titles and didn’t claim an additional nine. While it remains to be seen if Nebraska will ever be back to what it once was, this program was an absolute buzzsaw in the 1970s and 1990s.

Here are the five best seasons in Nebraska football history.

5. 810. Pick Analysis. National Champions, Big Eight Champions. No. 3 Coaches/No. 1 AP. 1970 (11-0-1). player. Scouting Report

Nebraska football wins first national championship in the 1970 season.

The Cornhuskers’ first national championship in school history comes in at No. 5. Nebraska went 11-0-1 under head coach Bob Devaney, the first of two consecutive national titles under the College Football Hall of Fame head coach. This was Devaney’s ninth year in Lincoln and the second year Tom Osborne served as the Cornhuskers offensive coordinator.

After beating Wake Forest at home to begin the year, Nebraska would tie the USC Trojans at 21 points apiece in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Though it wasn’t a defeat, it was the lone blemish on Nebraska’s first national championship season. From there, the Cornhuskers dominated Big Eight play, not losing to a single rival team in the process.

Nebraska beat three ranked teams that year in No. 16 Missouri, No. 20 Kansas State and No. 5 LSU in the Orange Bowl. The Cornhuskers were never ranked below No. 9 at any point in the season. They methodically climbed all the way up to No. 3 before their date in the Orange Bowl with LSU. Even their one tie came on the road to the No. 3 team in the country in USC.

With a narrow five-point victory over LSU at the Orange Bowl, Nebraska would be national champions by the AP Poll. However, the Cornhuskers finished No. 3 overall in the final Coaches Poll behind the Texas Longhorns and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who interestingly lost their major bowl games, respectively. It was a different time back then, but Nebraska was still a great team.