Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Bugeater-LandThieves rivalry

There's been some talk these past couple of weeks about Big 12 realignment, as well as about a schedule format that would facilitate restoring old rivalries, like Oklahoma-Nebraska. First of all, I love the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. The Husker fans are great. They are the classiest fans you'll ever meet, and the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry will never match the Huskers-Sooners in mutual respect of the fan bases.

However, the Big 12 North-South scheduling format didn't kill the luster of the OU-NU shootouts. Gary Gibbs hampered by probation and a disgrunted fan base, accidentally maimed the rivalry while cleaning a gun and Schnellenberger, Blake and Bill Callahan shot it in the back while it was trying to run for help. Let's look at some facts.

While Switzer was battling Osborne from 1973-1988, Nebraska was ranked, on average, 4.75 in the country coming into the game. OU was unranked twice coming into the game, but the other 17 games were ranked an average of 5.26. The win loss records of the two teams, outside of games with one another, during this time was 145-24-4 for Oklahoma and 153-24-2 for Nebraska. In that entire 16 season period, at least one of the teams was in the top 10, and 11 times both teams were in the top 10. Only two times was a team not ranked entering the contest.

Since 1989, there have been 15 games between the two. Only five times have both teams been ranked coming into the game since, and only twice have both teams been ranked in the top 10.

You can reset the Big 12 scheduling format all you want, but the reality is there are generally three things that make rivalrys great: 1) geography; 2) playing for something; 3) recurring matchups.

1) Oklahoma-Nebraska does not have geography on it's side. The state of Kansas lays between them, so it's not like it's a border war.

2) As for playing for something. The schools are playing for some piece of crap oak bucket, an axe or egg bowl or a hat. In the 70s and 80s, they were playing for the right to go to the Orange Bowl and play for the national championship. That's what made this rivalry great. Courtesy of some bad coaching hires, the rivalry diminished.

3) as for recurring matchups, playing every year does make a great rivalry, but it adds additional flavor. Let's face it. Mississippi State plays LSU in the SEC West every year since 1944, but outside of Louisiana and Mississippi, no one cares. There's no history to it, there's probably never been an SEC or SEC West title on the line (too lazy to look it up).

I'd love to see the Husker-Sooner rivalry regain it's former luster, but the reality is that will happen from both schools return to excellence at the same time, not when they play each other annually When one is ranked 20th, and the other is not even receiving votes, it's not a great rivalry, it's a rivalry with great history.

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