Is Wisconsin-Nebraska the Best Emerging College Football Rivalry?


Rivalries are one of the greatest things about college sports, and college football in particular. Some are storied, some are lopsided, and new rivalries are beginning every season. The Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry, while currently in a fledgling state, could blossom into one of college football’s best.

The Badgers and the Cornhuskers are, at the present moment, widely considered the top two teams in the Big Ten West, competing with Minnesota and Iowa for that distinction. If Wisconsin or Nebraska represented the west in the Big Ten Championship seven out of the next 10 years collectively, I don’t think too many people would be surprised.

The two teams don’t have a huge history — just nine games played since 1901 — but with a yearly matchup on the horizon until conference restructuring or someone jumping the Big Ten ship upsets the schedule, each is likely among the top games on the others’ schedule for many years to come.

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Amy Daughters, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist, recently wrote that the Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry was the best emerging rivalry in college football, edging out match ups like Texas A&M-LSU, Baylor-TCU, and the Big Ten East showdown between Ohio State and Michigan State.

I’m not quite ready to call the Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry the best emerging rivalry, although it definitely has the potential to be that game you circle on the schedule each year.

Clearly, officials expect big things from the match up, as the two schools have already instituted a trophy — the Freedom Trophy — for the annual matchup.

As our Jon Rzepecki wrote last fall, it was a bit premature to install a trophy for the rivalry that was in its very budding youth. Rzepecki wrote at the time:

"“Sure they have close games, but so did Wisconsin and Stanford. Sure they’ll now play once a year for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean the game deserves a trophy. Only eight games have been played in the series.The dates range from the first meeting in 1901 (an 18-0 win for Wisconsin), followed by three Nebraska wins in 1965, 1966 and 1973. Bucky and Co. took a win in 1974, the last time the two played before Nebraska joined the B1G in 2011.”"

As he says, this isn’t a rivalry.


It’s an emerging rivalry. And emerging is the key word here.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

These two teams will have years and years to develop a rivalry, and now is the perfect time to begin that mindset as both teams are “starting over” with new leadership.

When Nebraska let Bo Pelini go following the 2014 season, it set the wheels in motion for both Nebraska and Wisconsin to hire new head coaches.

First, Mike Riley jumped at the opportunity to move from Oregon State — his home since 2003 —to Nebraska. With the Oregon State gig open, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen bolted west to fill the spot.

That allowed Chryst to come home, completing an odd circle of events culminating in new coaches at each school.

Both guys head into the 2015 season with a new job, a new team, and a chance to make a splash in the Big Ten. Each is a big game on the others’ schedule each season, and we can expect the two to compete for years to come.

Next: Top 5 Games to Watch in 2015

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