Wisconsin Badgers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Freedom Trophy History


The Wisconsin Badgers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers will duke it out this weekend for the Freedom Trophy, the year-old representation of the rivalry that’s expected to grow between the two teams — one a Big Ten lifer and another a relatively new member.

READ ALSO: Wisconsin-Nebraska is Big Ten’s Worst Rivalry

Wisconsin’s “rivalry” with Nebraska isn’t exactly historic. As our Jon Rzepecki recently wrote, it’s not quite what you are looking for in a college football rivalry game.

"“…essentially, this rivalry is just about who can be the best version of each other. Make sense? No? Well, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.”"

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

To add to it, the Freedom Trophy itself looks a little bit like a pirate ship, and is easy to make fun of.

To be sure, what the trophy was named to represent isn’t a joking matter. As Rzepecki pointed out when he opined on the subject a year ago, we have the freedom to criticize the trophy and the game itself because of what that trophy stands for.

Still, when the Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry was tabbed the best emerging rivalry in college football by Bleacher Report, I said “pump the breaks.” Let’s let the teams play a few games first, eh?

Play they will this weekend for the 10th time in each school’s history (Hey! We’ve got double digit games! Now THERE’S a rivalry in the making!).

The Badgers and Huskers first met back in 1901 in Milwaukee when the Badgers emerged with a 18-0 shutout victory. The two teams didn’t play again until 1965, which began a three-game winning streak for the Huskers. Nebraska was ranked in each meeting (#2 in 1965, #7 in 1966 and #2 in 1973) and beat Wisconsin easily in the first two contests.

Unranked Wisconsin lost to #2 Nebraska 20-16 in 1973, and bounced back the following year to defeat #4 Nebraska 21-20.

The two teams wouldn’t meet again until 2011, which is a game we all remember vividly.

Russell Wilson welcomed the Nebraska Cornhuskers to Madison and the Big Ten conference in a big way.

Following the 48-17 win for #7 Wisconsin over #8 Nebraska in 2011, Nebraska took one from the Badgers back in Lincoln in 2012 to take a 4-3 lead in the series. Wisconsin responded in spectacular fashion later in the season.

Following that commanding 70-31 win in the Big Ten championship game in 2012, the Badgers and Cornhuskers met one more time prior to this Saturday’s contest, a game that was to be the inaugural Freedom Trophy Rivalry game.

Once again, the Badgers, and Melvin Gordon in particular, had a big day against the Cornhuskers.

The win in 2014 gave Wisconsin a 5-4 lead in the “historic” series, a lead the Badgers hope to build on when they head to Nebraska this weekend. Both teams badly need a win, and the Badgers have never beaten the Cornhuskers in Omaha in three tries.

Wisconsin and Nebraska will fight it out for the Freedom Trophy Saturday afternoon.

Next: Get to Know the Nebraska Cornhuskers

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