Five years since its last top-10 matchup, Nebraska looks to reverse trends against Ohio State

Five years since its last top-10 matchup, Nebraska looks to reverse trends against Ohio State
Photo Courtesy: World-Herald News Service

Nebraska hasn’t played in a top-10 matchup in more than five years, but that’ll change Saturday.

The No. 9 Huskers travel to Columbus this weekend to face No. 6 Ohio State — all rankings by the AP Poll — for one of the weekend’s marquee games.

The last time Nebraska played in a top-10 matchup was on Oct. 1, 2011, and the Huskers will hope Saturday goes much better than that. Then, it was No. 8 Nebraska venturing to face No. 7 Wisconsin after four nonconference victories to open the season. Wisconsin also had a perfect start to its early-season slate, and it would serve as Nebraska’s first ever Big Ten opponent.

The Huskers received a rude welcoming to their new conference. NU’s 14-13 second-quarter lead turned into a 48-17 beatdown in front of a national prime-time audience. “I’m embarrassed how we played,” then-NU coach Bo Pelini said after the game. “I apologize to the fans of Nebraska. That was a joke.”

The Huskers dropped six spots in the polls after that but did return to the top 10 a few weeks later, only to be knocked back out after losing to unranked Northwestern. NU didn’t make it back into the top 10 again until last month.

Nebraska’s recent inability to reach college football’s highest tier has made top-10 matchups a rarity.

The Huskers have played 66 such games in their history. The first came 80 years ago — No. 5 Pittsburgh at No. 6 Nebraska on Nov. 14, 1936 — and NU got its first win in such a game in 1963, beating No. 6 Oklahoma 29-20.

The vast majority of top-10 matchups happened in the golden age of Husker football with 53 from 1970-99, an average of almost two per season during that period. In the nearly two decades since, NU has played in just five — and only one this decade.

The last time it won a top-10 game was 15 years ago when No. 3 Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 27, 2001. The Huskers stayed undefeated that year until the final game of the regular season but finished the year 11-2.

Overall, the Huskers have a losing record (29-36-1) in top-10 matchups. Count only those that came in the regular season, and they’re closer to .500 (20-21-1). When the Huskers are the road team — as they are this weekend — they’re 6-10-1. NU also has a losing record when it’s ranked lower than the opponent, which it will be Saturday. The Huskers are 9-22-1 when that’s the case.

Nebraska has a chance to reverse course this weekend, though, cementing its standing as the favorite in the Big Ten West and solidifying its place as a top-10 team moving forward.

All it needs to do is win.

Nebraska at Ohio State

When: 7 p.m. Saturday (Pregame begins at 2 p.m.)

Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus

Radio: 103.1 FM

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