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Retired Nebraska coach Tom Osborne won't get drawn into an argument over how his 1990s teams that won three national championships in four years would fare against the Alabama teams that just accomplished the same feat.
"It doesn't come off very well when you try to compare a team that played 12, 14, 15 years ago with a team playing today and say this team would beat that team. Nobody knows," Osborne said Wednesday. "The only way to do it is to play them. No question we had some very good teams. No question Alabama is very good, well-coached, very solid and certainly one to be admired."
Osborne won all or part of national championships in three of his final four years with unbeaten teams. His 1994 and `95 teams were crowned by The Associated Press. In 1997, the Huskers won the coaches' vote and Michigan was first in the AP poll of writers and broadcasters.
Nebraska also played for the title in 1993 but lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on a missed field goal as time ran out. The `96 team was poised to play for the national title but was upset by Texas in the inaugural Big 12 championship game.
The Huskers' 60-3 record from 1993-97 remains the greatest five-year stretch in college football history. Alabama is 61-7 since 2008.
Grant Wistrom, who played defensive end on all three of Osborne's title teams, said the 1990s Huskers would be hard-pressed to beat the 21st-century Tide.
"It's only been 15 years, but it's a faster game now," Wistrom said. "We dominated back then, but I don't know if our teams would have had the success (Alabama's) had now. It's tough to do what they've done in this day and age - not that it was easy for us back then."
Ahman Green, who became the Green Bay Packers' all-time leading rusher after leaving Nebraska following the 1997 season, said he sees a lot of similarities between the `90s Huskers and today's Tide.
"It would be a three-point or overtime win for one of us," Green said.
Those who tout the Southeastern Conference's superiority - the league has won the last seven national championships - would argue the Tide has had to play a tougher schedule than the `90s Nebraska teams faced in the Big Eight/Big 12.
"You have to take your hat off to them because of the level of competition," Osborne said. "I don't know that the SEC top to bottom is filled with great teams, but you have at least three or four very good teams in recent years. To survive that schedule, you have to be very good, obviously."
Colorado was the chief threat to the Huskers in the `90s. Rival Oklahoma was in a down cycle, and Kansas State didn't fully emerge as a national power until 1998, the year after Osborne retired.
Wistrom, who retired in 2006 after a nine-year NFL career, wouldn't venture to guess what would happen if any of Osborne's and Nick Saban's title teams met in a hypothetical game.
"I'm not going to say we're the greatest thing since sliced bread, but we were darned good," he said. "We had a lot of guys go to the pros, but so have they.
"If we could all get back together and be 18 years old and play them, we would decide it and there would be nothing more to talk about. No one would have anything to talk about on the radio. What's the fun in that?"
Saban witnessed the Huskers' mid-'90s power in person his first two years as head coach at Michigan State. Nebraska went into Spartan Stadium and won 50-10 in 1995, then put a 55-14 whipping to MSU in Lincoln the next year.
"The score did not indicate how bad they beat us," Saban said of the first meeting. "I'm thinking we're never going to win a game. I must have taken a bad job, wrong job, no players, something.
"I remember Coach Osborne when we shook hands after the game, he put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, `You're not really as bad as you think.' So I think he knew he had a pretty good team. And we actually ended up winning six games, so we weren't really probably as bad as I thought."
Wistrom said the most impressive thing about Alabama's roll is that it's occurred at a time when talent is spread out more than ever and more underclassmen are leaving school for the NFL.
The `90s Huskers and current Tide had similar personnel, and both played a bruising style of football.
Quarterback Tommie Frazier of Nebraska and A.J. McCarron of Alabama were undisputed team leaders. Nebraska had a beefy offensive line that cleared the way for Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and Ahman Green. The Tide's powerful lines have opened holes for greats like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
McCarron is a superior passer to Frazier, but Frazier left his mark as perhaps the greatest triple-option quarterback ever.
Wistrom and fellow All-American Jason Peter anchored Nebraska's defensive lines. The Tide has had at least one defensive lineman drafted each of the past three years, and Jesse Williams is a sure bet to make it four in a row.
"We tried to beat teams into submission," Green said. "(Alabama) didn't put up the scores we did, but they made it known when the game was over and the game was won."
Osborne pointed out that the Huskers had to depend on the polls to win national titles more than the recent Tide teams, which have been able to settle things on the field through the Bowl Championship Series.
Had the BCS system been in place - and Osborne said he wishes it had been - Nebraska would have had to beat unbeaten Penn State in 1994 and unbeaten Michigan in 1997.
Of his three national championship teams, Osborne ranks the 1995 Huskers as the most talented team he coached.
That team outscored opponents by an average of 53-14, outgained them 562 yards to 298 and never trailed in a game after the second quarter.
Many observers have called the `95 Huskers the greatest college football team of all time.
Osborne declined to compare that team to any of Alabama's title teams.
"How people want to rank them," he said, "is up to them."
Christopher Walsh covers Alabama football for BamaOnline, 247Sports, and is the author of 18 books.
Trying not to be bias I think there was one Nebraska team that would be in top 3 of all time, but over same 4 year period hard to go against Tide. Also things are setup pretty good for another run next year. Bare Minimum of BCS Bowl. That would surely exceed what Nebraska did.
That was a great team but one thing that stands out is they did not play in a conference championship until 1996. That's a major obstacle now. We would have one in 2008 if we did not have to play Florida.
Perhaps but we also may not have played for one in 2009. Florida would have split the SECC with us at 8-0 and with the gators being ranked higher, I assume they would get the Sugar Bowl bid. Win that and they stay #1, our only hope would be a split national title.
Also, under the old rules we may not win a title in 2011 or 2012 either. We would not have gotten another shot at LSU and if they win the Sugar Bowl then they're champs. This year, maybe we get ND in the Sugar Bowl but maybe not so if ND goes to the Orange Bowl and wins then they finish #1.
It's just too hard to compare. Both are insanely good dynasties and simply being compared to those 90's Nebraska teams is good enough for me.
Those Nebraska teams were really, really good, and absolutely used to the blow the doors off teams during that era. That championship game against Florida was a real embarrassment, I remember, to the SEC as a conference. With that said, each of the three Saban-coached Bama teams would beat those Nebraska teams by 10-14 or more points if they were to play each other. Tommy Frazier could not pass the ball to say his life, and I just can't imagine us losing to an option team if Saban had 30 days to prepare for it.
Frazier was ridiculous and the offensive lines on those teams were incredible and very physical. Nebraska had a guy named Aaron Taylor who was just as good as Warmack and pounded teams into submission.
They had a very physical, fast defense, and punished teams. Spurrier's offense was no match, although they passed at will in the SEC. Based on Nebraska's ability to stop the pass, the game would come down to who could run the ball.
Osborne is underrated as a coach. Like the Bear, he had trouble winning the big bowl game until later in his career.
Frazier would be the wild card. Toss-up in my opinion, but I have to go Bama in the end.
Our defense last year with this year's offense would beat those NE teams.. but I think if they played 11 or 12 straight up we would/could lose.
Osborne is one of the most underrated coaches in my opinion.. solid guy with great teams and great results
I thought you guys might like this. Whatifsports lets you simulate a game between any two teams since 1996, so I ran 97 Nebraska (95 was maybe better, but couldn't go back that far) against 2012 Bama on a neutral field. I selected "heavy run" for NU and "balanced" for Bama.
Just for entertainment value, that score is a little ridiculous.
Next year Bama puts this debate to rest for good. (g)
pllayed 2011 vs 2012 bama neutral field both balanced and 2011 won 44-37
does it really matter!
Choose not a life of limitation
If Nebraska tested for PEDs [they knew what was going on] from 1980-1997 things would have been much different in Lincoln. They were the East Germans and Chinese Women's swim team and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s in terms of their PED use in college football. Have as much respect for them as I have for Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, and Lance Armstrong. Clemson had a similar problem in the early to mid 1980s on their football and track teams.
It started with Dave Rimington and Dean Steinkuhler in the early 1980s and continued through the late 1990s. They actually implemented testing in the late 1980s/early 1990s and it impacted them in a negative way. They then reverted back around the time of their Dynasty.
Nebraska was really bad.
Excerpt from link:
"One persistent theory has to do with anabolic steroids. During the early and mid-'80s, Nebraska was regarded as a hotbed of steroid use. In a 1987 article in SI, Dean Steinkuhler, the 1983 Outland Trophy winner, admitted that he used steroids while a guard at Nebraska, and the 1989 book Big Red Confidential: Inside Nebraska Football, written by former SI staffer Armen Keteyian, stated that steroid use was widespread among the Huskers."
Under fire for failing to win the big games
Looser in Lincoln
Hands down the 95 Nebraska team is still the best team I have ever seen in college football.
That team would tell opponents that they were going to run all over them and then that is exactly what they did. The way they destroyed Spurriers 95 Florida team was unreal. It was 21-0 well before the 1st qtr ended. Nebraska could have scored another touchdown but instead Lawrence Phillips kneeled on the 1 yard line and Nebraska finished with only 62 points...
This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by docjbb 15 months ago
I agree, 95 Nebraska was ridiculous. But I would also say people know what we're going to do as far as lining up and running right at them. Yet we do it in a tougher conference than Nebraska did, against tougher defenses, in a college world that has far more parody, in a time that is much tougher to dominate, and we have a conference championship game where we usually have to play a top 5 team just to get to the NC game, something UN didnt have to do. What we our doing is equally impressive and harder to do.
Its just an honor to be nominated, imo.
The 95 Nebraska team is by far the best team I have ever seen.
This post was edited by Mitigator33 15 months ago
Those Nebraska teams were excellent. Some of the toughest teams I've ever seen. But who on their schedule was any good that they beat annually ? Colorado seemed to be the only good team on their schedule. Oklahoma was down, Texas was so-so, Texas A&M was pretty good and Kansas State was just starting to get really good. Their competition wasn't near as great as what Alabama faces year in and year out in the SEC. Osborne was a great coach though and they could play with anybody. I know they beat Miami, Florida and Florida State to win the national championships.
So, you don't think the fact that Bama's offenses have been much more balanced under Saban than those Nebraska teams' under Osborne wouldn't give UA a pretty sizable advantage?
They physically stomped every team they played and then they annihilated a very, very good Florida team. As Nick Saban even stated about the 95 Nebraska team, the scores didn't really show how bad they really beat you. They went out and embarrassed teams by running them the heck off the field. It wouldn't have mattered what conference they played in that year, nobody was beating that team. Period. Take off your Crimson glasses, while our defense in 2011 was probably the best ever in college football...We have never even remotely come close to having an offense like 95 Nebraska. They were unstoppable.
This game right here was one of the most brutal asswhippings I have ever seen in a NCG.
*** I do not own the rights to this video and I am not profiting from this in any way *** COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, a...
Yep. That is the 95 team. It is the best I have ever seen.
Don't take it so personally man. I'm not degrading how good Nebraska was in 95. They were great. Their other teams in the 90s were great as well and their program is one of the most revered in college football. Miami was unbelievable in 2001 and had an incredible run during the 80s and 90s. USC was incredible during Pete Carroll's reign (though they only won one actual BCS trophy and had it vacated). Alabama has been great for five years straight under Nick Saban and will be great in the coming years too. We're 61-5 since 2008 and have three BCS trophies going through an SEC schedule. It's fun even having our program compared to other great ones of yesteryear and Saban being compared to the greatest coaches of all time.
Bama's current run is better. But if I had to take a team from either for one game. I would take 95 Nebraska hands down.
New Member of The 247 Crew!
I'm not taking it personally but the fact that you even posted what you just posted tells me all I need to know...You never watched the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers. I wasn't talking about Pete Carroll or Miami or any other team in the "90's". I'm not talking about Alabama's current run, which is OUTSTANDING.
I'm talking about one team and they are still handsdown the best team I have ever seen in College Football. The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Not to mention the SEC other than BAMA, UF and UT was garbage in the 90's. The barn was average and UGA well...they were UGA.
Some just need to give credit where credit is due. That is all. RTR
Also I'm not trying to be bias against Alabama. They are my favorite team by far, but I also love College Football and I can look at things objectively.
What Alabama is doing right now, will be one of the greatest runs in CFB history, because I don't see it ending anytime soon.
But watching what Tom Osborne and his teams did in the 90's was pretty damn impressive. You can't take anything away from what Nebraska accomplished in that time period.
At they time they were the next best thing to watching Coach Stallings and his teams. They lined up and played old school-smashmouth-run straight at you football.
Before making any descisions go back and actually watch both teams(Sabans and Osbornes). Both are very impressive and if you watch them "objectively" you might see what I see. JMO
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