Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Tom Osborne talks to quarterback Tommie Fraizer during the 1994 season at Giants Stadium.

Top 5 greatest Nebraska football teams of all-time

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are one of the most storied football programs of all time. The five-time national champions have fielded some of the best teams in college football history, but it’s been nearly thirty years since the Huskers’ last title. However, things are looking up in Lincoln, so it’s worth a look back at some of the greatest teams in program history.

Top 5 greatest Nebraska football teams of all-time

5. 1983

Despite falling short to the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl for the national championship, the 1983 Nebraska team is among the best in program history. Led by legendary coach Tom Osborne (1973-1997), the Huskers opened up the season as the No. 1 team in the country. The 1983 Heisman Trophy winner led the offense, running back Mike Rozier and quarterback Turner Gill, who finished fourth in Heisman voting that year. Future No. 1 overall pick Irving Fryar was also on the star-studded offense that led Nebraska to a 12-0 regular season.

The Huskers opened the season against the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions and the Lions stood no chance against Nebraska. The Huskers won 44-6 and the destruction of Nebraska opponents began. The 1983 Huskers scored over 60 points five times, including 83 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers and 72 against the Iowa State Cyclones. Going into the Orange Bowl, all Nebraska had to do was win against the No. 5 Hurricanes. The Huskers scored a touchdown and could kick an extra point to tie Miami, but coach Osborne wanted to win outright, leading to the infamous two-point conversion. If Gill’s pass wasn’t tipped by the Hurricane’s Kenny Calhoun, Nebraska would be national champs and potentially could be one of the greatest teams of all time.

4. 1997

Osborne’s final team in 1997 as the head coach for the Huskers will live on. Nebraska was led by quarterback Scott Frost and a dominant defense that eventually split the national championship with the Michigan Wolverines. The Huskers opened the season as the No. 6 team in the country after a disappointing 1996 campaign. Nebraska rattled off wins against Akron and UCF before upsetting the No. 2 Washington Huskies in Seattle. The Huskers then dominated the No. 17 Kansas State Wildcats and continued to dominate conference play before their matchup against the Missouri Tigers. In Columbia, MO, the game came down to a miracle catch by wide receiver Matt Davidson and Nebraska survived the trap game.

The Huskers finished conference play strong before destroying the No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies in the Big 12 championship. Osborne’s Nebraska team came out in the Orange Bowl against Peyton Manning and the Tennessee Volunteers and dominated 42-17. They clinched a share of the 1998 title with the Wolverines.

3. 1994

The 1994 season was an exciting season for Osborne’s Huskers. Going into the season, Nebraska had many chances at a national title in the past few seasons and just fell short of every attempt. However, the Huskers’ luck would change in the end despite hopes being seemingly crushed when starting quarterback Tommie Frazier was hospitalized for blood clots. That’s when second-string quarterback Brooke Berringer and third-string quarterback Matt Turman stepped in. The No. 2 Huskers had to go into Manhattan, Kansas, to take on No. 16 Kansas State, and Turman started due to Berringer suffering a collapsed lung in Nebraska’s game against Wyoming a couple of weeks earlier. The walk-on quarterback came through. The Huskers needed him most, and they defeated the Wildcats 17-6.

Nebraska ran through the rest of Big Eight conference play, including a 24-7 win over the No. 2 Colorado Buffaloes, and won the conference once again. The top-ranked Huskers had one more test left. That came against No. 3 Miami at the Orange Bowl in the Hurricanes’ home stadium. By now, Frazier was healthy, and Nebraska took down Miami to give Osborne his first national title in Lincoln. It was the Huskers’ first title since 1971.

2. 1971

Speaking of the 1971 Nebraska football team. One of the greatest teams in college football history. The team was led by legendary coach Bob Devaney, wingback Johnny “the Jet” Rodgers and quarterback Jerry Tagge. This team was dominant all season, with wins over the No. 2, 3 and 4 (Final AP ranking) teams. The Husker’s closest game came against the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners in a game coined as “The Game of the Century,” when Nebraska won 35-31. Nebraska won their second national championship in a dominating effort against Bear Bryant’s No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide team 38-6 in the Orange Bowl.

1. 1995

It should be no surprise that this team is No. 1 on this list. The 1995 Huskers are considered by many to be the greatest team in college football history. Nebraska was led by quarterback Tommie Frazier, running back Ahman Green and a dominating defense. This team had no close games all season, averaging 48 points on offense while only allowing 12.5 points per game on defense.

The Huskers ran through every opponent, including winning over multiple ranked opponents. The Fiesta Bowl against the No. 2 Florida Gators was the most impressive game. The Gators were favored going into the game and Florida held a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Something flipped, however, as Nebraska put up 29 points in the second quarter alone, holding a 35-10 lead at the half. Its dominance continued as the Huskers won 62-24 in the National Championship. The Huskers rushed for 524 yards on Florida with 629 offensive yards.

Nebraska’s 62 points were the most in the national championship’s history. That record was held until the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship, when the Georgia Bulldogs put up 65 points on the TCU Horned Frogs. Despite that, the 1996 Fiesta Bowl will be remembered forever, especially for Frazier’s famous run.

Nebraska’s two national championship runs pushed it into blue-blood status. Despite the Huskers’ lack of post-season success in the past 20 years, Nebraska is heading in the right direction under coach Matt Rhule. Rhule is building the foundation for success in the near future, and his track record proves that. The season can’t come any sooner, but there is hope building in Lincoln.

Main Image: © RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

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