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The Fallacy of Nebraska’s Nine-Win Season Streak


Mike Riley was named the new head coach of Nebraska football last December amidst anger by some Cornhusker fans and confusion by the college football world, both fans and analysts. Only a few days out from the start of the 2015 season, ESPN showed this graphic (information on achievements added) on the most consecutive nine-win seasons (active) among FBS programs:

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Why did the Huskers fire a coach who consistently won nine games per season? The Big Red is currently only one of three teams to have such a streak, tying Alabama with seven and sitting just behind Oregon with eight. However, one of these teams is not like the others.

Nine wins is a decent season. Not bad, not great. One could call it a “stepping-stone season,” but the Ducks and Crimson Tide didn’t stop there and stepped on a few more heads to bigger and better things.

Oregon claimed four conference titles, showed up to the national championship game twice and took part in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Related: Why No DPE Doesn’t Mean Nebraska Football Is DOA

Alabama one-upped the Ducks with three national championships, three conference titles and also participated in the College Football Playoff.

Yes, Nebraska won nine games too and I’ve heard all of the excuses. Teams would kill for nine-win seasons. And they’re in the MWC or the MAC. The Huskers are never going to see the glory days of the 1990s. I don’t hear fans saying they actually expect that.

While Oregon and Alabama have their streaks and something to show for them, the Big Red can claim two Big 12 North Division championships and a Big Ten Legends Division championship for its trouble. Nebraska would lose the three conference title games it showed up for by a combined score of 106-63.

As if that wasn’t enough to prove that Nebraska’s streak under Bo Pelini wasn’t a farce, how about the opposition all three teams beat?

Oregon’s eight-year streak comes complete with three top-5 victories for a total of 11 top-15 wins.

Alabama took down five top-5 teams including four No. 1s and a No. 2. A total of 23 teams in the top 15 fell to the Tide over seven years.

Nebraska won three top-15 games over that span during Pelini’s tenure, which just happens to coincide with the seven-year streak.

Yes, he was 67-27 as Nebraska football’s head man. He won 71 percent of the games he coached as a Husker. Heaven forbid the team across the field had a pulse, though.

It wasn’t even easy to rack up wins over the likes of Iowa State (who Nebraska lost to in 2009) or McNeese State. If Ameer Abdullah wasn’t in the backfield, the Huskers would’ve lost that game last season.

Don’t let the tip of the iceberg fool you. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst knew what he was doing when he canned the Youngstown, Ohio, native.

Not only the current team but also former Cornhusker players and coaches rave about the culture in Lincoln. The old guard remembers it. The newbies see why it’s so memorable.

Nine wins may be a nice metric for some teams, but as Alabama and Oregon have shown us, it’s not for the elite and that, ladies and gentlemen, should include Nebraska.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Cavanaugh is founder of, a site devoted to in-depth Nebraska coverage. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.