Each week, The Herald-Whig sports staff will debate a pertinent topic. Here is this week's question:
"Which college football non-conference rivalry game that isn't played every year should be played every year?"
Matt Schuckman, Sports Editor
When Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten Conference, I cringed. The one game I looked forward to more than any other during the college football season — more than any game involving Missouri — was wiped off the slate.
No longer would Nebraska and Oklahoma play with something at stake.
Arguably the best rivalry in the old Big Eight Conference and a Thanksgiving weekend staple, the Huskers and Sooners began knocking heads in 1925 and developed a deep-seeded hatred for each other. Five times Oklahoma handed Nebraska its only loss of the season. Twice, the Huskers did the same thing to the Sooners.
In 1971, they played what many college football analysts and historians have dubbed the "Game of the Century." No. 1-ranked Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma played such a marvelous game that Dave Kindred, a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, wrote, "They can quit playing now, they have played the perfect game."
Nebraska won 35-31 and rode the momentum to the second of back-to-back national championships. ESPN dubbed the 1971 Nebraska team as the greatest college football team of all-time.
The two teams haven't played since 2009, and plans are in place to renew a home-and-home series in 2021 and 2022. However, the luster of the rivalry has been tarnished, and it will be difficult to rekindle the kind of fervor, animosity and passion that defined these meetings in the 1970s and '80s.
These were classic matchups, ones you looked forward to before the season began. I just wish it was that way again.
Blake Toppmeyer, Sports Writer
The day-after-Thanksgiving rivalry games were always some of the best in college football. Then conference realignment went and screwed up a beautiful thing.
No longer can we count on Texas facing Texas A&M every year as we fill ourselves with Thanksgiving leftovers. (Sometimes the game was played on Thanksgiving, not the day after.)
For some reason, of all the rivalry side effects of conference shifting, the loss of that annual game bothers me most. As a Florida Gators fan, there are some games you try to never miss: Florida vs. Tennessee, Florida vs. Georgia and Florida vs. Florida State. For me, the list of can't-miss games also included Texas and A&M. The game always seemed to be a quality matchup, no matter where — or if — the teams were ranked. In fact, five of the last six installments of the rivalry series, which ended after the 2011 season, were decided by 10 points or less.
The rivalry series included 118 games, with Texas holding a 76–37–5 advantage. A&M's move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference effectively ended the annual series.
I'm not sure there are many positive side effects of all the conference shifting, but the loss of several good non-conference rivalries really stings. It's made eating Thanksgiving leftovers more boring.
Josh Rizzo, Sports Writer
It has the best nickname of any rivalry game. The "Backyard Brawl" was aptly named, as Pittsburgh and West Virginia would battle on the field, then the fans would battle in the stands and parking lot.
With less than 90 miles separating Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va., the games would be filled with fans from both sides. Both schools have similar colors and have had glory days in football.
West Virginia has the most wins of any Division I football program that has never won a national title, while Pittsburgh claims its has won nine. (To be fair, eight of them were before 1945). It's a shame this game doesn't exist anymore, it was a staple around Thanksgiving as which to school would be able to ruin the other school's season.
One of the most sloppy games in the series was also Pitt's greatest win. In 2007, the Panthers beat West Virginia 13-9 when Pitt was 5-6 and the Mountaineers were ranked No. 2 and ready to make an appearance in the national title game. It's also a shame the chirping between fan bases is relegated to Twitter.