With the death of the BCS at the end of this season and the implementation of a new playoff system in its place for 2014, many teams are changing the way they schedule non-conference games. Strength of schedule figures to be a much bigger piece of the formula moving forward so teams are starting to go out and challenge themselves with their early slate of games. The Nebraska Cornhuskers went out and got one of the biggest challenges they could, however, when they signed on to play a home-and-home series against the high flying Oregon Ducks in 2016 and 2017.
All time, Nebraska leads the series with Oregon 5-1 all-time but the teams haven’t played each other since 1986. Quite a bit has happened for both programs since then. Nebraska, who owns the fourth-highest win total in college football history, hasn’t won a conference title since 1999 or played in a BCS bowl game since 2001. Their historically dominant defense has sprung a few leaks, especially in recent years, and head coach Bo Pelini finds himself on the hot seat (so who know if he’ll get to see this matchup at all).
Oregon, meanwhile, has developed into one of the elite teams in college football in recent years. They’ve been to four straight BCS bowls, including a BCS National Championship game appearance during the 2010 season, and perennially put forth one of the most explosive offenses in the country. This season, they’ve raced out to a 6-0 start, scoring 50 points or more in five of six games behind Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota (a redshirt sophomore) at quarterback.
With this game still three years away, the personnel on both sides will look drastically different, without a doubt. The identity of the Oregon Ducks, however, is unlikely to change. They’ll continue to recruit elite athletes who can break games open every time they touch the football, which means Nebraska better prepare themselves by getting more consistent on defense. Whether that’s with Pelini at the helm or not remains to be seen, but you can bet the Huskers will have their hands full with a pair of great games against Oregon.