Nebraska Football: The 2016 Music City Bowl Blares of History

Nov 12, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Mike Riley before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Mike Riley before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nebraska football team meets Tennessee for the third time this year, but stakes have been a bit higher in the past.

  • Past Meetings Have Husker Folklore Written All-over Them

42-17, for many Husker fans, is a score etched in their mind for all the right reasons.  After all, it’s the one that brought home the last Nebraska National Championship. A game in which the Blackshirts punished and harassed the-would-be five-time NFL MVP, Peyton Manning.

Or maybe fans remember the last year the Huskers won a conference championship? 1999, which also happened to be the last time the Huskers beat the Volunteers of Tennessee, 31-21 in the Fiesta Bowl. Bullying the Volunteers with a fearsome rushing attack, behind Eric Crouch and Dan Alexander.

Truly special memories for Big Red fans, albeit at the expense of Tennessee.

  • Times Of Change

Who would’ve thought 17 years after their last meeting–and after several regime changes for both schools–we’d be here. Two once-storied programs in periods of transition. For Nebraska, growing pains were expected, but two blowout losses have put a damper on an otherwise solid nine-and-three season.

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A 10th win would bolster Mike Riley and his staff, and with a star player, Jordan Westerkamp out and another questionable in Tommy Armstrong, it would be a commendable accomplishment.

For Tennesse, a season that started off with many believing an appearance in the SEC Championship seemed likely, has turned into an eight and four disappointment. Tennessee comes in with more to lose, it seems. Many have questioned the programs “culture” under Butch Jones, but it remains to be seen if the administration will stay the course. A win for Jones could be a game-changer, perhaps, restoring faith in the direction he’s going in Knoxville.

  • Two Storied Programs

The game features a battle between two of college football’s best, no doubt a reason why the bowl chose the two history-rich programs.

Both schools enter the game ranked within with Top-12 of in all-time wins. Nebraska football ranks third, with 889 wins and Tennessee ranks 12th, with 825 wins. Between the two programs, 11 national titles (five by Nebraska, six by Tennessee) and 62 have been held  (46 for Nebraska, 16 for Tennessee).

  • A Game Of Questions

Both teams enter the game with bitter tastes in their mouth. Nebraska fell to Iowa, in blowout fashion, falling 40-10 in their final game. Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt, after holding a lead entering the fourth quarter, 45-34.

Nebraska’s offenses must face its own issues, but the Vols have problems of their own.

But equally as questionable is the Vols defense.  A unit that allows 39.2 points per game in their last three contests (all losses). It’s this kind of shakiness, that should give the Husker offense hope against the Volunteers.

But at times, the Husker defense has been equally as bad. Giving up 62 points to Ohio State and 40 points to Iowa, while doing little-to-nothing on offense.

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Consider this game a wildcard, both teams are upset with how their seasons ended, so maybe we’ll get the best of both. After all, these bowl games do seem to bring out the unexpected?

  • Plenty To Play For

As it stands, Nebraska ranks No. 21 in the coaches poll and 24th in the Associated Press poll, if the Huskers win, it will give them their first 10-win season and have them ranked at season’s end for the first time since 2012. A 10 and three season would also mark their best record since 2003.

Just two and a half hours from Knoxville, the Music City Bowl is in Nashville, Tennessee.  All things considered, this should give Tennessee an added advantage and plenty to play for.

This will also be the first time the Big Red has played in Tennessee since the 1977 Liberty Bowl when they took on Memphis.

  • Future Matchups

All of these fall in between 2026 and 2027 tilts between the Vols and Huskers. Two games that were originally scheduled for 2016 and 2017, but were pushed back due to scheduling conflicts. But rather than wait nearly a decade for redemption, the Huskers will look to carry bragging rights into 2026. It may not be playing Peyton Manning in a game for of the marbles, but it’s a game that could bring much-needed needed momentum to the team that comes out on top.