The Penn State team in 1994 was an offensive juggernaut. They matched up and down the field against everyone they played and seemingly scored at will. Unfortunately, they never had a chance to play Nebraska for the national championship that year, as it was before the BCS system was implemented.
Penn State and Nebraska both finished the regular season undefeated. But because of bowl agreements in their respective leagues, Nebraska went to the Orange Bowl to face Miami and Penn State went to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon. Both teams won their games, but Nebraska was elected the national champion in both polls by a wide margin.
Penn State fans were upset, understandably, and remain a bit bitter to this day (much like Nebraska fans do in regard to Michigan in 1997).
A separate national championship game or a college football playoff could have resolved the Nebraska-Penn State quandary in 1994. Nebraska coach Tom Osborne sensed it too, as Steven M. Sipple reports in the Lincoln Journal Star. Osborne said that he called Penn State coach Joe Paterno to discuss playing a neutral-site game.
That way, the two teams could settle it on the field.
From Sipple’s blog:
“I thought, ‘Well, if Joe kicked up a fuss and said, ‘We deserve to play Nebraska,’ somebody would’ve relented,” Osborne recalled Tuesday during his radio show on the Husker Sports Network. “But [Paterno] said we were bound to this [Bowl Coalition] contract, and that’s the way it was.”
I’m not sure if Osborne, before Tuesday, had ever discussed publicly his conversation with Paterno. Anybody else know?
Yeah, it’s sort of amazing. Osborne tried to go the renegade route to create a defacto national championship game. That’s interesting on a lot of levels.
“We would’ve given anything to play Penn State at a neutral site rather than [go to Miami to play Miami],” Osborne said Tuesday.
Penn State likely felt the same about its game against Oregon.
It’s interesting to hear about Osborne’s gesture as we’re on the brink of a four-team playoff in college football. How great would a Penn State-Nebraska game have been in 1994?
Too bad we never found out.