Dynasty debate: Alabama's titles, Nebraska's run

It’s a healthy debate and it’s a fun debate: Which of the two most recent college football dynasties is most impressive—Alabama or Nebraska? Alabama’s third national championship in four seasons has placed this current run into the “dynasty,” category, no matter what Nick Saban says. And more chapters may be added in 2013, 2014, and beyond. If so, that would render this debate moot.

For now, the Crimson Tide’s run has conjured memories of the last school to win three national championships in four seasons: Nebraska, from 1994-97.

The biggest difference between the runs is the fact all three of the Crimson Tide’s titles have been undisputed. Conversely, the Cornhuskers shared their 1997 championship with Michigan. That may or may not sully Nebraska’s feat in your mind. Still, it’s noteworthy.

[WHATIFSPORTS.COM: Put two great teams against each other in a  computer simulation.]

Michigan entered the bowls after the 1997 season as a consensus No. 1. And it looked good in dispatching Ryan Leaf and Washington State, 21-16, in the Rose Bowl. Hence, the A.P. voted the Wolverines No. 1. Makes sense, right?

However, the coaches’ poll leaped Nebraska to No. 1 over Michigan in its final poll. Yes, the Huskers looked good in beating Peyton Manning and Tennessee, 42-17, in the Orange Bowl. But, was it REALLY enough to pass Michigan? I don’t think so.

So, why did it happen?

Because some feel the coaches wanted to give out-going Nebraska coach Tom Osborne a retirement present.

Yes, it’s speculation, but can anyone give any other logical explanation as to why 13-0 Nebraska should have passed 12-0 Michigan in the coaches’ poll?

Here’s another twist to consider: The Cornhuskers’ run had a shot to be five national titles in a row. It almost happened from 1993-97, when Nebraska posted an aggregate 60-3 overall mark (37-0 in league play).

Nebraska lost the national championship game to Florida State after the 1993 season in the Orange Bowl, falling 18-16. And in 1996, the No. 3 Huskers were stunned 37-27 in the Big 12 title game by unranked Texas after seemingly being on track to maybe play for another national crown.

Still, which of these two schools’ “three-titles-in-four-years” run is most impressive in your mind?

I have to give the nod to Alabama. Just the fact that the Crimson Tide has had to climb over so many great teams in the SEC to reach college football’s summit gives them an edge. The Big 12 that Nebraska had to contend with in the mid-1990s wasn’t nearly as formidable. Remember: It’s seven national titles in a row and counting for the SEC.

A great argument can be made for Nebraska having the more impressive run. But, I still like Bama’s skein just a bit more. And, again, it soon may add to that to make this a meaningless discussion.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (29 Comments)
knapplc on 1/10/2013 @ 12:57pm EDT Said:

Alabama didn’t even win their division during one of these title runs. Nebraska was undefeated and untied all three years they won. How many losses has Alabama had?

Beating Peyton Manning and a team of future NFL stars wasn’t enough to put Nebraska back to #1 where they belonged, but eking out a win against Ryan Leaf and…. nobody else in a second-tier bowl after ducking out of the Bowl Alliance means Michigan’s 1997 “title” is more legit than Nebraska’s? Nebraska has a giant crystal trophy that says otherwise, Tom.

bob jones on 1/10/2013 @ 2:38pm EDT Said:

Absolute nonsense. Alabama was lucky to get to play in two of the title games, they had a loss in two of their three title years. Nebraska was undefeated in all three title years, 94,95,97. Vegas put out a line after the 1997 season on a Michigan/Nebraska matchup and Nebraska was made a 7 1/2 point favorite, a very significant spread. By the way that Peyton Manning led Tennessee team that Nebraska manhandled was ranked 3rd in the country and went on to win the national title the next year, anybody heard of Washington State or Ryan Leaf since their very close loss to Michigan. The 1993 Nebraska team did actually win the National Title on the field in the 94 Orange Bowl, but the officials were determined to get Bobby Bowden his first title and called a phantom clip on a Nebraska punt return for a touchdown and gave Florida St a TD on a play where William Floyd lost the ball a couple of yards short of the end zone, which Nebraska did recover.No instant replay back then. If you have ever seen any replays from those Nebraska Bowl games, it is really amazing to see the Huskers were basically two deep at every position on defense with future NFL players and those option offenses, with Frazier and Frost running them and the best coach in college football history calling the plays was a thing of beauty. Another note on Nebraska’s dominance was shown on BTN’s Big Ten Elite series, in one of the funniest football segments I have ever seen, Outland Trophy Winner Zach Wiegert said he used to tell the defense before plays what the next play was and tell them they should be able to stop it, but they never did. Now that is dominance. Ya had enough Beavers?

Josh on 1/10/2013 @ 4:28pm EDT Said:

1. As the previous poster stated. Alabama didn’t even win their conference last year.
2. Alabama backed into the last two title games, as they had to have other teams lose to even get a shot.
3. 2 of Alabama’s losses have come at home (LSU and Texas A and M)
4. The number of ranked teams that each school played and the margin of victory is practically identical, so the SEC love fest needs a little reality. Plus, Alabama lost the the 2 best teams they played the last 2 years. See previous point.
5. Nebraska was a missed FG from 4 titles in 5 years.

Alabama has had a great run and should be considered a current “Dynasty”, but they have lost 2 of the three years we are talking about and both were at home.

Kirby on 1/10/2013 @ 5:10pm EDT Said:

Win/Loss record during title run:

Nebraska 4-year record: 49-2

Alabama 4-year record: 49-5

Undefeated Seasons during title run:

Nebraska – 3

Alabama – 1

Performance in National Title Games:

24-17 vs. #3 Miami in the Orange Bowl
62-24 vs. #2 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl
44-17 vs. #3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl

37-21 vs. #2 Texas
21-0 vs. #1 LSU
42-14 vs. #1 Notre Dame

Losses during 4-year span:

@ #17 Arizona State 0-19
vs Texas 27-37 in Big 12 Championship

Alabama Losses
@ #19 South Carolina 21-35
@ #10 LSU 21-24
#2 Auburn 27-28
#1 LSU 6-9 OT
#15 Texas A&M 24-29

AP ranking in non-championship season:

Nebraska: #6
Alabama: #10

Conference championships during title run:

Nebraska: 3
Alabama: 2

Just some stats to chew on for everyone that claims Nebraska road was so much easier then Alabama’s because Bama played in the SEC. Who did Nebraska smash in 95′ and 97′ teams from the mighty SEC…. to me there is no debate and its pretty clear who had a more dominant program and dynasty. Now if Alabama comes back and wins another championship next year then you can legitimately claim they are the better dynasty.

shane on 1/10/2013 @ 5:15pm EDT Said:

Tom, is it possible that over-signing in the sec has had an impact? Did Nebraska over-sign in the 90’s? I don’t know if they did or not. Your comment on Alabama playing “so many great teams” is funny because they LOST to several of them. This SEC love fest will be better tested when actual playoffs happen.

Jeff on 1/10/2013 @ 6:10pm EDT Said:

I disagree strongly with the writer as I did with the ESPN commentators who brought this up during the Notre Dame Alabama game. They claim the most important factor is that Alabama is “undisputed” yet I’d argue being UNDEFEATED is a much bigger accomplishment. Nebraska was undefeated all three years and never had the “the poor SEC team with a loss should get to play for the national championship anyhow” handicap that LSU, Alabama, and Florida have benefitted from in the past decade. Because some computer and voters took Alabama over Oregon and Kansas State in the first place we’re supposed to call Alabama “undisputed”? I don’t think so. This whole SEC is so great argument reminds me of the one that was going around before the classic Nebraska – Florida national championship game. Oh, yes, how Nebraska was going to get stomped. .. 62-24, take that Gators, AND SEC. As for the how did Nebraska leap Michigan question, the answer is, Nebraska stomped Peyton Manning and Tennessee while Michigan struggled past a Washington State team that would have beaten them but for poor clock management skills on the final drive. If anyone benefitted from sympathy national champion votes it was Michigan with the whole Bob-Brian Griese nostalgia from a media more concerned with nostaligia than an actual bonafide champion. Also, as stated above by another commenter, the Nebraska-Florida State game the year before the alleged dynasty was much more controversial than has been mentioned since. It was a “great” tradition of the media at the time to rave about anything Florida and ignore how their teams mostly played national championship games on their home turf while getting embarrassed in bowl games played outside of the state.

Daweaver1125 on 1/10/2013 @ 6:45pm EDT Said:

I think the previous posts say it better than I could attempt to. Not taking away from what Bama has done! But to use the point that Michigan was simply rated above Nebraska prior to their bowl game matchups is the convincing factor? Not a valid argument for Michigan at all. Who’s say Michigan should have been ahead in those polls prior to the bowl games and quite frankly. Nebraska manhandled Tennessee with Manning.. It wasn’t even a contest – they were mismatched. Michigan was impressive in their win against Wash State? Really? What was the final score in that game again. Not to mention the Huskers very impressive win over a Florida Gators team that EVERYONE said Florida’s speed an skill will doom Nebraska and Nebraska won’t even have a chance. That too was a mismatch! Stretches for both Bama and Nebraska are impressive. I know where I stand but your arguments for Bama’s as more impressive are not strong.

S. R. Lessor on 1/10/2013 @ 7:50pm EDT Said:

What would Nick say?

Nick Saban was on the receiving end of some of those great Nebraska teams of the mid-90′s. During a home & home series with Nebraska, the young head coach of Michigan State saw first hand how dominance was defined during that decade…

1995: NU-50, MSU-10
1996: NU-55, MSU-15

Being on both sides of the fence, I’d really like to get Nick’s take on how he would classify his current teams’ run with those Husker teams he was pitted against as he was getting into college coaching.

OSU 12-0 on 1/10/2013 @ 8:24pm EDT Said:

Nebraska would have demolished um in 1997!

Will on 1/11/2013 @ 11:43am EDT Said:

Tom, I respectfully disagree with your final thought of Bama’s dynasty being better but nobody can say for sure. The fact that this 3 NC’s in 4 years has only been done a few times, proves that those who do it deserve their day in limelight but to say one dynasty’s is better than the other is like trying to say Barry Sanders was a better back then Walter Peyton. Few reach this level and it’s good to be included in such talks for both teams but today is not yesterday and tomorrow won’t be like today.

rudytbone on 1/11/2013 @ 12:54pm EDT Said:

Nebraska’s 1994 championship was a gift. PSU clearly had the better team that year.

dwc13 on 1/11/2013 @ 1:27pm EDT Said:

You need to do better research, Mr. Dinehart. In 1995, Nebraska crushed previously undefeated Florida (SEC) 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. Don’t forget, that game was a true National Championship with nobody even remotely disputing whether either of the teams should be playing in the Fiesta Bowl, unlike the 2012 season’s mismatch. The Fiesta Bowl was over in the 2nd quarter, after the Huskers scored 29 consecutive points to take a 35-10 halftime lead. Heck, Nebraska took a knee at the Florida 1 yard line and ran out the clock, or the final score would have been even more lopsided. The final (post bowl) polls had Nebraska #1, Florida #2 (AP) / #3 (Coaches), and Tennessee (SEC) #3 (AP) / #2 (Coaches). Recall Florida had demolished Tennessee 62-37 earlier in the season and beat Arkasas 34-3 in the SEC Championship, and clearly was the #2 team that season. As further proof, the Gators would win the NC the following season. Somehow overlooked by many (including you, Mr. Dinehart), the Big XII had four (4) teams ranked in the Top 10 of the final AP poll: #5 Colorado (10-2), #7 Kansas State (10-2) , and #10 Kansas (10-2). Colorado lost to Kansas and Nebraska. KState lost to Nebraska and Colorado. Kansas lost to KState and Nebraska. None of the Top 4 Big XII teams lost an out-of-conference game and all enjoyed blow-out wins in their bowl games.

In 1994, Nebraska beat Miami 24-17 on the ‘Canes’ home field, the Orange Bowl. None of Alabama’s recent NC bowl game opponents have come close to having that type of home field advantage. What great defense has the Tide faced in those NC games? Notre Dame? Give me a break — talk about overrated and exposed as a fraud. I don’t recall seeing a Warren Sapp or Ray Lewis out there on any of those teams the Crimson Tide faced, but they were playing for Miami against the Huskers in the ’95 Orange Bowl. Perhaps you don’t recall Tommie Frazier being out with blood clots for much of the season, or Nebraska gutting out a 17-6 road win against a ranked Kansas State team behind a 3rd string walk-on QB (Matt Turman). Or maybe you have overlooked all 5 of the Huskers’ starting offensive linemen made NFL rosters. Remember, Nebraska didn’t fall behind 21-0 at any point that season, unlike Penn State that season, let alone lose a game (something 2 of Alabama’s recent NC teams have done). Finally, that Nebraska squad featured the #1 overall pick in the MLB Draft (punter Darin Erstad).

As for 1997, which bowl game opponent was better: #3 Tennessee, led by Peyton Manning (still excelling in the NFL) or #8 Washington State, led by all-time draft bust Ryan Leaf? Heck, Leaf and company had a chance on the game’s final play to beat Michigan, but the officials took too long to set the ball and blew the call as Leaf spiked it. In contrast, the Huskers put away Manning and company early and won 42-17.

David Caspers on 1/11/2013 @ 1:29pm EDT Said:

In the 3 Title years, Alabama lost 2, Nebraska 0. against ranked teams, Nebraska averaged 40 ppg, Bama, 30. Defense: Nebraska gave up 15, Bama 14.4. In 94′, Nebraska played almost the entire year with a backup, 3rd stringer a few games, and had to play Miami at home in the Orange Bowl. Average recruitng classes for NEB was anywhere from 5-35, Bama’s was 7.5, with the last 4 years being 2.5. Greater Dynasty? Hands down Nebraska!

Dustin Hoffman on 1/11/2013 @ 1:33pm EDT Said:

Only PSU and UM fans would be dumb enough to think they had better teams in 94 and 97 respectively. They wouldnt have even touched the Huskers. Big Ten has been weak for a long time and imagine a conference without Nebraska in it now. Wow that would be sad.

David Caspers on 1/11/2013 @ 1:38pm EDT Said:

Dispatched Wash. St.? More like squeaked by. The way college football was set up didn’t allow for Michigan/Penn St. to play Nebraska. Nebraska would have “dispatched” Michigan if given the opportunity. NEB should have beat FSU, Bowden said NEB played better, and a controversial fumble by FSU at the gaol line and a punt return TD by NEB called for a block in the back(all replays showed nothing) would have led to 4 NC’s in 5 years.

Ryan on 1/11/2013 @ 2:01pm EDT Said:

rudytbone, you seem to be forgetting that Tommie Frazier didn’t play 5 games due to blood clots and NU STILL went undefeated. By the way, Miami (which NU beat) was way better than anyone that PSU played that year. Not to mention that PSU had a 6 point win against unranked Indiana and a 4 point win against unranked Illinois. NU’s closest game was a 10 point win at Oklahoma and they managed to hold #2 Colorado to only 7 points (check their roster if their offensive firepower is debated).

If you feel my argument is incorrect, why don’t you ask Warren Sapp or Ray Lewis…they are still trying to catch their breath from being ran over all game.

bleedingred on 1/11/2013 @ 5:05pm EDT Said:

This is the most bogus argument i’ve ever heard. Nebraska’s was clearly better. The proof is in the pudding.

Mike on 1/11/2013 @ 5:23pm EDT Said:

Nebraska’s was more impressive. The 94-95 teams dominated everyone… and i mean everyone they played. Not to disgrace Alabama’s teams but Its not close. I would love to see the 95 team play this Alabama team.

Gigi Grimm on 1/11/2013 @ 8:22pm EDT Said:

Nebr. has one “Dynasty” that “Bama isn’t in the running for. They went over the 300 mark for Academic All-Americans, (301) this year. Second place goes to Notre Dame with 227. “Bama isn’t even in the top 10. Tom hasn’t even mentioned this, guess he doesnt put much weight on Smart Athletes!

dwc13 on 1/12/2013 @ 9:27pm EDT Said:

And in the Orange Bowl against FSU (led by Heisman Trophy winner QB Charlie Ward), it was Husker QB Tommie Frazier that was voted the game’s MVP, not Ward. That just shows you how badly Nebraska had outplayed FSU — the game MVP was from the losing team. Corey Dixon and the Huskers got jobbed on the punt return TD that was called back for an invisible illegal block. What a joke, almost as bad as that non-call on Dunn’s fumble before the ball crossed the goal line. In the end, the Huskers missed a 45 yard FG on the game’s final play, allowing FSU to barely escape with an 18-16 victory. Nebraska should have been the national champions in 1993.

Scott on 1/13/2013 @ 5:43pm EDT Said:

Hogwash! Oregon would have crushed Bama making this entire debate over. When Nebraska had its run nobody could touch them. A favor to Osbourne? I think the Tennessee team of that year didn’t just roll over and play dead, they were a good football team. If Alabama can win a couple more in the near future then we would have a real debate.

Catcory Jones on 1/13/2013 @ 6:42pm EDT Said:

fact in 1995 nebraska didnt allow a single sack, that alabama offensive line is a knockoff of any 1990s nebraska pipeline, thats still a record by the way, give texas a&m a hand on there first nc in the sec, after all they beat the Undesputied

Chris on 1/13/2013 @ 7:46pm EDT Said:

Advantage to Alabama. They had to play the #2 team each year. Nebraska was lucky to not have had to play Penn State in ’94 and Michigan in ’97.

Ryan on 1/13/2013 @ 8:39pm EDT Said:

Huh. Chris, I’ve already pointed out why Penn State wouldn’t have stood a chance against NU and Michigan’s monster 5 point win over a worthless Washington State made them good? Sorry dude, the closest any team came to the 97 Huskers was 10 points and neither Michigan or PSU would have done better than that.

You should rethink your argument…Bama went 10-3 in 2010, NU lost just 3 games in all 4 years 1993 – 1997 combined and played for 4 national titles winning 3 and getting screwed out of the 4th (see vs. FSU and see TD called back for an imaginary block). Advantage – Nebraska.

Jason on 6/20/2013 @ 3:49pm EDT Said:

Funny how you say Alabama went 10-3 in one year (pointing out they lost 3 games in one year… which needs more time to discuss that weird season. They were actually the best team in the nation) but you then say Nebraska lost 3 games over the entire 4 years….. Those 3 losses were ALL IN ONE SEASON.

I have respect for Nebraska and Tom Osborne. I will always think back to those option offenses as greatness. . But, it’s a new game. It’s tougher to win championships now…. and I know you hate to hear it and understandably so but it doesn’t mean it’s not true…. The SEC is whole different level of competition right now. There’s no disputing that. That Notre Dame team that got demolished in the title game would have been a middle of the pack team in the SEC.

And another discussion could be what about the Bear Bryant era (and don’t call Osborne the greatest ever. Have some respect)… Not only the 6 titles he won, but how about the ‘near’ chamionships and the ‘should-have-been’s’.

Jason on 6/20/2013 @ 5:31pm EDT Said:

I take back and apologize bringing up the Bear. Greatness at that level shouldn’t have to be proven or argued.

seth medina on 7/11/2013 @ 6:56pm EDT Said:

15 national championships for alabama compared to 5 for nebraska

Gamis Muslimah on 7/14/2013 @ 1:26am EDT Said:

Very interesting post. really informative. of all the blogs I have read on the same topic, this one is actually enlightening.

Jim Jolley on 8/9/2014 @ 1:16am EDT Said:

Nebraska played in the Big 8 and the Big XII. In the final year of the Big 8, there were four top 10 teams in the conference who all went 10-2 and won their bowl games by at least 21 points…and Nebraska blew all three of them out. Most impressive year for a conference in recent memory, and that 1995 Nebraska team is the best in college football history. Their closest win was a 14 point victory over Washington State, and they demolished everyone else. Won 4 games against top 10 teams by an average of 31 points.