When Alabama won its third national championship in four years with a convincing 42-14 win over Notre Dame, comparisons to the great Nebraska teams of the 1990s were drawn. That team also won three championships in four years and many claim the 1995 Nebraska team to be the greatest football team in the history of the game.
But former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne wasn’t ready to compare the two programs.
"It doesn't come off very well when you try to compare a team that played 12, 14, 15 years ago with a team playing today and say this team would beat that team. Nobody knows," Osborne told the Associated Press Wednesday. "The only way to do it is to play them. No question we had some very good teams. No question Alabama is very good, well-coached, very solid and certainly one to be admired."
Measuring Osborne's teams from the 1990s to Alabama's teams of today would be a futile effort given the changes in the game, including technology, rules, training programs, nutrition, strength, speed and even the size of players from then to now. Even the material and the look of the uniforms is different now than it was 15 years ago. It’s almost a totally different game.
But there’s no question that both teams were dominant in their respective eras.
That 1995 Nebraska team outscored its opponents by an average of 53-14 and outgained them 562 to 298. The Huskers never trailed after the first quarter.
But defensively, there was no equal.
The 2011 Alabama team ranked No. 1 nationally in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, pass defense, scoring defense and total defense. It limited teams to just 8.15 points per game. It shut out three teams and allowed just five teams to score in double figures. It allowed just 183.62 yards per game while gaining 429.62 yards of total offense.
Even former Nebraska defensive end Grant Winstrom, who played on all three national title teams, acknowledged how tough Alabama’s road to its three titles has been.
"It's only been 15 years, but it's a faster game now," Wistrom said. "We dominated back then, but I don't know if our teams would have had the success (Alabama's) had now. It's tough to do what they've done in this day and age — not that it was easy for us back then."
As Osborne noted, comparing the two teams is fruitless effort unless because of the differences in the games and the opponents from then until now. If there was some way to put both teams in the same era and have them play each other, then perhaps we’d be able to definitely make a call on the better team. Unfortunately, that’s probably only going to happen in a video game.
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