By Randy York
This is a test of how far Nebraska football fans are willing to go to help their favorite team win a mythical ESPN national honor – the Ultimate Team in college football over the past 25 years. Let the record show that such an accolade will be determined Aug. 6 in an electronic showdown between #11 seed Florida State and #13 seed Nebraska, which upset #4 seed Georgia (55% to 45%) in the first round, steamrolled #5 seed Florida (69% to 31%) in the quarterfinals and then toppled #1 seed Miami (52% to 48%) in the semifinals.
What we have here, Husker fans, is another chance to show the college football world your collective social media power and your well-deserved status as the most loyal fans in America. This is also a warning to all Big Red fans who refuse to set up a simple https://twitter.com/ account that will allow you to vote in polls like this one. If you don’t tweet, your favorite team might be beat. Thankfully, Nebraska fans have their game face on 24 hours before Fan Day.
That’s reflected in the Huskers maintaining their 53% to 47% lead over the Seminoles on a day where voting remained brisk five days before the winner is announced. It’s easy to vote #Neb in the #UltimateTeam competition and put your mark on the espn.com/NCAAUltimateTeam voting process, and here’s a little secret to help … you can vote as many times as you want. By Wednesday evening, more than 415,000 votes had been tweeted across the country and around the world to determine college football’s “Ultimate Team” over the last quarter century.
Nebraska Fans Relish the Underdog Role
Nebraska fans obviously relish the role of the underdog, and Florida State faithful appear similarly motivated. In a format similar to certain popular votes in the ESPY Awards, ESPN seeded 16 traditional college football powers for this mid-summer night’s dream. The Top Ten were #1 Miami, #2 USC, #3 Ohio State, #4 Georgia, #5 Florida, #6 Michigan, #7 Texas, #8 Alabama, #9 Oklahoma and #10 LSU. Florida State’s route to the championship round started with a 58% to 42% first-round win over Michigan. The Seminoles then stomped Ohio State (63% to 37%) in the quarterfinals and edged Auburn (51% to 49%) in the semifinals.
The Huskers’ semifinal edge over #1 Miami was sweet because the Nebraska fans will never forget College Football Hall-of-Famer Tommie Frazier breaking down a Hurricane defense that included Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis for the 1994 national championship. Now, the Huskers are matched against Florida State, which beat Nebraska, 18-16, in an Orange Bowl game that determined the 1993 national championship.
Huskers Have Superstars on Offense, Defense
ESPN listed five offensive stars and five defensive stars from each team to remind fans of the caliber of players that competed over the past quarter century. Imagine a Nebraska offense with Frazier, Eric Crouch, Ahman Green, Joel Makovicka and Rex Burkhead on the same sideline. They would be running behind a Pipeline against a mythical Seminole defense that includes the likes of Darnell Dockett, Marvin Jones, Derrick Brooks, Peter Boulware and Terrell Buckley.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Seminoles have some explosive weapons of their own in this fantasy event – Charlie Ward, plus Warrick Dunn, William Floyd, Peter Warrick and Anquan Boldin. The Husker Blackshirts who might be facing them on the other side of the line would be players the caliber of Grant Wistrom, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Trev Alberts and Mike Brown.
Lightning Quick Analysis Influences Vision
I decide to close my eyes, so I can analyze those imaginary rosters and sense any vibe that screams Ultimate Team. Not surprisingly, my analysis takes all of one minute and leads to an honest clairvoyant thought. Because I entered the exercise with great respect for both programs, I tried to predict a future event using the only supernatural ability and ultimate sensory contact I have in me.
I envision Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden on the same field, each equipped with their most incredible talent ever. I recall how Bowden came to Lincoln in late July to help honor Osborne as a fellow retiree. I see those two legends talking about this mythical game. Finally, it hits me. I imagine Bowden telling Osborne that this time, it would be okay for Nebraska to make the last-minute field goal to beat the Seminoles, 19-18, instead of missing one to lose, 18-16, like the Huskers did nearly 20 years ago in the Orange Bowl that pitted Ward against Frazier. Ward won the ’93 Heisman Trophy and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Frazier finished second in Heisman voting two years later after leading Nebraska to back-to-back national titles. He achieved College Football Hall of Fame status in May and will be inducted this December.
Five-Year 60-3 Record Paves Way to Elite Honor
Legendary coaches, of course, don’t evaluate make-believe competition. Nor do they explore fictional results that can only start the grill for the upcoming college football season. And please remember how one national columnist analyzed the Nebraska field goal that sailed wide left nearly two decades ago. He said that narrow escape didn’t prove that Florida State should be national champion. It just helped the Seminoles climb over No. 1 Nebraska and Notre Dame in the final polls.
Somehow, I can’t forget Florida State converting only 1 of 12 third-down plays. I can’t forget the Blackshirts sacking Ward four times and Alberts getting two. I can’t forget the missed field goal. But I will always remember what happened in the five seasons that followed that gut-wrenching loss. The Huskers won 60 of their next 63 games and three national championships, and that unparalleled five-year chunk of college football history is enough to earn Ultimate Team status by any measure, especially from fans who love to tweet with their heads and hearts at the same time.
N-Sider Note: Fans can visit ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile, and the ESPN CFB App to Tweet their votes for their favorite of two finalists using the hashtag ‘#UltimateTeam’. The Ultimate Team will be announced on Tuesday, August 6. To stay current on game details and latest announcements, visit the official EA SPORTS NCAA Football Facebook page and follow the EA SPORTS NCAA Football Twitter handle @EANCAAFootball.
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