- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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If the Big Ten Champions Tournament accomplishes nothing else, at least it will let us try to settle a debate that has raged for 15 years. Bring on this long-overdue matchup of:
No. 2 seed Nebraska 1997 vs. No. 3 seed Michigan 1997
Curse the BCS all you want, but if that system were in place in 1997, there would have been no split-national title controversy. Of course, Michigan was the No. 1 team in the final Associated Press poll after beating No. 8 Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl, while Nebraska was No. 1 in the coaches' poll following its 42-17 blowout of No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Legendary Huskers coach Tom Osborne announced his retirement before the bowl, which may have influenced his fellow coaches' votes.
So which team was more deserving? Nebraska averaged 46.7 points per game and won by an average margin of more than 30 points per game. The Huskers also needed a miracle against Missouri and edged Colorado by a field goal.
Michigan averaged 26.8 points per game and won by an average of more than 17 points per game. The Wolverines had close calls against Notre Dame, Iowa and Ohio State and had to hold on to win the Rose Bowl.
Common opponents: Michigan beat Colorado 27-3 and Baylor 38-3, both at home. Nebraska beat Colorado 27-24 and Baylor 49-21, both on the road.
Michigan had the better defense, Nebraska the better offense.
The computers favored Nebraska, but Michigan had been No. 1 all season.
Michigan had the Heisman Trophy winner in Charles Woodson. Nebraska had the Lombardi Award winner in Grant Wistrom and the Outland Trophy winner in Aaron Taylor.
So it's a tough debate, and it's a shame this game was never played on the field. But vote in our poll and decide a winner. Big Red fans always turn out in force, so Michigan fans will need to mobilize in support of their side as well.
Voting will close at 9 a.m. on Friday. And don't forget to drop me a line to break down this matchup and explain your vote. I'm sure there will be very strong opinions.