It keeps being written that this would be an unprecedented achievement, but technically it would not. Over the years there have existed at least a dozen polling systems such as AP, UPI, Helms and the Football Writers, and several teams—USC and Minnesota in the 1930s and Army during the Blanchard-Davis era—have received No. 1 ranking from one poll or another for three straight seasons. What is true is that no team has ever finished No. 1 three years running in the AP poll, which has lately been conducted after the bowl games are over and is therefore more realistic than, say, the UPI, which closes before the bowl games. Nebraska and Bob Devaney, with two already won, have a shot, but considering the calibre of the Big Eight, it will not be easy.
"The pressure is sure around," says Devaney, "but so are the compensations. I like winning. But we know we have to lose sometime. It'll be a shock and a disappointment but you can't worry about it."
Devaney wanders around Lincoln absorbing advice these days. He got a lot of it last year before the big one with Oklahoma. "One guy had a great way to stop the Wishbone. It should have been; he had 12 men on defense," Devaney laughs.
Like any other winning coach, Devaney finds much of his time given over to the press. "We have good relations," he says. "Maybe it's because I learned a long time ago that you don't win an argument with them."
Devaney says, "It would be more fun if we had any time to laugh when we're winning. But you can only laugh from Saturday night until Sunday morning when you start looking at the film of that next opponent."
Bob Devaney would agree with John McKay that he doesn't try to recruit bad football players. He recruits good ones; therefore, Nebraska always has the ability to win. And he would surely agree with Darrell Royal or Duffy Daugherty that it's terribly bad luck not to have good athletes, or to have the fewest points on the scoreboard after 60 minutes.
And unlike the others who've faced the same problems, Devaney is superstitious in another way. He and his staff collect pennies for luck. They've also collected a Johnny Rodgers, a Rich Glover and a Willie Harper, which is luckier still.
If Nebraska somehow does it for a third time, it will be Devaney and his people who do it. A Rodgers and a Glover and a Harper—and all those others—have always been the best way to get in the race for No. 1.