Why does greatness elude Osborne? One widely accepted explanation is that he has relied on a one-dimensional option offense and on big, corn-fed linemen who can dominate their Big Eight counterparts but are too slow for the opponents they have faced in the bowls. Lately, however, Osborne has added more passing schemes and recruited smaller, swifter linemen and linebackers. The '93 Cornhusker squad is the quickest in years, and Alberts may be the fastest linebacker in college football.
Another chapter in the book on Osborne reads that he is too boring to uplift a team. "He is not a motivational-type guy," says Rodgers. "He's not a general. If you can't pump the guys up, you need someone on the staff who can." Osborne's staff, some observers believe, is not among the best in college football. No assistant of Osborne's has gone on to excel as a head coach elsewhere.
In the end, though, a great coach should be larger than life. The statesmanlike Paterno is revered, and the colorful Bowden (who, no one needs to remind Osborne, is also without a national championship) is beloved. Osborne is unapologetically ordinary. And he gets satisfaction from the notion that with or without a title, he may never leave Nebraska.
"There's no place I'd prefer to get to," he says.