Some of the younger Huskers were reaching for a chocolate milk while in kindergarten the last time it happened.
And Kyler Reed? He was just 9 when Nebraska last stood atop its conference as champion, king of the Big 12 in 1999.
This is a drought that is impossible to ignore within the Husker camp, especially among those veterans who saw missed conference championship opportunities in 2009 (by one second to Texas) and 2010 (by three points to Oklahoma).
"We’ve been flirting with greatness too long now," said Reed, Nebraska’s senior tight end. "We’ve been good, but we’re tired of being good. We want to be great again."
The team doesn't set its season goals until fall camp starts, he says.
“But, yeah, it’s the goal,” Reed said of a conference championship. “It’s the main goal. There’s obviously a lot of little goals that have to be done before that. But it’s the main goal.”
While the Huskers reach for that goal, one thing Bo Pelini and his players say they’re paying little attention to are the preseason prognostications.
Reed was not even aware that one informal media poll had the Huskers picked third in the Legends Division — behind Michigan and Michigan State — until he was asked about it at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week.
“If people think third is where we’re going to project, that’s fine,” Reed said. “But what it comes down to is the Saturdays in the season.”
“I could care less,” Pelini said of the preseason guesswork. “It doesn’t matter to me whether they pick us first or last.”
A year ago, Nebraska was favored in the same media poll to win the Big Ten.
And when the Huskers arrived at media days as the new kid on the block, they were surrounded by cameras and microphones, the biggest storyline at the event.
This year, Nebraska blended into the background, with mostly just local scribes trailing Pelini and the three players that came with him.
Is there motivation to be found by being under the radar?
Maybe a little, Reed said. But you can’t get too carried away with that type of thinking.
“I don’t want to get into that routine where I need to be an underdog to be motivated for a game,” he said. "If we were projected first, we’d still need to have huge motivation. Being predicted third shouldn’t be the main reason we’re getting pumped for a game.”
While the offseason prognostications fly, Pelini said his program has been thinking “outside the box” in its training regimen — though he was hesitant to give away secrets about what that type of thinking entails.
Running back Rex Burkhead said competition is being stressed more in every exercise, with attention to detail always at the forefront.
“Stuff where we’ll have to be perfect and if we’re not, we have to be perfect again,” Burkhead said. “Adding that mental component to make sure we’re always perfect.”
The mix of different workouts has kept players on their toes, sometimes even forcing them out of their comfort zone, the senior says.
Whether it increases the win total for Nebraska, who knows? But Burkhead figures it can’t hurt as the Huskers look to break that conference championship drought.
“We’re not sticking to the same things we’ve always done,” he said. “Because if we do that, that’s the team we’re always going to be.”