As the mighty Nittany Lions of 1994 were putting the finishing touches on an unblemished regular season on Nov. 26 against Michigan State, the 96,493 fans in attendance were thinking ahead.
"Roses are red, Lions are blue, Penn State's not #2," read a sign held by fans in Beaver Stadium during the 59-31 laugher.
As it turned out, that sign's message was not shared by the media and coaches come January 1995.
No. 2 Penn State, 11-0, went to Pasadena, Calif., and took on the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.
The No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 12-0, went to Miami to play the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.
Both Penn State and Nebraska won their respective bowl games, but Penn State finished the season ranked a spot behind Nebraska in both the AP and the Coaches' Polls though both teams had finished their seasons undefeated.
This was a hotly debated topic in the Penn State community. At the time, then-governor-elect of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, sent the late former head coach Joe Paterno a letter saying, "...soon after my inauguration on January 17, I will issue and [sic] official proclamation declaring the Associated Press and Cable News Network football polls to be null and void within the borders of Pennsylvania."
Of course, 1994 was not the only year in which a debate such as this arose. Under the NCAA's various bowl systems, whether they were named the Bowl Coalition (as it was in 1994) or the Bowl Championship Series (as it is now), college football has been void of a playoff for decades.
Starting in 2014, though, there will be no longer be a BCS. On June 26, a presidential oversight committee agreed on a four-team playoff system, the first of its kind in major college football. Had such a system been in place in 1994, there would have been a much more definitive No. 1 in the nation.
However, then-head coach and current athletic director of Nebraska Tom Osborne had an idea for a little playoff of his own before this debate could even get heated.
Osborne said he gave Paterno a call at some point in between the completion of the regular season and the start of the teams' bowl games to ask if Paterno would be interested in something of a de facto National Championship game between the two teams.
It would have probably been a way to more accurately define a national champion, and at the very least, settle a great deal of dispute.
Nonetheless, Paterno was obliged to decline, telling Osborne he was bound by the Big Ten's long-standing contract with the Rose Bowl. According to Husker Extra, on his radio show, Osbourne said, "We would've given anything to play Penn State at a neutral site rather than [go to Miami to play Miami]."
And that's just the way it was.
And according to those who were closely involved with Paterno at the time, he kept the conversation to himself.
Former defensive coordinator and former interim head coach Tom Bradley said Paterno never conferred with him about Osbourne's proposal.
"I don't know anything about that," Bradley said. "I've never heard that one time in 18 years."
Paterno didn't share the phone call proposal with a close friend, either. Fran Fisher, former long-time Penn State broadcaster and close friend of Paterno's, was also in the dark until notified about the call during an interview.
"No, I didn't know any such thing happened," Fisher said. "I knew there was some controversy in '94 with Penn State people thinking, of course, that Penn State should have gotten the national championship. And there was speculation among fans, 'why don't we challenge them, why don't we challenge them?' But I never heard anything about a contact between Tom Osborne and Joe Paterno about the potential of playing."
Bradley suggested that Fran Ganter, the offensive coordinator of the '94 team, might have been told about it, but said he couldn't be sure.
It is a safe assumption that had the game been played, it would have been massively popular with fans. Both Penn State and Nebraska were powerhouses beyond their spotless records.
The '94 Penn State squad scored 47.8 points per game that year, the fourth-highest total in NCAA history. That group of Nittany Lions was the first in the history of the Big Ten to go 12-0 in a season.
Three top nine picks in the 1995 NFL Draft -- running back Ki-Jana Carter (No. 1), quarterback Kerry Collins (No. 5) and tight end Kyle Brady (No. 9)-- came from that Penn State team.
Meanwhile, the '94 Cornhuskers of the now-dissolved Big Eight conference had the best rushing offense in the nation that year and the fourth-best total defense. They allowed a paltry 55 points in conference play. Nine of their players were named to the All-Big Eight first team.
Had the current four-team playoff been in place at the end of 1994 season, the probable playoff field would have consisted of Nebraska, Penn State, Miami and Colorado, who were the Top 4 teams in the AP Poll prior to the playing of the bowl games.
Though Paterno declined Osborne's trailblazing offer, former cornerback Tony Pittman said he and his teammates don't have any regrets about their 1994 campaign.
"You know, yeah I am," answered Pittman when asked if he's fine with the way things turned out. "I talk to a lot of my teammates and we rarely comment on that. I think we feel like, if anything, we helped usher in some change in college football, because that was clearly a year where one and two were clear and could play."
Pittman said there was no way Paterno would have accepted the offer without first conferring with his players.
Pittman said members of the '94 team don't dwell on their second place finish.
"I think we felt like we had done everything we were asked to do, and won the 'Granddaddy of Them All,'" Pittman said. "...We didn't really think all that much about Nebraska and we just kind of moved on after that game."
Fans, meanwhile, are left to wonder what could have been.