Nebraska's football team began its history as the "Old Gold Knights", and was also sometimes known as the "Tree Planters", "Nebraskans", "The Rattlesnake Boys", "Red Stockings", "Antelopes" or "Goldenrods" in their early years.
Yet another new head coach arrived, as future College Football Hall-of-Famer Eddie Robinson arrived to take charge of the Bugeaters in their seventh season. Coach Robinson was the first to require physical evaluations for players, and this may have played a part in the roster dropping from 30 players last season to just 22 for 1896.
Nebraska hosted Doane in Lincoln for the eighth meeting of these squads. It was slow going at the start, but the Bugeaters still managed to put points slowly on the board. After remaining slow to start the second half, Doane began to bend and then break as they gave up a total of 20 points and the shutout. The series record moved further into Nebraska's favor, at 8-3. 
Conference play opened early in the season this year, as Nebraska finally traveled to Columbia to play the Tigers on their home turf instead of meeting them in Omaha or Kansas City. Missouri found the scoreboard first for the only points of the first half, but was unable to answer Nebraska's 8-point answer after the break. Missouri fell behind in the series 2-3.
Nebraska hosted neighboring Nebraska Wesleyan for the first time, but it was essentially a home game for both teams. At the time, NWU was located in the town of University Place, which would eventually be absorbed into the City of Lincoln. NWU's first points came as a result of a blocked Bugeater punt, and they came up with another touchdown before the half, but these points were never enough to take the lead at any point in the game. 
An error-prone beginning to the game kept the scoring lower than it might have been to start, but Kansas showed that they still had Nebraska's number, shutting out the Bugeaters in the second half on their way to the 18-4 win. Nebraska fell farther behind in the series, 1-4. 
University of Kansas records indicate that this game was played on November 8.
Nebraska traveled to Kansas City for their first meeting with the Kansas City Medics football team. It was agreed before the game start that the halves would be shorter, perhaps resulting in the lower-than-expected score. Any assumptions that Nebraska would roll were put down when the first half ended scoreless. The Bugeaters went ahead 6-0 in the second half and then survived a scare when the KC Medics scored their own touchdown with 30 seconds left to play, but missed the field kick after. 
The Butte Athletic Club made the very long journey to Lincoln to close the long-distance series began with Nebraska the previous year. Once again, the Bugeaters were dominated by the squad from Montana. Nebraska was holding on with a 6-6 tie after ten minutes, but was quieted for the rest of the contest as Butte pulled away. This was the last time these teams would meet, with the Butte AC owning the series record at 2-0. 
This was the first meeting between these teams, destined to one day be in the same conference when the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association formed in 1907, though Iowa State was at that time only an associate member. Eventually, that conference would evolve into the Big 6, Big 7, Big 8, and then indirectly into today's Big 12, of which Nebraska and Iowa State are active members. Iowa State was riding high on a 7-1 record as they came to Lincoln, and were sent home a little lower after suffering a 4-12 defeat at the hands of the Bugeaters. 
Hosting Nebraska Wesleyan for the second time of the year, Nebraska quickly jumped out to a 28-0 lead by halftime before backing off the pressure. NWU was playing without several key players, which did not help their situation. NWU did manage to get as close as Nebraska's 10-yard line at one point, but the game was never in doubt as Nebraska improved their series record over NWU to 2-0. With the two 1896 wins over Nebraska Wesleyan and the earlier victory over Doane on the books, the Cornhuskers were state champions for the second consecutive year. 
Thanksgiving Day arrived with heavy snows that kept some of the crowds away, and the slippery conditions led to a sloppy, unproductive match that ended with no points scored. In order to break the tie, the teams agreed to play for an additional ten minutes, again without producing any points. Both teams were unhappy with the tie result, and agreed to meet again in two days to settle matters. 
The rematch was held as scheduled just two days later, and the weather was marginally better. This time, Iowa was able to come up with 6 points in the first half, which would end up as the sole scoring of the game. Although this settled the matter between the squads as to who was the better team that year, it did not take the place of the conference game. As such, this loss to Iowa counted towards both teams' non-conference records but not towards the conference results. Even with Iowa unable to count the win towards their conference record, they still won the conference title outright, though Nebraska still barely owned the series record between them at 3-2-2.