Of all the seasons where Nebraska football could use an extra idle week, it would be this one. Thankfully for the team, the media and the fans, we have reached the second idle week of the season. Here’s five for thought after another unbelievable loss on Saturday.
1. On Nebraska’s loss to Purdue
I feel like I’ve been saying this at least once a month since head coach Scott Frost took over, but Saturday’s loss was yet another accumulation of incredibly minute errors that turned out to be costly. It was clear that the Huskers had more talent on the field than Purdue, but still struggled with basic execution.
Adrian Martinez certainly showed a lot of rust in the first half, but his play in the second half was encouraging. He missed some easy throws, but also had several ‘wow’ moments that we hadn’t seen from Martinez for most of this season. Two in particular that stood out were his evasion of a sack on a fourth-down conversion and a pair of completions on a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter.
It was another concerning performance by the defense, especially when they were allowing Purdue to run the ball with ease with a third-string quarterback in. Freshman quarterback Jack Plummer had some impressive moments, and his play in the second and third quarters showed why the Boilermakers may be a sleeper pick to win the Big Ten West next year.
Despite the embarrassing result, the Huskers did make improvements in this game. The start of the third quarter was their best of the season, picking up two sacks on third downs and running the clock on offense. There were a couple of fumbles, but neither were recovered by Purdue.
Most impressively, special teams had another outstanding game. Sophomore kicker Barret Pickering had an easy day with two chip shot field goals and three extra points, both kickoff units set up favorable field position, Isaac Armstrong had a much better showing with no shanked punts and the punt return unit brought pressure on Purdue all game. The only notable miscue was Brody Belt opting to return a kickoff instead of calling for a fair catch with just over one minute left.
2. I said it last week but I think it bears repeating…
If you think this season has been frustrating, stressful and at times painful to watch, it’s only going to get worse. I am convinced that Nebraska will be 5-6 going into a short week of preparation for the Iowa game on Black Friday.
Saturday’s result just strengthened my belief in this happening. If the Huskers manage to shock Wisconsin in two weeks, they’ll almost certainly overlook Maryland and have another blunder on the road. If they lose to the Badgers, they’ll likely knock off a very bad Maryland team that would have nothing to play for by that point.
So many 5-7 teams have seasons like Nebraska’s. They have high preseason aspirations, stumble at home against a superior team, then slowly sputter until they lose a game to a team they had no business losing to. Then, their postseason fate is decided by a rivalry game in the final week of the season. Indiana and Purdue have played this sequence out in both of the past two seasons, and Nebraska had a similar fate back in 2015.
So brace yourselves. Nebraska will likely be playing Iowa at home on a short week of preparation where a win will likely send the Huskers to the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26 in Detroit and a loss will make it three straight years without postseason practice. Fun!
3. A quick peek at the bowl picture:
At 4-5, this may not be something many people in Nebraska are doing, but I did a little math on the bowl situation for this season after Saturday’s games. 78 teams will earn bowl bids this season, and as of Nov. 2, there are 42 teams with six or more wins.
There are another 19 teams currently one win away from bowl eligibility, and then there are 28 teams two wins away, including Nebraska. Should Nebraska finish 5-7, it would need a lot of help to reach a bowl game. If there aren’t enough six-win teams to fill all 39 bowl games, the five-win teams with the highest APR scores will get bowl invites.
Nebraska finished tied for 41st with an APR score of 977 this year. Of the 40 teams in front of the Huskers, 20 already have six wins. Nine of the teams ahead of Nebraska have five wins, and seven teams already have six or seven losses and will likely have eight or more losses by the end of the season. That leaves Nebraska in a pool of about five teams with four wins that could potentially get a bowl bid if they don’t reach six wins.
I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening.
4. Nebraska and Penn State had yet another classic on the volleyball court Saturday night.
It is truly incredible how great of a series this has been since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. I would put this rivalry right up there with Duke-North Carolina in terms of the level of play. The fact that the Huskers managed to win this game while grieving the death of a graduate assistant all week is truly impressive, and once again Nebraska volleyball continues to set the standard for excellence in the athletics department.
Also, Martin Herz wrote an outstanding recap on the match in case you missed it.
5. Take a break from football these next two weeks and enjoy the start of the Fred Hoiberg era of Nebraska basketball.
It’s been a long, dramatic and draining football season in Nebraska this year. The November portion of Nebraska basketball’s season should provide none of those feelings.
There are no expectations for this team with 13 new players on the roster. Hoiberg’s offensive system is incredibly fun to watch, with the pace and spacing of it making any scoring droughts a lot more bearable. And don’t let the new offense distract you from Doc Sadler’s proven defense, which overpowered Doane in Nebraska’s exhibition and should be successful against a weak early schedule.
Junior point guard Cam Mack is a lot of fun to watch, and is one of those players who makes everyone around him better. There will likely be some tough losses when Nebraska gets into conference play in December, but enjoy this first month of watching a completely new team learn to play with each other.
That should be better for your heart rate than football, anyway.