Once again, it was an eventful week for Nebraska athletics. There’s a lot to break down, so without further adieu, here’s five for thought:
1. If you think this Nebraska season has been stressful already, it’s only going to get worse.
This season has been a disappointment to anyone who follows Nebraska football. Losses to Minnesota and Ohio State were understandable and predicted by many prior to the season. But it’s jarring to see Indiana beat Nebraska in Lincoln, even if it had superior talent on the field on Saturday.
It’s worth noting that Nebraska’s three conference losses have come against teams with a combined 22-2 record. The Huskers have games coming up against teams that are 2-6 and 3-5, but also two games against 6-2 foes. If the law of averages continues to play out on this season, that should send Nebraska to a 6-6 finish and likely a Christmas in Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26.
That’s certainly easier said than done at this point, though. Purdue’s offensive scheme is built to give defenses like Nebraska’s fits, and freshman quarterback Jack Plummer has shown a lot of promise taking over this season. He also may get Jeff Brohm’s favorite weapon, wide receiver Rondale Moore, back from injury this weekend.
Saturday is the type of game that takes a great deal of toughness to win. It’s likely going to be a half-empty stadium for an early kickoff in cold weather. We’ve seen this story plenty of times before in recent history.
Even if Nebraska knocks off Purdue, there will be plenty of stress around winning that sixth game. The Huskers’ first chance would be following the second bye week against Wisconsin at home. If they can’t win there, then it’ll be a similar scenario to this upcoming weekend when they play at Maryland. If they somehow can’t pick up six wins by then, there will be a lot of nervous eating on Thanksgiving with the Huskers playing Iowa with the postseason on the line the following afternoon.
In an ideal world, Nebraska takes care of business at Purdue this weekend, gets healthy over the bye week and takes advantage of a Wisconsin team that will likely be banged up from playing Iowa one week prior, reinvigorating the spark inside the program going into the offseason.
But lately, when has anything about Nebraska football been ideal?
2. Scott Frost’s latest postgame press conference should help fans keep the faith
I can only think of one previous postgame press conference from Frost where he was more upset about the status of his program. That happened last September following the loss to Purdue, and he had a similar tone on Saturday night.
Frost was accurate in his recurrent assessment of his team being “just OK” up to this point in the season. There’s been a lot of “just OK” around Nebraska football for the past five years, and that is still progress from the previous two seasons.
The difference between last year and this year is with the team itself. Last year, the senior captains held a private meeting following the Purdue loss and vowed to make changes and then implemented said changes immediately. This year, it’s fair to question if the team would completely buy into that.
But regardless of how this season plays out, fans should feel good about the coaching situation at Nebraska. It’s clear they have a coach who genuinely cares about succeeding for the sake of the program, not just for himself. At this point, it’s still fair to trust that Frost will do whatever it takes to build a successful program, and that hasn’t been the case here for quite some time.
3. A few thoughts on Indiana
Honestly, the bigger story on Saturday was Indiana. The Hoosiers finally reached bowl eligibility after falling painfully short the previous two years. Head coach Tom Allen has a lot in common with Frost as well.
Allen is coaching at the flagship school in his home state, and has been genuine and transparent throughout his tenure about how he’s feeling. He coached an incredible game, and his players made some huge effort plays that won them the game. If you’re one of the several thousand Indiana football fans in this world, you should feel pretty good about the direction of your program.
Also, Nebraska’s crossover opponent from the east division for the next several years is Ohio State before it changes to Michigan. Indiana’s crossover opponent will always be Purdue under this current divisional alignment. It’s truly a shame that Indiana and Nebraska will only play once every three years, because their first two meetings have been very good games.
4. Sans Nebraska, the Big Ten race continues to heat up
With three Big Ten losses, it would take a miracle for Nebraska to wind up in Indianapolis in December. That being said, both divisional races have already delivered some incredible drama before the final month of the season.
Iowa and Wisconsin are now tied for second place in the west, both two games behind unbeaten Minnesota. What? All three teams get next week off before Iowa plays Wisconsin and Minnesota hosts unbeaten Penn State.
Meanwhile, Ohio State continues to state its case as the best team in the country, if not one of the best teams in college football history. After the Buckeyes suffocated Wisconsin over the weekend, it’s fair to wonder if this team might have more NFL talent than the 2001 Miami team.
Despite how impressive Ohio State has looked, Penn State and Michigan should both have a puncher’s chance against the Buckeyes. Penn State’s defense is one of the best in the country, and freshman running back Noah Cain is quickly developing into the latest elite Penn State running back.
Meanwhile, the rumors of Jim Harbaugh’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Wolverines dominated Notre Dame in prime time, and Josh Gattis’s new offense looks better every week.
Speaking of exaggerated demises, remember Lovie Smith? As it turns out, four years of strong recruiting paid off and his Fighting Illini are 4-4 with a bowl berth within reach. Of their four losses, only the Minnesota defeat wasn’t close, either. Too bad most of the Big Ten media had him fired before the season started.
5. We get to see Nebraska basketball play publicly for the first time on Wednesday.
Fred Hoiberg’s completely revamped roster played its first domestic opposition on Saturday afternoon, losing 89-75 at Wichita State in a closed scrimmage. On Wednesday, Oct. 30, the Huskers will host Doane University, which is already 0-2 on the season. The Tigers went 9-21 last season as well.
There likely won’t be many takeaways from this game, as it is yet another chance for Hoiberg to tinker with lineups prior to the season starting in just over one week.