Halloween weekend was supposed to be a celebration in Lincoln. The cancellations and weird scheduling quirks of the Big Ten schedule would finally wash away as Nebraska would play its first home game of 2020.
Now, Nebraska football is about to do something never-before-seen in the 21st century for the team: start the season with two games on the road. No home games in the first three weeks of a season is certainly unusual, but unusual has been par for the course in head coach Scott Frost’s time at Nebraska.
In 2018 the Nebraska season opener and Scott Frost’s return to Lincoln was canceled due to a storm, and last week the Huskers were a part of the first Big Ten game to be canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Badgers continue to be ravaged by the coronavirus, as their game this Saturday against Purdue has also been canceled. If the Badgers can’t play in one more game this year due to virus complications, they will lose a shot at making the Big Ten Championship game. If the Huskers want to make it to Indianapolis, though, they will have to come through in games not played within the confines of Memorial Stadium.
Scott Frost has coached back-to-back road games just once during his tenure at Nebraska. That came back in 2018, when the Huskers traveled to Wisconsin and then Northwestern. Nebraska went 0-2 on that trip and finished the season without a road win.
Unlike 2020, the 2018 team played five games before playing two consecutive road contests. This season, Nebraska won’t play at home until the midway point of the season.
With no home game on Halloween, Nebraska may seem to be at a disadvantage — even though a sellout crowd wouldn’t have been in attendance. However, home-field advantage in college football is on a downward trend.
Over the last nine years, home winning percentage has fallen across college football. This season is tougher to evaluate because conferences are on different schedules and have different rules in place when it comes to fan attendance.
For the Big Ten, road teams are 7-6 in 2020 and went 5-1 in week two. Teams have struggled at home thus far, but Frost’s teams at Nebraska have not been good on the road.
Nebraska has gone 2-9 on the road since Frost’s arrival in 2018. This is because Nebraska has fared poorly in the turnover battle on the road and the majority of those games have been decided by one possession.
Frost went 2-3 in away games in 2019 and three of those were decided by one possession. Games against Colorado, Purdue and Illinois all ended within one score, and the Huskers went 1-2. In 2018, Nebraska went 0-5 and had three close calls.
The Huskers went 0-3 in one-possession road games against Ohio State, Northwestern and Iowa. One possession games can come down to small things, such as a forced fumble or interception tilting the field.
A look at the teams on the above chart reveals something odd — the worst Power Five teams don’t commit the most turnovers on the road. The Huskers had 11 road turnovers and maintaining a decent turnover differential is often the difference between winning and losing.
In a conference like the Big Ten where home wins are harder to come by, Frost has been the exception to the rule. Frost’s road record and this season’s schedule does the Huskers no favors. The Huskers have two more road games after Northwestern, which also are in back-to-back weeks later in the year.
Frost and Nebraska will have to fix their road woes to become contenders in the Big Ten West. 2020 may be the best time to get that done.