The Nebraska Cornhuskers are one of just four teams to have won nine or more games in each of the last four years, so put that in your pipe and smoke it haters. OK, that may be a bit strong of a statement, but it does put in to perspective how hard it is to be a consistent winner in college football.
On the flip side, Bo Pelini has failed to do something that every other one of the other three teams (Alabama, LSU and Oregon) have done in that time — win a conference championship. With the realignment of the Big Ten, some believe this could be Pelini’s best chance at winning that elusive conference title.
However, the road back to Indianapolis won’t be as easy as some believe it will be. There are potential pratfalls in the non-conference slate and all throughout Nebraska’s Big Ten slate.
Will the Huskers survive a challenging (perhaps the most challenging of any contender) schedule and make it two of three years in Indianapolis to end the Big Ten season?
Let’s take a look at Nebraska’s 2014 schedule and see how we predict it going down.
Aug. 30 – vs. Florida Atlantic: WIN
This was supposed to be brother vs. brother; the Pelini’s facing off. Instead, Carl got himself fired amid allegations of illicit drug use, and now it will be a former Badger assistant, Charlie Partridge, going up to Lincoln to take on the Huskers. There are some interesting parts for Partridge to work with, but the talent gap is just too much and Nebraska shouldn’t have any issues handling this opening matchup. Consider it a great way to break Tommy Armstrong in as the full-time starter.
Sept. 6 – vs. McNeese State: WIN
It’s a good thing the schedule makers gave Nebraska a relatively light load to start the non-conference season because what comes after this is anything but a cakewalk. That said, McNeese State finished last season 10-3 on the year and made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs. At least this won’t be a below .500 FCS opponent, but the gulf in talent is immeasurable and Nebraska wins another one in easy fashion.
Sept. 13 – at Fresno State: WIN
Going out to Fresno State is never easy, as the Bulldogs have been sneaky good at home throughout the years. Fortunately for Nebraska, they are catching this squad as they are in rebuilding mode. Fresno State’s defense is better than most will give it credit for in Big Ten country and it showed up on film at times last season, so don’t expect this game to be as easy as the first two. Still, I’d be shocked if Nebraska doesn’t come out as 2-3 touchdown winners at the very least.
Sept. 20 – vs. Miami (FL): WIN
In the mid-90’s this would’ve been the premier matchup on the college football calendar, but in 2014 this game is anything but a prime time game despite it’s television spotlight. Miami (FL) has some potential stars on it, but it hasn’t been a nationally relevant program for a long time. A matchup between Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah is one of the best running back battles we’re likely to see all non-conference season in college football. For me, this game comes down to three facts: Nebraska is at home, Nebraska has the stronger defense and Miami’s quarterback situation is an absolute mess. It all adds up to a close win for the Huskers and a 4-0 start to the season.
Sept. 27 – vs. Illinois: WIN
The Big Ten scheduling gods gave the Huskers a nice gift in scheduling the Illini to open up conference play this season. One quick look at what is around the corner and you’ll see why. However, the Huskers challenge after a win over Miami (FL) is to not overlook an Illini squad that has talent to do damage with their offense. Letting off the gas won’t win Nebraska this game, but knowing Bo Pelini, he won’t let that happen internally. No slip up here, but a much closer game than a lot of people see it — look for a 10 point win for the Huskers.
Oct. 4 – at Michigan State: LOSS
Michigan State finally got over the hump in 2013, winning the Big Ten and also the Rose Bowl. Now the question is can they take on everyone’s best shot. Getting the Huskers early in the Big Ten slate could be advantageous to the Spartans, especially with this game at home. These one-time Legends division foes know each other well and are actually very evenly matched in 2014. Arguably they have two of the best defenses in the Big Ten, so I look at offense to play a key role in who wins this one. The difference is an experienced and winning quarterback named Connor Cook. Look for Michigan State to pull this one out at home, but it will be a TD or less.
Oct. 18 – at Northwestern: WIN
I don’t know if you can call a game on the road to Northwestern a reprieve, especially if you are Nebraska and have played a few classics against the Wildcats since joining the Big Ten. Last season it took a memorable last-second Hail Mary for Nebraska to win at home, and it was the biggest margin of victory for either team (3 points) since the Huskers joined the conference. This season it could be an interesting battle with an improving Northwestern defense and a team that appears much healthier entering 2014. Yet, the Huskers seem to have the better of the talent pool overall and I believe this will be the first time a game is decided by seven points or more. Huskers win this by exactly seven points.
Oct. 25 – vs. Rutgers: WIN
Rutgers will have found out just how rough life will be in the Big Ten by the time this matchup happens, and that means it could be a bruised and battered bunch when it comes in to Lincoln the last week of October. Unless the Scarlet Knights see significant improvement from quarterback Gary Nova it’s unlikely that it’s coming away from this game victorious.
Nov. 1 – vs. Purdue: WIN
Nebraska needs this win, mainly because a win in this game gives it some momentum in to the final stretch run against the rest of the top of the Big Ten West. At home against one of the worst Big Ten teams we’ve seen in a while? Let’s just put it this way, if Nebraska can’t win this game Bo Pelini doesn’t deserve his job. Huskers by 20-plus if you ask me.
Nov. 15 – at Wisconsin: LOSS
These two teams have played some memorable Big Ten matchups and arguably are the best aligned to have a real rivalry with the Huskers going forward. In 2014, this late season matchup could have big time implications — dare we say it could be the difference between going to Indianapolis or not? The truth is, Wisconsin doesn’t lose big time football games at home very often and that’s exactly how I see this one going. Additionally, the difference between these two teams is that Wisconsin has the trustworthier quarterback entering the 2014 season. It will be a good matchup to say the least, and it is my early candidate for potential game of the year.
Nov. 22 – vs. Minnesota: WIN
If there is a team with a bigger upside in the Big Ten West than Minnesota, I’d like to see it. That being said, the Huskers will have revenge on their mind and a ticked off demeanor coming off a close loss to Wisconsin the week before. Nebraska’s ability to put pressure on the Badgers even after the loss hinges on winning this game — lose one it’s no problem, but lose two in a row and the Huskers run the risk of derailing a promising season all together. That being said, Minnesota isn’t at home and Nebraska aren’t going through the issues they dealt with heading in to the game last year. Look for Nebraska to win this one in impressive fashion.
Nov. 29 – at Iowa: WIN
The question surrounding this game is just how much it will matter in the big picture of the Big Ten. It could give one a chance to win the West division, but it could also mean nothing depending on what these two do against Wisconsin in previous weeks. I’m looking at this game meaning more for the Huskers, and despite Kinnick Stadium being a difficult place to play, it’s the Huskers defense that will make the difference in 2014.
Overall Record: 10-2
Big Ten Record: 6-2
Huskers defense drives win over MSU
All the talk about Nebraska has been how Scott Frost would transform the Huskers offense. On Saturday, the defense made everyone stand up and take notice in a 9-6 win over Michigan State.
Nebraska managed to kick three field goals in the final quarter to win a game that didn’t see either side score a single touchdown.
“Good teams figure out how to win any kind of game, and that’s a different kind of game that I have been apart of as a coach, winning a game with no touchdowns,” said Nebraska head coach Scott Frost after the game.
“I am so happy for the seniors, so happy for the Blackshirts. Some of these games we’ve won, we’ve been winning on offense, and it was great to see the defense step up today.”
With the Huskers usually high-powered offense bottled up by Michigan State’s quality defense and really bad weather the defensive performance was badly needed.
It was also badly needed after last week’s performance in a shootout win over Illinois
Nebraska’s defense was hit for 35 points and needed to put up 54 points on offense to win. The Huskers defense came in to the game this week having never given up fewer than 34 points to any team in the Big Ten so far this season.
The Huskers defense also stood 12th in the conference, giving up an average of 33.8 points per game through 10 games.
Certainly this group was challenged following that performance against Illinois.
“Every week I’ve been coaching them there’s a little more fight. Today’s the most I’ve seen,” said Frost. “That’s a hard game to win. Even harder to lose. Our guys had to keep grinding, and the defense had to keep coming up with stops.”
Nebraska’s defense didn’t disappoint, holding MSU running back Craig Haward under 90 yards and quarterback Rocky Lombardi to just 145 yards on 15 of 41 passing.
No doubt the fact that MSU came in struggling on offense helped, but this was a huge step forward for the Huskers defense after its struggles earlier this season.
After starting the season 0-6, the Huskers have ripped off wins in 4 of the last 5 games.
In a season of transition, the fact that Nebraska’s defense was able to hold anyone without a touchdown is a massive step in the right direction. That fact wasn’t lost on the coaches or players following the crazy win.
For Chinander and Frost, it’s also a sign that this team is still listening and learning as what seems like a lost season to the outside world is far from it internally.
“I told the guys in the locker room if from a coaching standpoint, or pretty much on everything, I guess, the team could’ve started the season where it is right now, that would’ve been a funny act,” Frost said. “Some of the growing things we had to go through were necessary, and I’m crushed for the seniors we couldn’t get that done quicker.
“This team has been through so much and to be where it is right now and have the second half of the season it’s been having, it makes it really special. And I think the seniors will probably look back on this and think it was a pretty special season after all.”
Nebraska will have an interesting challenge ahead of it next week, as they will face the rival Iowa Hawkeyes after they just went off for a 63-0 victory over the Illinois team that just put up 54 points on Nebraska.
A win in the Heroes Game would be a great way to cap off what many believed was a lost season early on. Doing so with the Huskers defense getting some of its luster back would just be icing on the cake.
Keyshawn Johnson Jr. unsurprisingly transferring from Huskers
Following a summer pot citation and his dad pulling him from school, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. announces his transfer.
Did you know that Keyshawn Johnson Jr. was a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers program? Chances are, if you blinked you missed his time on campus.
That’s what happens when you get busted for pot possession and your dad brings you home to teach you a lesson or two.
The elder Johnson made sure to make a statement when pulling his kid out of school just days in to his time there. He made it clear that there were higher (no pun intended) expectations of his son.
“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family,” Johnson Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former 4-star recruit with the famous name isn’t going to continue his career at Nebraska.
On Friday, the younger Johnson announced his decision to not return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Trust the process… pic.twitter.com/xus0UQOmb4
— Keyshawn Jr. (@keyshawnnnn) December 15, 2017
The combination of his citation for marijuana possession and the coaching change likely sealed the deal for this move.
Johnson Jr. enrolled early, coming to Lincoln in January, but suffered an illness that he couldn’t shake for parts of spring practice. He appeared in the spring game, but caught just one pass for 7 yards.
Nebraska could use the depth at wide receiver, but with a new regime in place and his father having no relationship with the new staff this move is not surprising.
Frost turning to Florida to bring speed to Huskers program
Frost is leaning on his Florida ties in hoping to shape his roster in his image quicker than expected.
Scott Frost has technically only been on the job for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for less than a week, but he clearly has had a gameplan in place for a while now.
That much is evident not only by how quickly he’s gotten a staff together, but by the details on the recruiting trail.
Normally it takes time to evaluate what is on a roster in front of you and figure out what is needed. That process didn’t take long (or likely took place last week as he waited to take the job formally), because Frost has attacked the recruiting trail hard in his first week on the job.
So, what is his evaluation of the Huskers program? It is in need of speed, speed and more speed.
Frost has decided that in order to get his team up to speed he needs to do so buy finding that speed right in his old back yard.
It’s a move that makes sense, as Frost has built good relationships in Florida and that is where some of the best high school talent in the country exists today.
Nebraska’s 247Sports site, Huskers Illustrated, had a really good talk on the inner workings of what Frost has done already on the recruiting trail on this week’s Notorious B1G Podcast (because who doesn’t love an all-Big Ten recruiting podcast?)
Mike Riley and Co. spent less time on Florida and more time on the West Coast, which should’ve been expected given Riley’s ties in that direction. But, the crop of pure athletes out West is nothing compared to the depth of speed and athleticism that exists in Florida.
Ironically, Frost’s first offer came from out West as the No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was offered within hours of Frost getting the job.
That move and all the ones made since his hire show Frost has come in with a clear knowledge of his system, who fits it on the recruiting trail and who fits it currently on the roster. Having that kind of confidence and work-rate are a welcome sight in Lincoln.
But, Frost isn’t just hitting the ground running on the recruiting trail either.
He’s also been taking time to speak to the national media and spread the gospel of what he wants to build at Nebraska. Frost spoke on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and didn’t buy the notion that recruiting to Lincoln, Neb. is a difficult task.
“There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get kids to Lincoln, Nebraska,” Frost said, via Land of 10. “Kids leave places right now and go everywhere around the country. There’s no reason kids won’t go to Lincoln if they’re going to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Eugene, Oregon.
“And I think we’re going to create an environment, a football environment in Lincoln that people are going to want to be a part of.”
Success in turning a program around often hinges on the first recruiting class to come in. That’s not to say this class should be put at the feet of Frost and his staff entirely, but if they can put a stamp on an already nice class it could be the one that breaks a mediocre mold for the Huskers program.
No matter what, Frost and his staff aren’t afraid to be aggressive and go after the type of player they need. That alone has to be a refreshing sign of change for the Husker faithful.
Huskers hope Scott Frost hire brings back glory days
Native son returns home to lead program he once was the star quarterback of. Can the glory days return with the Huskers dipping in to their past?
What had become the worst-kept secret in college football’s coaching carousel became official on Saturday afternoon. Just hours after leading his UCF Knights to a crazy 62-55 double overtime win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Frost bolted for a gig back home.
UCF’s 247sports site announced the news, noting that Forst will not coach the team in the upcoming bowl game. However, after the AAC championship game, UCF’s AD noted that Frost and the entire coaching staff would coach through the Peach Bowl.
Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos named Frost the new Huskers head coach, ending a search many thought would start and end with Frost first.
There is no place like home.
There is no place like Nebraska.
— ❄️ Nebraska Football ❄️ (@HuskerFBNation) December 2, 2017
“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement released by the school. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be hereee. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.
“I am appreciative of the confidence Bill Moos and our University leadership have in me to lead this program. I would not have the opportunity to be in this position without a lot of great people who have helped me throughout my career. Specifically, I would like to thank Coach Osborne who has played such an integral role in my life over the past two decades, both on and off the field. Go Big Red!”
In bringing a native son and former Huskers quarterback in to the fold to lead the program, Nebraska is clearly hoping the magic of the mid 1990’s can rub off on the program once again.
Frost was integral in the Huskers success in the 90’s, where he was a star quarterback for two years after transferring home from Stanford. He led the program to a 24-2 record as the starter and became just the 10th player in major college football history to pass for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.
He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but was moved from quarterback to safety and just couldn’t find his way in the league.
While thoughts of Frost leading the Huskers offense are likely to bring smiles back to the Husker faithful, the reality of today’s program won’t.
It’s been a rough go since the calendar turned over to the year 2000, as the Huskers haven’t won a single conference championship since 1999.
Frost faces a big challenge, as the Huskers vaunted defense has fallen on hard times and the program just got done with a 4-8 season under Mike Riley. Luckily for the Husker faithful, Frost isn’t going to be caught off-guard by the challenges of a turnaround.
He took over a UCF program that went winless the year before he came to campus and had them 6-7 and going bowling in his first season. This year his team went undefeated in the regular season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers as the only two undefeated teams in the country after the regular season finished up.
Frost also led the Knights to the AAC championship despite a ton of off-field distraction surrounding his job status and rumors about Florida, Nebraska and Oregon interest in his services.
Now the pressure will be on to get the Huskers back to championship football, and soon.