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Nebraska Path to College Football Playoff Still Exists, But Barely

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Although certainly buried underneath the bigger story lines near the top of the third College Football Playoff committee rankings this week, Nebraska’s drop three spots during a bye week is telling. Apparently the committee continues to be willing to punish teams severely for losses that look worse as the season goes along, and the Big Ten also fails to get the benefit of the doubt when comparing similar records.

Thus, Michigan State loses for a second time and Nebraska ends up suffering the consequence. The Cornhuskers are one of only ten teams in the Power Five conferences with fewer than two losses, but eight of those teams are in the top 8 of the CFP rankings while Nebraska sits at No. 16 (it could be worse, Duke is 8-1 and even lower at No. 21).

The general consensus is that Ohio State at No. 8 will have a hard time making the top 4 by the end of the season, while Nebraska has been apparently written off. However, a back-loaded schedule and some mitigating factors from previous opponents may create a small window of opportunity for Bo Pelini’s team to shoot back up in the rankings.

Despite what Andy said earlier this week about the Big Ten getting more respect from the committee, Nebraska will have to earn this jump in the rankings the hard way. They need to win big, and hope for more chaos than we’ve seen since the 2007 season, when a two-loss LSU squad took home the national title.

But it could happen, and here’s how.

The first step is obvious, win out and do so convincingly. The schedule is actually respectable the rest of the way, as Wisconsin and Ohio State/Michigan State (B1G Championship Game opponent) will be ranked when playing Nebraska, and Minnesota could be if the Gophers upset OSU this weekend. The road game at Iowa is also no simple task, as the Hawkeyes will have a winning record also. So 12-1 is a must.

Although Ohio State, UCLA, Arizona and Georgia each jumped past the Cornhuskers this week, it is unlikely that the next teams behind Nebraska will do the same thanks to LSU having three losses already and Notre Dame and Clemson being shells of their former selves this season. That means Nebraska must move past 12 of the 15 teams in front of them. Let’s break it down by conference:

  • SEC: (1) Mississippi State, (5) Alabama, (9) Auburn, (10) Mississippi, (15) Georgia
  • Pac-12: (2) Oregon, (6) Arizona State, (11) UCLA, (14) Arizona
  • ACC: (3) Florida State
  • Big 12: (4) TCU, (7) Baylor, (13) Kansas State
  • Big Ten: (8) Ohio State, (12) Michigan State

The most important piece of the puzzle and the most straightforward will be Florida State losing, preferably this weekend against Miami, which Nebraska defeated in non-conference play. Although FSU would not immediately drop behind Nebraska, the Cornhuskers would likely overtake the Seminoles at the end as a 12-1 conference champion, considering all of the struggles FSU has experienced in games this season (plus the Miami game comparison would be used). The Seminoles could hypothetically be knocked out by Florida or Duke as well, but Miami makes for a better case overall for Nebraska to jump past the Seminoles.

For the Big Ten, it may seem beneficial to have Minnesota be ranked next week when Nebraska plays them, but a more impressive victory at the end against a potential top-4 foe in Ohio State would be even better. Therefore, Nebraska needs to hope for OSU to win out and then lose in Indianapolis to the Huskers. Michigan State preferably needs to take on one more loss as well, and Maryland this week would be a good opportunity for that. However, if Nebraska defeats OSU convincingly, the Big Ten champion would likely jump a 10-2 MSU team despite the head-to-head result when these teams played in East Lansing. So winning out should jump Nebraska past both Big Ten teams ahead of it.

That leaves three conferences, and the goal will be to have each conference end up with only one legitimate playoff contender. Here’s how that can happen:

In the Big 12, Kansas State still faces tough road games at WVU and at Baylor. West Virginia knocked off the Bears and nearly did the same to the Horned Frogs in Morgantown, so it would be no surprise to see Kansas State take on a critical third loss there. Then the Wildcats need to take down Baylor, which is anchored down by a weak overall schedule already. There’s no way a two-loss Baylor squad ends up ahead of a 12-1 Big Ten champion, so that would leave only TCU ahead of Nebraska.

As a side note, TCU could also hypothetically lose at Texas, which is the last tough-ish game remaining for the Horned Frogs. If that happens, Nebraska may be able to survive having Florida State stay undefeated, as then the Big 12 would not have a playoff representative. So to summarize, only one of TCU or FSU can win out.

In the Pac-12, the easiest path will be to have all the South Division competitors lose another game, and this is totally plausible. UCLA has been inconsistent and must still play USC and Stanford, so the Bruins need to lose one of those games. Then the loser of Arizona and Arizona State would be eliminated on the last week of the season, with the winner going on to be eliminated in the Pac-12 title game by Oregon. An alternative path would be for Utah to beat Arizona, then Arizona to beat ASU, which would put UCLA in position to lose to Oregon again. Either way, all three of these teams need another loss and then a 12-1 Nebraska will jump everyone but Oregon in the Pac-12.

In the SEC, we will first assume Georgia takes on another loss either against Auburn, Georgia Tech or in the SEC championship (assuming Missouri loses again and lets Georgia get there). It just seems more likely that the SEC West champion will be the winner, anyway. Although it would be nice for Georgia to take out Auburn this weekend, that is not necessary for Nebraska to jump all but one of the SEC West teams.

Thanks to having all games left at home (and perhaps the strongest team in America when playing at home), Alabama is the logical choice to win out and stay ahead of Nebraska. That would mean Mississippi State has to lose twice, at Alabama and at Mississippi in the Egg Bowl. To keep Ole Miss from using that win to stay in front of Nebraska, the Rebels must be upset at Arkansas next weekend as well. Auburn would take a loss at Georgia and/or at Alabama in this scenario. Thus, the biggest reach necessary in the SEC is to have Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks finally win a SEC game, which would open the door for Nebraska.

So the playoff dream is a mighty long shot at this point, but it is still plausible. Essentially, Nebraska needs two major upsets from the following list:

  • Miami or Florida defeats Florida State
  • Texas defeats TCU
  • Arkansas defeats Ole Miss

Never say never Huskers fans, but the results must begin this weekend. Taking care of Wisconsin in Camp Randall will be task enough, but hope is still there for at least one more week.

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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Huskers Football

Huskers defense drives win over MSU

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Huskers Football

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?

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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.

“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.

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