Back in early August, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost bluntly expressed how strongly he felt about getting a 2020 fall football season in the books after the Big Ten opted to postpone theirs. "Our university is committed to playing no matter what, no matter what that looks like and how that looks. We certainly hope it's in the Big Ten." Last Wednesday, the passion he and his team have displayed over recent weeks was rewarded as the conference reversed course.
Testing, logistics, and fan participation remain topics ripe for weekly debate. But as we turn our attention back to Big Ten football following the celebration of its return, considerable uncertainty remains in Lincoln.
1. How does the new schedule impact Adrian Martinez's potential success?
Martinez has personally been done a service with the continued shortening of Nebraska's year, at least on paper.
Yet to experience an injury-free season, the likelihood increases with the slate being trimmed from 10 opponents one month ago to nine. Appearing slimmed down from his 2019 form is a notable step towards recapturing the magic that made him a preseason Heisman darling.
Should those protecting him hold up their end, Martinez has the best chance to require the least amount of medical attention since arriving on campus.
2. How comfortable are Frost and Matt Lubick with their passing attack?
One thing that hasn't changed in several months is the mystery surrounding not only new coordinator/wide receivers coach Lubick's impact on Frost's offense but how the Huskers address their immediate demand for impact receivers.
Wan'Dale Robinson is but one person, after all. Fortunately, Omar Manning's continued presence gives Frost a second starter he can use a Sharpie to put atop the depth chart.
The identity of a reliable third wideout is a puzzler. Spring practice was called early, but favorite names to pencil in have no doubt emerged under the radar considering the number of high-ceiling options littering Nebraska's roster.
Alante Brown, converted tight end Chris Hickman, and true freshman Zavier Betts all offer diverse skill sets and athleticism among others.
3. Has the performance gap between the defensive front seven and secondary lessened?
The Huskers have taken advantage of allowed practice hours but only so much can be accomplished in half of a standard 9-to-5 workweek.
Still, baby steps in the right direction can be taken. A brand-new starting defensive line having formed some level of a bond isn't out of the question. By the same token, struggles seen by the Blackshirts' linebackers aren't going to magically disappear but fundamentals can be stressed when taking to the FieldTurf.
Despite what improvements have been made by defensive coordinator Erik Chinander's front seven, the secondary was gifted the services of touted junior college transfer Nadab Joseph. The highly-coveted 6-foot-2, 193-pounder out of Miami was a blessing after the departures of Jaiden Francois and Henry Gray.
If anything, Joseph's addition only set the bar for the remainder of the defense to reach even higher.
4. How well can the Huskers roll with the punches?
With the usual metrics of how we judge a team's ability to adapt now shaken to their core, we're sure to see an evolution of the "Next Man Up" mentality. Common injuries will still happen but positive COVID-19 tests might very well sideline not only key players but perhaps an entire unit.
Should half of Frost's expected starting offensive line from week one suddenly be kept from playing, the effect it would have on his weekly strategy can't be minor.
5. Does the 2020 season actually matter?
This is a question worthy of Plato's or Socrates' consideration. And much like philosophy in general, the answer depends on who you ask. It's hard to argue that having no season wouldn't have been a severe setback in Frost's long-term project to bring Nebraska back to national prominence.
Sitting on the sideline while other conferences clash would've provided a substantial amount of powerful negative recruiting material. Combined with rust formed thanks to a scuttled spring and Frost could've found himself back at square one if not in the hole.
We do have to consider what put the conversation of a Big Ten reboot back in the national spotlight to begin with. Frost and his players stoked a rallying cry that spread across the nation. Ultimately, it came down to teams demanding to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Their energy and the pressure generated may not have been the biggest domino to fall in what eventually causes toe to meet leather in Big Ten stadiums this fall but it certainly helped.
Yes, the 2020 season as a whole will come with an asterisk. But Nebraska wanted to see it happen long before today. In that regard, it absolutely matters.
Podcast: The Big Ten Returns & Week 3 Preview