The 2018 Nebraska football team has looked like anything but a team. A collection of talent, but not a fully functional unit. It’s clear that head coach Scott Frost inherited a program that’s not totally unlike UCF was in terms of its mentality when he walked through the door. This is a program that has forgotten how to win and you don’t build that culture overnight.
When asked about any parallels he saw between his second rebuild project and his first in Orlando following Nebraska’s loss to Troy on Saturday, he said, “I think anytime you’re trying to get something fixed you have to figure out how to win, you have to figure out how not to make mistakes that get you beat. Year ones, usually in close games, those teams don’t win the close games. By year two, when you have culture and everything established, usually you win those close games. We’re not doing the little things right to win close games, and we’ve been in two of them. We’re 0 and 2.”
The best thing the Huskers can do right now is focus on baby steps towards strengthening that mentality. Getting to a bowl game would be huge for that, so let’s put aside winning the Big Ten or even the division for now. Practice makes perfect and the Big Red needs all of that it can get. Despite being off to its worst start in 61 years, all is not lost and Nebraska can still represent the Big Ten in December.
First and foremost, we look to the game planned to be scheduled due to the season opener against Akron being canceled thanks to severe weather. For those fans excited about the prospect of scheduling UCF, Iowa State or any team with a pulse, perhaps it’s crystal clear why that’s simply not in the cards right now.
Nebraska needs an absolute sure thing in a team so beneath them, they are the living embodiment of an NCAA Football 14 directional FCS school. It may be a track meet that becomes so boring that everyone in attendance is praying for a running clock, but it’s a necessity.
Second, Nebraska does still have some very winnable games on its conference slate. Illinois and Purdue should both provide positive outcomes as Illinois is... well, Illinois and Purdue seems to have taken a somewhat surprising step back from last year sans the work of Rondale Moore.
The next steps offer more difficult challenges in Minnesota and Northwestern. The good news is that by this point in the season, Nebraska fans likely see a much more effective team thanks to experience. The bad news is that Minnesota looks to be another slugfest at this point and Northwestern appears to have the edge on the road for the time being.
Finally — and the most difficult part of this journey — is that Nebraska must score what should be considered a pretty major upset considering what we’ve seen thus far. The opportunities for that begin as soon as this weekend when the Huskers travel to Michigan. However, that win seems extremely unlikely as do ones at Wisconsin and Ohio State.
The best chances are versus Michigan State — a team that struggled to beat Utah State and lost to Arizona State — and Iowa. These games come on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium and on the last day of Nebraska’s regular season, respectively.
Following this 0-2 start, there is absolutely no margin for error. There are plenty of games left that the Huskers likely lose and potentially do so in a big way. However, if they’re able to come together and Adrian Martinez is able to make a heroic comeback, they do have a shot at regaining a dynamic offense with his addition alone and chalk up necessary wins.
No matter the game, it’s not about style points anymore, but simply winning even if by a point. It’s all about getting to December with enough wins to warrant a trip to any locale no matter how many bright lights or how... quaint. It’s pretty clear Nebraska needs all the work it can get. Now it’s just a matter of walking a very thin tightrope in order to get as much practice time in as possible heading into 2019.'
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces), and keep up with the Quick N Dirty podcasts on his Patreon page.