After a loss to UCLA in early September, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini started to feel the temperature on his seat increase by a few degrees. However, the Cornhuskers rebounded by winning three games – albeit against overmatched opponents – and had some momentum going into a road date at Minnesota.
But any momentum Nebraska had was lost on Saturday, as the Cornhuskers lost 34-23 to the Golden Gophers.
The Cornhuskers have problems on both sides of the ball, and quarterback Taylor Martinez now has a hip pointer and is questionable to play in Week 10. If Martinez doesn’t start, freshman Tommy Armstrong will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
While the offense is a concern, the defense is a bigger issue for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are allowing 5.8 yards per play and have allowed 20 or more points in four games.
Pelini is feeling the heat once again after losing to Minnesota. Even at 5-2, Pelini can’t be too confident about his job status, especially with a brutal November slate that features games against Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan.
Will Bo Pelini Coach at Nebraska in 2014?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After losing to Minnesota, Bo Pelini is coaching for his job in the final month of the season. Under Pelini, Nebraska has won at least nine games in every season but doesn’t have a BCS bowl appearance and has just one top-15 finish (2009) in the final Associated Press poll. And the defense – Pelini’s strong suit – ranks ninth in the Big Ten in yards allowed. It’s fair to wonder if the expectations in Lincoln are a tad too high, especially as the program transitions to the Big Ten. However, this is Nebraska and championships are expected. The Cornhuskers could be without quarterback Taylor Martinez this Saturday against Northwestern, and the schedule won’t get easier with games against Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to close out the year. None of those five games are guaranteed victories for Nebraska. Even though Pelini seems to be losing ground, I think he will be back for another year in 2014. However, that’s banking on the Cornhuskers getting to eight or nine wins in 2013. And if Pelini returns next year, expect him to be on a short leash in terms of job security.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d imagine the only way Bo Pelini remains at Nebraska is if the Cornhuskers win the Big Ten and reach the Rose Bowl. That’s still a possibility, of course. The Huskers still have games to play against Michigan and Michigan State for the division, and 7-1 in the Legends would be a pretty big feat. But the reality is that things look pretty dire for Pelini. The program has plateaued, and part of that plateau the last five seasons has included ranked Nebraska teams losing to unranked opponents. The defense, supposedly Pelini’s strong suit, isn’t getting any better, and the Huskers are looking at a new quarterback in 2014. Pelini has put the program on steadier footing since the Bill Callahan era, but there’s no momentum left. If Pelini is still the coach in 2014 and he doesn’t have a Big Ten title, it’s going to be awfully difficult for him to recruit or keep the support of people outside the program. Nebraska may not want to look for a coach when USC and potentially Texas are open, but the Huskers may have no choice.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Needless to say, the next five weeks are critical for Bo Pelini's future at Nebraska. Best case scenario, the Huskers win four of the final five games, finish 9-3, clinch the Legends Division title and get crushed in the Big Ten title game by Ohio State. That would give Pelini his fourth division crown, an 0-4 record in conference title games and a sixth consecutive season with at least four losses. That might be the BEST case scenario for a team that just got run (literally) out of the building by Minnesota. That situation would offer one of the more unique coaching resumes ever constructed: Four division crowns and 24 losses in six seasons. Frankly, that is difficult to do and it would mean a major decision has to be made in Lincoln. However, odds are the much-maligned Nebraska defense costs the Huskers more than just one game the rest of the way, and Pelini misses out on the Big Ten title game altogether. That’s not good news for a coach who already has a tenuous relationship with his fanbase, administration and media. It feels like both parties might be benefit from an amicable divorce.
Make no mistake, Saturday's road loss to Minnesota did Pelini no favors, but Nebraska still is very much in the hunt for the Legends Division title. That was the Cornhuskers' first conference setback with games against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa left. If Big Red runs the table then guess who's going to Indianapolis? I know this may seem far-fetched right now, but the only two road games are in Ann Arbor and State College. The rest, including the pivotal meeting with the Spartans in the middle of November, are at home. At worst, Nebraska looks to have a reasonable shot at nine wins, either before or including the bowl game, which is what Pelini has done ever since he took over in 2008. I know that Husker fans have lofty expectations, and Pelini has had his share of inexplicable losses, head-shaking moments and stuck his foot in his mouth on more than one occasion. However, the bottom line is he is 54-22 overall and 31-12 in conference play as Nebraska's head coach. Does it really make sense to fire someone who has won more than 70 percent of his games? Can you guarantee me that this program will be better off in 2014 with someone other than Pelini? You would certainly be hard-pressed to find someone as colorful, that's for sure.