Following Nebraska football has never been relaxing. This summer started two of Nebraska’s best offensive players leaving the program, and ended with a new athletic director and an NCAA investigation.
This has made Nebraska in general and Frost in particular the source of yet another round of bad publicity nationally, which is never helpful for a struggling program. And given the struggles Nebraska has gone through in the last few years, it seems like there’s a million problems to fix.
But really, there’s just one. Fix this, and everything else pretty much falls into place.
What’s this silver bullet, you ask? Well (assuming you didn’t read the headline and spoil it), just stop putting up bad losses.
In this context, I’m defining a bad loss as a team that Nebraska – even as currently constituted – should be beating more often than not. Take a walk with me over the last three years at the bad losses Nebraska has piled up – if you dare
Colorado 33, Nebraska 28. The Buffaloes were coming off a dreadful season, and Nebraska gave new head coach Mel Tucker a gift.
Troy 24, Nebraska 19. I don’t care that Adrian Martinez was hurt. I don’t care that Troy is one of the better G5 programs, especially in 2018. Losing to a Sun Belt team at home is always a bad loss.
Purdue 42, Nebraska 28. A team that needed every win to reach a bowl game coming into Lincoln and winning by double digits still is a head-scratcher.
Colorado 34, Nebraska 31. Boy did this game have every chance to be the iconic moment of Frost’s tenure to date, with Nebraska fans painting Folsom Field red. But Nebraska’s chronic inability to close a game out soured the day, and in some ways the season.
Indiana 38, Nebraska 31. Yes, I know the whole Indiana program will be offended to be included in this list. And to be honest, 2021 Indiana wouldn’t count as a bad loss. But 2019 Indiana – especially at home – most certainly did.
Purdue 31, Nebraska 27. Nebraska caught a huge break in playing Purdue without phenom Rondale Moore – and lost anyway.
Illinois 43, Nebraska 21. Possibly the ugliest loss in the Frost era – and that includes a loss to Troy. Nebraska was bullied and intimidated by an Illini squad that fired its coach at season’s end.
Minnesota 24, Nebraska 17. A comically-undermanned Minnesota team (thanks to COVID) rolled into Lincoln and ended up beating a Nebraska squad that had clearly had enough football for the year. If the Illinois loss was Frost’s ugliest, this was his most unforgivable.
That’s … a big list. But let’s just imagine what Nebraska’s program would look like if everything stayed the same – blowout losses, frustration against Iowa and Wisconsin notwithstanding.
That would mean, of course, that Nebraska would have been to a bowl for three straight years too. How much better would you feel about the status of the program if this was Frost’s resume instead of what it currently is?
So really, that’s the hill Nebraska needs to climb right now. Not beating the Buckeyes in Columbus. Not even (shudder) beating Iowa. Just stop losing to Sun Belt teams and teams about to fire coaches and teams that can barely field a full roster.
If Frost can accomplish that – and the fact that it’s a question is quite the indictment of the program – then Nebraska’s program should be on far better footing moving forward.