Nebraska Football: Game-By-Game Predictions for the 2021 Season

With the season about to start, it’s time to go on the record and make our call for how Nebraska’s 2021 season will go. As always, we will use a four-tier system to organize the games and help remove at least a little of the guesswork.

BETTER WINExpected to win every time
SHOULD WINExpected to win more than half of the time
MIGHT WINExpected to win less than half of the time
WON’T WINExpected to lose every time

We will put each game into one of these four categories, and then count up how many expected wins Nebraska should have at the end. Of course, we will also include a Fearless Forecast guess at the final score, because who doesn’t want two bites at the apple when predicting the future?

(Kidding, the Fearless Forecast isn’t the official prediction)

AT ILLINOIS (August 28)

Possibly the most important opening game in Nebraska’s history as a football program. Given how precarious Scott Frost’s position has become, a loss to Illinois (who, by the way, manhandled Nebraska last year in Lincoln) could easily send the 2021 season into a death spiral. But with Illinois bringing in a new coach (even one like Bret Bielema with tons of B1G experience) and changing schemes, Nebraska should have an advantage. We’ll see if the must-win quality of this game works to sharpen Nebraska’s focus, or makes the team crack under pressure.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 31, Illinois 17

FORDHAM (September 04)

Not only are the Rams an FCS team, they aren’t even a particularly good one in that subdivision. If this game is even close coming into the fourth quarter, alarm bells should be ringing.

BETTER WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 51, Fordham 13

BUFFALO (September 11)

This game looked a lot scarier before Lance Leipold took over at Kansas, causing a number of players to enter the transfer portal and putting the program in a rebuilding mode. Even though much of the 6-1 team from last year will be returning, the coaching change and disparity in talent make this a game that Nebraska should be able to win comfortably.

BETTER WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 45, Buffalo 28

AT OKLAHOMA (September 18)

Sure, it was a bad look trying to back out of this game. But in all honesty, I get it. If I’m Frost, given the fragile nature of the program, I want nothing to do with a trip to likely the best team in the country. Blowout losses have ruined seasons before. This is a game that is likely to be all about moral victories.

WON’T WIN

Fearless Forecast: Oklahoma 45, Nebraska 21

AT MICHIGAN STATE (September 25)

At Colorado, Mel Tucker broke Nebraska’s heart twice with gut-wrenching (and head-scratching) wins. Now in charge at Michigan State, Tucker will have his chance to inflict more pain on Frost. Much about this contest will depend on Nebraska’s mindset coming out of Norman. Sparty’s cupboard is pretty bare, but this is a scenario ripe for a team like Oklahoma beating Nebraska twice by inflicting a hangover.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 17, Michigan State 13

NORTHWESTERN (October 02)

Sam McEwon of the Omaha World-Herald had what I thought was the best insight on Northwestern. The Purples really are kind of a bellweather of the rest of the B1G West. If the rest of the conference is down a little, the Purples can win it. That’s been the case the last couple of years, and Northwestern has beaten Nebraska recently simply by playing smarter, sharper football. But if Nebraska has been able to take care of business up to this point, it should have enough momentum to win this game at home

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 21, Northwestern 17

MICHIGAN (October 09)

Much like Nebraska, Jim Harbaugh has significantly underachieved at Michigan. But underachieving for Michigan (other than last year) has been winning eight-to-ten games a year, not what Nebraska has produced. The Wolverines certainly aren’t the powerhouse of That Team Down South, but they are still a more talented team on both sides of the ball.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Michigan 28, Nebraska 20

AT MINNESOTA (October 16)

Goldie has likely the best running back in the league in Mo Ibrahim, and a quarterback in Tanner Morgan that’s been in the program for, what 24 years. It’s also attempting to revive an atrocious defense from last year. Minnesota’s win over Nebraska last year with a COVID-ravaged squad might be Frost’s most unforgivable loss in his Nebraska tenure, and going to Minneapolis to get revenge will be a challenge.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Minnesota 27, Nebraska 24

PURDUE (October 30)

At one point, Jeff Brohm versus Scott Frost looked like it was going to be one of the most fun battles of two sharp-witted offensive coaches. The tide has turned for both Brohm and Frost, and although Purdue has one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in wide receiver David Bell, its overall talent level makes it harder for the Boilermakers to dig out of a hole.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 35, Purdue 24

OHIO STATE (November 06)

Listen, the Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback, and the game is in Lincoln. So if there’s ever a chance Nebraska would be able to …

Yeah, I’m not buying it either. Nebraska has been competitive with Ohio State in the past, taking the Buckeyes to the wire in Columbus when Adrian Martinez was a freshman and hanging around for a half last year. Like with Oklahoma, hope for the best as a Nebraska fan, but be satisfied with moral victories.

WON’T WIN

Fearless Forecast: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 17

AT WISCONSIN (November 20)

Since Nebraska’s entry into the B1G, Sconnie has loomed as a specter over the program. The Badgers are what Nebraska thought it would be coming into the conference, and now is what Nebraska is aspiring to become. The last few games against Wisconsin have been closer than the score would indicate, but turning the tide in Madison this year seems a bridge too far.

MIGHT WIN

Fearless Forecast: Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17

IOWA (November 26)

Hey, remember this guy?

Yep, the last game played in Memorial Stadium with fans present was Keith Duncan blowing kisses as Iowa walked Nebraska off for its fifth (now sixth) straight Heroes Game win. Husker Fan, if you don’t have that image burned into your soul – if you still think this isn’t a rivalry between Nebraska and Iowa – there’s something wrong with you.

The last three Heroes Games have been razor-thin, with Nebraska at least even with if not outplaying Iowa, but making enough mistakes for a gritty and smart football team to get the best of them.

I am fully aware that this is falling victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy, but Nebraska’s due for one of these to break its way.

SHOULD WIN

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 27, Iowa 24

SUMMARY

OK, so let’s tally up how many games we put into each of the four categories:

BETTER WIN2
SHOULD WIN5
MIGHT WIN3
WON’T WIN2

That means Nebraska is expected to win all the Better Win games (2), more than half of the Should Win games (3), less than half of the Might Win games (1), and none of the Won’t Win games. That puts Nebraska at 6-6, which is probably the bare minimum Frost needs to keep the hounds at bay and work with a much more manageable 2022 schedule.

The Fearless Forecast is a little more optimistic, putting Nebraska at 7-5. Given the amount of change in Nebraska’s roster, particularly at the skill positions on offense, forecasting this year’s season is even more challenging than usual.

Now all we need is a football season to prove how right – or wrong – this forecast really is.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Avoiding Bad Losses Key For Frost’s Turnaround

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

2018

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.

2019

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.

2020

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.

2018: 7-5

2019: 8-4

2020: 5-3

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.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Three Quick Takes on the Hiring of Trev Alberts as Athletic Director

Photo from si.com

On Wednesday, Nebraska hired Trev Alberts as athletic director, replacing “retiring” director Bill Moos. Alberts, a standout linebacker at Nebraska from 1990-1993, served as athletic director for the University of Nebraska-Omaha since 2009, and saw UNO through a tumultuous period. While Alberts guided UNO’s transition to a full Division I athletic program, some fans of the program hold a grudge against him for cancelling the school’s football and wrestling programs.

Here’s three quick things to know about Nebraska’s new athletic director.

It’s a home-run hire for Nebraska

I’m a UNO alum and a hockey season-ticket holder since the program’s inception in 1997, so I have plenty of cred to talk about Alberts’ time in charge. I was devastated at the news about the football and wrestling programs being cut. But Alberts walked in to a UNO athletic program that was straining under massive mis-management, and under a time pressure to make a move to Division I. Alberts made the only decision he could have made for UNO’s athletic survival, as there was no way to preserve football and wrestling while maintaining D-I and Title IX eligibility.

Since then, UNO’s athletic department is experiencing a golden age. He hired Mike Gabinet as UNO’s hockey coach, who has put the program in better shape then it has been since its inception. He got the Baxter Arena built in AkSarBen, near campus and providing an amazing home for hockey, basketball, and volleyball. Soccer now occupies Caniglia Field on campus and is thriving, including a legitimate “Dodge Street Darby” rivalry with Creighton. Baseball and softball are flourishing, with brand new and gorgeous fields across the street from the Baxter Arena.

His decade-plus of success as an athletic director – in the state of Nebraska, no less – will be invaluable as he takes over in Lincoln. It’s clear from his emotional reaction at his introductory press conference that leading his alma mater is important to him. And his status as an ex-Husker combined with his success at UNO will give him all the credibility he needs to implement his vision.

The hot takes will be coming

Dunking on Nebraska has become popular sport for national media covering college athletics. At some level, I guess I get it, as Nebraska’s on-field performance has fallen so amazingly short of what coaches and at least some fans talk about it being.

So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when we see something like this as a reaction to Alberts’ hire.

Yeah, ha ha, isn’t that funny to bring up Alberts’ time on ESPN from 2002-2005. Never mind the decade-plus of athletic director experience he’s picked up since then. And take it from someone who religiously watched College GameDay Final when Alberts and Mark May were on it – May never sounded reasonable on that show.

And this is from Matt Brown, who is for the most part a really solid and insightful journalist covering college sports. I shudder to think what Pat Forde’s Twitter timeline looks like.

So buckle up, Husker Fan, more of this will be coming.

Frost and Hoiberg are officially on the clock

No, not in 2021, absent things going comically wrong. But if Frost and Hoiberg aren’t able to right their respective ships in football and basketball, Alberts is exactly the kind of leader that will be able to make the tough call to let go a favored son. His status as an ex-Husker would give him the innate credibility necessary to talk about what it means to be successful at Nebraska. And his history at UNO of making the hard, necessary decision shows Alberts has the mettle to make that call if he has to.

Of course, Nebraska fans hope that call never needs to be made. And as we’ve discussed here, the table is set for both Frost and Hoiberg to find the success that they were assumed to bring.

But if Moos’ “retirement” turned up the heat on their metaphoric seats, then Alberts’ hiring just added a few logs to that fire.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Moos’ Retirement Turns Up Pressure on Frost

Yeah, I know it’s been a minute since we’ve gotten back together, and a lot has happened in the world of Nebraska football. There was a Spring Game. Name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules are about to radically change the shape of college athletics. The Supreme Court handed down a ruling which may – or may not – fundamentally change the business model of college sports. The playoff is expanding to 12 teams. There’s a new college football videogame coming.

But right now the big news is right in Lincoln. On June 25, athletic director Bill Moos announced that he was retiring – on June 30.

“I step away completely content, knowing that our athletic program is reborn and rebuilt and that it has a solid, stable foundation,” Moos said in a statement, as reported by ESPN.

Moos was under contract until 2022, and gave up $1.25 million in deferred compensation if he would have stayed for the contract’s full term.

Now, sure, Moos is 70 and has basically checked all the boxes that brought him to Nebraska. He hired a new football coach (Scott Frost), men’s basketball coach (Fred Hoiberg) and baseball coach (Will Bolt). Frost and Hoiberg still have all the pedigree of great hires, and Bolt wildly outperformed expectations this year. And Nebraska’s new athletic complex is well underway.

Still, something doesn’t seem right when the head of the athletic program goes statewide on the Big Red Blitz and then drops a bombshell retirement with a one-week turnaround saying “apparently, this was the best time.”

Don’t take my word for it. Sean Callahan of HuskerOnline has questions too.

Typically when somebody retires on good terms in a role like this, they hold some sort of exit press conference. The fact Moos is not holding one today tells you there’s probably much more to this.

 Regardless of who the new athletic director is though (as of this writing, Ed Stewart seems to be in pole position), it’s hard not to see this development as doing anything but ramping up pressure even more on Frost as he enters year four of his tenure.

Whoever the new athletic director is, it won’t be the guy that hired Frost, which means Frost’s performance isn’t a referendum on the athletic director’s leadership, at least at first. Indeed, if you really wanted to go down a dark path, Moos’ early departure would make it easier for Nebraska to let Frost go after the 2022 campaign. That depressing scenario would have Frost with six years in charge and the new athletic director a full year to evaluate the status of the football program.

Now, of course, it is highly unlikely that’s the reason Moos is leaving so quickly. We may or may not find out more details about all the different factors involved with Moos’ sudden retirement.

But it’s an unavoidable conclusion that the result of Moos’ retirement ramps up pressure on Frost even more than his 12-20 record over three seasons has done.

You know who else understands this reality? Frost.

When asked what he thought his significantly diminished crowds at this year’s Big Red Blitz signaled, Frost’s answer was both telling and true (as reported by Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald).

“It tells me I better start winning,” Frost said with a grin. “Starting to feel like The Charlie Daniels Band — used to be really big, now he just plays county fairs and stuff like that.”

Frost knows the clock is ticking and this year – brutal schedule and all – is pivotal for him to show proof of concept. And there’s at least some objective evidence of this to show. A smart and particularly handsome analyst said that you’d know when to be concerned about Frost’s tenure when his recruiting began to slip.

Yes, it’s early, but Nebraska’s 2022 recruiting class currently sits at no. 43 nationally and no. 11 (!) in the B1G, according to 247 Sports. And while recruiting rankings in June might not be the most reliable indicia of success (I mean, Rutgers is currently no. 7 nationally), seeing Nebraska in that territory at any point – given the current state of the program – should be just a tiny bit terrifying.

It’s probably not the hottest of hot takes to say Frost needs to start winning. And putting additional pressure on a season that already looks daunting makes for an uncomfortable wait for the autumn. But ignoring this tough situation isn’t going to make it go away, and it’s better to face it with eyes wide open, Husker Fan.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Five Questions For Scott Frost In Spring Practice

We are well and truly into spring practice for Nebraska football ahead of the 2021 season. After a disappointing 3-5 campaign, Nebraska now enters head coach Scott Frost’s fourth season surrounded by uncertainty. With a number of high profile departures on offense and a strong corps of returning defensive starters, anyone who says they know what Nebraska will be like in 2021 is guessing.

But it is year four, and even Frost’s most ardent defenders understand that results on the field need to be seen this year. So what questions will need to be answered as the new season begins?

So, about that offense?

Look, there’s a lot about Frost’s first three years in Lincoln that have been surprising and befuddling. But by far the most surprising is how lost Nebraska’s offense looks. Frost arrived from UCF bringing an innovative spread-based option attack that looked to meld what he learned at Oregon with the principles he learned under Tom Osborne.

The results have not been what anyone expected. In total offense, Nebraska was no. 25 nationally in 2018, which gave fans hope for things to come. But in the last two years, Nebraska has been no. 55 and 65 nationally in total offense – meaning things have gotten comparatively worse in the three years since Frost arrived.

Sure, there’s plenty of explanations. Nebraska’s roster wasn’t where it needed to be, particularly in the trenches. Nebraska’s culture (I know, I’m sick to the teeth of hearing about “culture” too) wasn’t the best. Frost’s offensive system hadn’t been tested against defenses of the caliber and style of the B1G.

But it’s year four, with a four-year starter at quarterback and a well-stocked offensive line. It’s time for Frost’s offense to show proof of concept.

Blackshirt resurgence?

For as much as Nebraska’s offense has been an enigma, Nebraska’s defense has been a surprising star. After being ranked no. 94 nationally in total defense in 2018, Nebraska’s ranking improved to no. 65 in 2019 and no. 50 in 2020.

And for as much turnover as Nebraska’s offensive personnel has seen in the last couple of years, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander sees almost his entire squad return for the 2021 campaign. We’ve seen Nebraska’s offense be – put charitably – a work in progress in the last three years. Is it really possible that Nebraska’s defense can be the glue that holds things together until Frost gets the offense on track?

Can special teams not be a disaster?

What is truly maddening – well, one of the things that are truly maddening – about Frost’s time in Nebraska is how special teams have been a quiet culprit of failure. Think about, even if nothing on offense or defense was any better than it was, how many games Nebraska could have or should have won with even league average special teams play.

2019 Iowa with a kick return touchdown. 2019 Wisconsin with a kick return touchdown. 2019 without a field goal kicker. 2020 Illinois with a fake punt. And these are just the ones that come to mind the quickest. Imagine without these debacles that Nebraska could have won some of those agonizingly-close games it always seemed to be on the wrong side of. And if a couple of those games turn the other way, especially against teams like Iowa or Wisconsin, how much does that change the confidence – and, dare I say, the culture – of the team?

Can Frost reboot the roster?

Yes, a 3-5 record in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season made it hard for even the hardest of die-hard Nebraska fans to stay optimistic, particularly with head-scratching losses to Illinois and Minnesota.

But what really shook Nebraska fans to their collective core was seeing how many players – Frost recruits, not just previous staff guys – who were leaving the program. Some, like running back Dedrick Mills, were a loss but understandable. But when leaders like Luke McCaffrey and Wan’Dale Robinson left, alarm bells started to ring.

Frost has been able to restock the cupboards pretty quickly through the transfer portal, landing running back Markese Stepp from USC and wide receiver Samori Toure from Montana. If Omar Manning, last year’s shining hope as a transfer, is also able to contribute, then Nebraska’s offensive weapons will look very different than they did last year.

That might very well be a good thing given Nebraska’s anemic performance. But it is also a very strange thing given that – other than at quarterback – Nebraska’s skill positions will look almost entirely different next year.

Can Frost keep the vision alive?

One of DC’s most under-rated superheroes is Green Lantern (maybe because this movie got made). Whether it’s Hal Jordan, Jon Stewart, Guy Garder, or any other incarnation, a Green Lantern’s willpower is what he or she uses to keep the galaxy safe. It is the strength of the Lantern’s will, focused through a power ring, that makes Lanterns the scourge of despots throughout the universe.

Much like a Green Lantern, right now Frost is holding Nebraska’s program together through the force of his own will. Even though Frost is 12-20 since 2018, Frost has never waivered in promoting his vision for the program, how he sees this thing turning around and where it will be.

In many ways, Frost is willing Nebraska’s program into existence with his vision. His success at Oregon and UCF certainly help, but ultimately it’s Frost’s force of will and charisma that is keeping Nebraska afloat. It continues to work, as a smart and particularly handsome analyst has observed, based on how Frost continues to out-recruit his results on the field.

But now it’s year four, and willpower can only take you so far. Green Lanterns have to recharge their rings every 24 hours, and at some point Frost is going to have to recharge himself with some success on the field for his willpower-created program to avoid collapse.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Robinson’s Transfer Puts Frost’s Nebraska Vision In Question

The transfer of junior phenom Wan’Dale Robinson sent shockwaves through the Nebraska fanbase. In head coach Scott Frost’s three years in charge, Nebraska has seen an inordinate amount of players – both recruited by Frost and by his predecessor – leave the program.

For the most part, fans have invested their trust in Frost, believed him when he talked about how the culture within the Nebraska football program needed to change, and that the departures were a necessary part of that culture shift. And given what Nebraska had seen under previous head coach Mike Riley, it was evident that Frost was correct.

But as the departures continued, especially departures of players Frost recruited, an unease began to crop up that the departures were less about Frost excising bad culture and more about players becoming dissatisfied with the progression of the offense and their place in the program.

Robinson’s departure brought those concerns to a head. Yes, Robinson ended up returning to his native Kentucky. Yes, there is little question that he was motivated by his mother contracting COVID and wanting to be closer to home. That’s been the motivation of many transfers this season, throughout the country.

But part of Robinson’s motivation, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, was to be in an offense that would better set him up for an NFL career.

That should send alarm bells through Nebraska’s program, as well as through the fanbase. Except maybe for Adrian Martinez, Robinson was the face of Nebraska’s program. He was the offensive archetype, the kind of player that Frost at Central Florida used to create a dazzling, dynamic offensive attack.

Unfortunately, very little of that dynamic offense has materialized in Lincoln. In Robinson’s two years, Frost seemed to struggle finding the right ways to utilize Robinson’s skills to their fullest. Last year, Robinson ended up being used as a tailback, getting carries and running between the tackles quite a bit.

While getting your most dynamic player the ball as often as possible is certainly wise in any offense, Robinson is 5 foot 9 and 180 pounds. He is not at all built to survive the rigors of a between-the-tackles running back, particularly in the B1G. And Robinson began to break down at the end of 2019, underlining the need for finding the right ways to use Robinson’s amazing skills.

The 2020 season was always going to be a challenge, playing through a pandemic with no spring football and an uncertain (to put it mildly) future for B1G football. Nebraska did find more balance in using Robinson during the 2020 season. But Nebraska’s offense on the whole was a huge disappointment this year.

While Nebraska’s defense began to find its feet, Nebraska’s offense looked lost. Frost switched between Martinez and Luke McCaffrey at quarterback, trying to find a signal-caller that could get Nebraska’s offense into rhythm, but never quite succeeding. And Robinson’s production in his second season at Nebraska suffered as a result.

Robinson clearly has designs to play in the NFL. And his electric skill set should be tailor-made for the modern NFL offense. But to get there, he’s got to be able to put what he can do on video, to make sure he can stand out from the crowd.

It’s clear that Robinson came to the conclusion that Frost was not going to be able to provide him that stage upon which to showcause his talents. That, as much as his mother’s illness, is why Robinson is no longer wearing scarlet and cream.

A smart and particularly handsome analyst said that you would know when Frost’s tenure at Nebraska was truly at risk when his recruiting started to tail off. And to be clear, we’re not there yet. In addition to Nebraska still landing a top-25 recruiting class, Nebraska landed an NFL-caliber wide receiver and running back through the transfer portal.

Nebraska’s talent level on offense should be sufficient to succeed. But almost the entire offense is an open question. Martinez, McCaffrey, or freshman Logan Smothers could all reasonably be expected to be the starting quarterback for week one of the season. Nebraska’s most experienced returning non-quarterback rusher had 24 carries last season. Nebraska’s most experienced returning receiver had 18 catches.

It’s worrying, to say the least, that Frost will be basically starting over offensively in year four. And the 2021 schedule – with games against Ohio State, Michigan, and Oklahoma, in addition to the B1G West slate – is awfully challenging for an entirely rebooted offense.

Robinson’s departure is in no way guaranteed to be the end of the Frost era. But ultimately Frost needs to maintain confidence and faith in his offensive scheme for Nebraska to be successful under his leadership. Robinson’s transfer is the first truly undeniable rejection of Frost’s vision. If that lack of faith were to take hold generally, then Robinson’s transfer really could be seen as the beginning of the end of Frost’s time in Lincoln.

So 2021 after Robinson’s departure brings a sense of urgency that wasn’t there before. While Frost’s contract situation is clearly secure, the faith in his ability to succeed offensively needs proof of concept on the field desperately in this upcoming season.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Five Takeaways from the 2020 Season

After a challenging season both on and off the field, Nebraska ended its 2020 campaign with a 28-21 win over Rutgers to finish with a 3-5 record. While Nebraska certainly could have gotten into a bowl game even with its record (oh hai 3-7 mississippi state), the team voted to end the season and decline any bowl invitation. Head coach Scott Frost, after the Rutgers win, sounded like a man ready to let the 2020 season go.

Nebraska also completed its early signing period with a top-25 recruiting class, headlined by four-star tight end Thomas Fidone from Iowa (and keeping Fidone from the Hawkeyes, avoiding another Noah Fant situation). So now that an exhausting, maddening, at times cringe-inducing season is over, let’s step back and take a look where Nebraska football is right now.

A brave decision to end the season

After Nebraska’s … uneven win over Rutgers, Frost talked about how much of a toll the 2020 season had taken on both the team and the coaches, and that it would ultimately up to the players to decide if they wanted to play in a bowl.

The players decided they did not, and that ended Nebraska’s 2020 season.

Frost, of course, didn’t have to give the players that choice. And he opened himself up to the possibility of ridicule by doing so. After all, it was Frost who was a vocal as anyone before the season started wanting to play football whenever, wherever – even in Uzbekistan, if need be.

After a disappointing 3-5 season, Nebraska turning down a bowl could easily have been made to look life Frost tucking tail and shying away from further embarrassment. Frost knew that, but let his team make the decision anyway.

Recruiting still on track

It’s probably not a surprise that there is at least some buzz about Frost being on the hot seat after going 12-20 in his first three-ish years in charge. In most circumstances, there would be some truth to that.

But not here. Athletic director Bill Moos has made a long-term commitment to Frost. And although Illinois and Minnesota did shake the faith of many in the fanbase, ultimately there’s little question Frost will be in Lincoln for the long-term.

If you really want a canary in the coal mine about Frost’s tenure in Lincoln, watch Nebraska’s recruiting. Last year, a smart and particularly handsome analyst pointed out that Nebraska’s recruiting ranking nationally was far out-pacing its success on the field. That over-performance was Frost’s ability to connect with recruits and get them to believe that the on-field success will be coming.

Well, the Frost Effect is still working. After the first National Signing Day, Nebraska ended up no. 25 nationally in recruiting, third in the B1G West. While that’s below both Wisconsin and Iowa this year, a top-25 class is still more than good enough for Nebraska to compete.

Blackshirt resurgence

When Frost arrived in Lincoln, we all expected Nebraska’s offense to be fast and explosive, and its defense to struggle and be at best a complimentary piece to the offensive engine.

As we finish year three, that’s … not quite how things have worked out. Nebraska’s offense has been a mess, and there’s all kinds of different reasons as to why that is.

But Nebraska’s defense has been quietly improving. Nebraska ended 2020 no. 46 nationally in team defense, no. 66 nationally in scoring defense, and no. 52 nationally in total defense.

Sure, those numbers aren’t anything to write home about. But they show a defense that’s above-average nationally, which in Nebraska’s proof-of-concept should be more than good enough. If the offense can catch up – and that’s still very much an open question – Nebraska’s defense looks ready to do its part.

Special teams disaster

There’s lots of things that Nebraska needs to fix. But top of the list needs to be special teams, writ large. Nebraska did make a massive improvement in placekicking, going from having no functional kicker to an all-conference player in Connor Culp.

But Nebraska still cannot cover a kick return. Nebraska allowed two fake punts for first downs – in eight games – where the punter was essentially unguarded and gifted a long run. Letting that happen once is bad enough. But when it happens a second time under almost identical circumstances, it’s evidence of a systemic breakdown.

Nebraska tried to have special teams be handled by a special teams consultant this year, rather than having a coach specifically tasked with handling that role, which at least reflects an attempt to shake the system up. It hasn’t worked, clearly, but there’s little question that Nebraska needs drastic action to fix a gaping hole.

Quarterback still a question

Boy, how much fun was it to see Adrian Martinez go off against Rutgers, going 24-28 for 255 yards in the air and 157 yards on 23 carries and scoring three total touchdowns? That’s the guy we’ve been waiting for to lead Nebraska’s offense, right?

Well, that same guy – in the same game – lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions. More disturbingly, the turnovers were repeat performances of mistakes we’ve seen in the past, mistakes which have killed Nebraska in the last three years.

If there’s one weakness in Frost’s offensive concept, it’s that it needs supremely talented quarterback play. Frost’s quarterback needs to be a threat on the ground, have the ability to deliver the ball to dangerous playmakers, and stretch the field to keep defenses honest and put them in conflict. He’s got to do all that while protecting the ball and making consistent smart decisions.

Whether it’s injury or understanding, Martinez has yet to demonstrate his ability to check all those boxes – and in his defense, that’s a lot of boxes to check. Luke McCaffrey, while an exciting and dynamic athlete, has not demonstrated his ability to throw or protect the ball sufficiently for Nebraska to rely on him as a starting quarterback option.

So Nebraska comes into 2021 with questions at quarterback. It is entirely possible that, with a full offseason, that Martinez or McCaffrey could grow into the position. It’s possible that freshman Logan Smothers, after watching this season from the sideline, will be able to challenge for the position.

But we don’t know – and more importantly, Frost doesn’t know – who is going to be that guy in 2021.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Nebraska 37, Purdue 27

They don’t make it easy, do they?

After going up 14-0 in the first five minutes, Nebraska held off a surging Purdue squad, winning 37-27 for its second win of 2020. Nebraska’s defense was able to get Purdue off the field on one last stand after failing to convert on a fourth down, sealing a much-needed victory.

So in looking back at Nebraska’s win in West Lafayette …

THE GOOD

Rush defense. Don’t look now, but the Blackshirts have put up two straight impressive performances against B1G rushing attacks. Against Iowa and Purdue combined, Nebraska has allowed a total of 127 rushing yards on 62 rushing attempts, averaging 2.05 yards allowed per rushing attempt.

Yes, that includes quarterback sacks – which is a nice problem to have. Even including that, though, that’s pretty stingy.

That’s my quarterback. It’s understandable why Adrian Martinez was benched against Northwestern. He was 12-for-27 in that game, including a bad interception. That led to Luke McCaffrey starting against Penn State, leading to Nebraska’s first win of the season. But Nebraska’s offensive limitations with McCaffrey under center were clear against a reeling Penn State – and became all-too-obvious when Illinois bullied Nebraska the following week.

Martinez came in at the end of that Illinois game and led Nebraska on a sharp (if ultimately meaningless) scoring drive. But then against Iowa and Illinois Martinez has been a combined 41-50 for 416 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers won’t knock your socks off – 8.32 yards per attempt is good but not spectacular.

But it’s efficient, and it provides far more of a threat to opposing defenses. And the lack of interceptions in two games means that Martinez has also been smart and safe with the ball.

Receiving options. In the last two weeks, Nebraska has found a groove in getting Wan’Dale Robinson involved both in the rush and the pass game. Against Iowa, Robinson was both Nebraska’s leading rusher and leading receiver. He was far less involved running the ball against Purdue, but his nine receptions for 114 yards more than made up for it.

What’s more encouraging is how freshman wideout Xavier Betts seemed to find his spot in the offense. Betts had five receptions for 36 yards, and only one of them was of the touch-pass jet sweep variety. If Nebraska is able to find a way to include a weapon like Betts into the offense, perhaps some version of the high-powered Central Florida offense can finally start to emerge.

THE BAD

Ending halves. It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider where Nebraska’s 2020 season could be if it was better at ending the first half. Against Ohio State, Nebraska was down 17-14 in the Horseshoe with 3:14 left in the second quarter. If Nebraska could hold the ball and get into field goal range, NU could go into the half tied against the mighty Buckeyes.

Instead, Nebraska went a feeble three-and-out, and Ohio State had enough time to score a touchdown and go into the half leading 24-14. Then Ohio State took the ball to start the second half, and scored another touchdown, being up 31-14 over Nebraska before NU was able to touch the ball.

Nebraska faced a similar circumstance against Purdue. With 2:52 left in the second quarter, Nebraska had the ball and led 27-10. With Nebraska set to take the ball at the start of the second half, a score on this drive had the potential to put the game out of reach.

Instead, Nebraska went three-and-out – and then had its punt blocked, giving Purdue the ball at Nebraska’s 40. A strong defensive stand held Purdue to a field goal, but the difference between 30-10 and 27-13 is substantial.

Special teams. Yep, that punt block we just talked about is just one in an uncomfortably-large collection of special teams catastrophes that have endangered Nebraska’s chances to win. Against Iowa and Northwestern, special teams mistakes (particularly on kickoffs and kickoff returns) were a huge factor in close losses. Against Purdue, Nebraska’s special teams took a game that could have been a blowout and made it competitive into the fourth quarter.

Making it tough. This picture says it all.

This shows my heart rate during Saturday’s game. I wasn’t on a treadmill, or doing a bunch of yardwork, or anything else physically strenuous – apart from watching and being emotionally invested in a Nebraska football game.

Anyone who has been on this roller-coaster called Nebraska football for the last couple of decades knows what I am talking about. Even a game that Nebraska really had – or, more accurately, should have had – under control ended up being a cardio workout just watching.

AND THE NEXT GREAT EXPERIMENT

Hey, remember when Nebraska held on for a win over Penn State, and it felt like a turning point? Nebraska was a double-digit favorite over lowly Illinois at home, and felt good enough to go full Darth Vader with its Blackshirts alternate uniforms.

We all remember how that went.

Nebraska is now a double-digit favorite over Minnesota at home – a team that has bullied and dominated Nebraska two of the last three years the teams have played. So once again we will get an opportunity to test Nebraska’s maturity as a team by seeing how it handles success.

We have some idea of how Nebraska handles adversity – let’s face it, Nebraska’s had lots of practice with that over the last few years. What it doesn’t have a lot of practice at is handling itself when things are going well.

So if the Nebraska-Minnesota contest is able to be held (which is still in question based on Minnesota’s COVID problems), then we will see if Nebraska has learned its lesson from its lackluster and entitled performance against Illinois earlier this season.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Iowa 26, Nebraska 20

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

In a back and forth game that went to the last possession, Iowa made one more play than Nebraska and came away with a win in the Heroes Game, knocking off NU 26-20.

This time, the one play Iowa made was a sack of Adrian Martinez as Nebraska was driving for a winning touchdown, knocking the ball loose for Zach VanValkenburg (how did Wisconsin miss signing this kid?) to scoop up and end the game.

After last week’s debacle, Nebraska has gone from embarrassing back to maddening, so – progress? So in looking back at this game …

THE GOOD

Closing time. Adrian Martinez looks to have taken back his starting job at quarterback decisively, going 18-20 for 174 and no interceptions. Yes, Martinez gave up the game-sealing sack fumble. But let’s be honest, that was far more on his offensive line than on the quarterback.

More importantly, with Martinez Nebraska showed at least some semblance of a downfield passing threat. While certainly nothing that looks like a finished product, at the very least the threat of Martinez throwing downfield seemed to – at times – allow the offense to get in some semblance of a rhythm.

Luke McCaffrey is still a remarkable talent and head coach Scott Frost still refers to him as the future of Nebraska. But from where the two are now, it seems clear that Martinez as the signal-caller gives Nebraska’s offense its best chance to succeed.

Blackshirts are back. Be honest. After what you saw against Illinois, you were expecting an Iowa squad that bullied Minnesota and Penn State to run roughshod.

Instead, the Blackshirts held Iowa’s vaunted rushing attack to 2.9 yards per carry. Had Nebraska been sharper in other aspects of the game, that kind of performance should have been enough to win. At the very least, it showed Nebraska ready to stand toe-to-toe with Iowa physically – at least until Nebraska shoots itself in that toe it’s standing with.

Wan’Dale. I mean, what can you say about a guy who leads the team in rushing (six carries for 42 yards) and receiving (nine receptions for 75 yards)? It does seem like Nebraska has finally figured out ways to get Robinson the ball in ways that don’t involve lining him up at running back and smashing him against a B1G defensive line 15 times a game.

Add to it this quote after the game when asked about Nebraska fans doubting the team’s progress (as reported by Evan Bland of the Omaha World-Herald).

Keep doubting us. We’re going to get over the hump eventually. I know there’s a couple of us who will make sure that happens.

That’s the kind of leader you want in that locker room, Husker Fan. There’s plenty of ink spilled about quarterbacks and centers and coaches. But number 1 on offense might very well be the most important person in the room.

THE BAD

The third phase. For the second year in a row, poor special teams play cost Nebraska a game against Iowa. Last year, it was long kick returns. This year, it was the punt game, between allowing sizable returns and Cam Taylor-Britt’s muffed punt.

It’s as good a metaphor as any for where Nebraska is as a program. Special teams, more than offense and defense, is less about athletic talent and more about execution and attention to detail. Northwestern and Iowa have great special teams units. Nebraska’s has been varying degrees of a tire fire for the last two years.

The center experiment. Early on, Frost made a bold move, taking a highly-regarded tight end prospect and converting him to center. Last year, particularly early in the season, Nebraska struggled with the growing pains as Cameron Jurgens adjusted to his new duties and struggled delivering accurate shotgun snaps.

Against Iowa, Jurgens struggled again – and whatever effect Iowa’s clapping coaches had was about tenth on the list of things Jurgens struggled with. Nebraska had four drives that had snap issues. On three of those, Nebraska failed to score.

In a game of fine margins – and Nebraska is nowhere near good enough to win a game with anything less – that’s the difference between victory and defeat. As good as Jurgens is in other aspects of offensive line play – and he’s very good at a number of other aspects – Nebraska can simply not afford to continue to give away drives, possessions, and points based on inconsistent center snaps.

Field position. 54. 46. 55. 66. 30. 19.

Nebraska outgained Iowa, 338-322. Nebraska gained an average of 5.4 yards per play, compared to Iowa’s 4.3. So how did Iowa end up winning?

In large part, because those six numbers were the length of Iowa’s six scoring drives. That means all but one of those scoring drives started further out than the Iowa 45-yard line. And, back-breakingly, the two scoring drives that put Iowa ahead were only 30 and 19 yards long respectively.

To the credit of Nebraska’s defense, four of those six short scoring drives ended in field goals rather than touchdowns. But between turnovers and poor special teams play (see supra), Nebraska helped Iowa by giving it short fields to work with. And in a game of fine margins, that makes all the difference.

AND THE POVERTY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS

Last week’s loss to Illinois was enough to shake Nebraska fans to their core. It appeared that Nebraska had reverted back to where it was at the end of 2017, when it was simply and embarrassingly bullied and intimidated physically by mid-tier B1G competition. With that taste in your mouth, it was hard not to see Nebraska’s future – short-term and long-term – as anything other than bleak.

Nebraska’s performance against Iowa was, then, somewhat of a reassurance. The Illinois game, not the Iowa game or the Northwestern game, was the aberration. Take heart, Husker Fan, Nebraska is not the team that gets shoved off the field by Illinois. Instead, it’s the team that can outgain and either outplay or at least stand even with the best in the B1G West – and then find ways to lose.

That’s … cold comfort, to be sure. Nebraska’s future does not seem to be as hopeless as it did last week. But – as been repeated here many times – winning begets winning and losing begets losing. Nebraska as a program does not have the maturity to handle success, either in the micro or in the macro.

Bust a big run to get the ball within field goal range to tie the game? Holding penalty.

Get a three-and-out with Iowa inside its 30? Muff the punt and give up another field goal.

Get the ball inside Iowa’s 40 on a drive to win the game? Give up a sack through the A-gap and fumble away a sixth straight game.

Get a win against a team full of five-star recruits? Come out the following week with the worst loss in a decade for the program – and this is a team that lost at home to Troy, fer cryin’ out loud.

So yes, Nebraska has stopped the rot from last week at least. But Nebraska is guaranteed to have its fourth losing regular season in five years. And while a smart and particularly handsome analyst was right in that Nebraska fans should focus on one game at a time, it is hard not to notice just how far NU still is from what it was and what it aspires to be.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Ten Commandments for Husker Fans After Illinois Loss

Yes, I know Husker Fan, you’ve seen this before. More often than you should have.

But we’re here again. Nebraska just got bullied, humiliated, and embarrassed on its home field – by Illinois. Not Ohio State. Not Wisconsin. Not even (shudder) Iowa. The Fighting fricking Illini just made Nebraska a laughingstock.

There’s not a ton of point in dissecting the minutiae of what just happened. There’s plenty of outlets for those. We are here to help you, Husker Fan, try to make some sense out of all of this.

Unfortunately, we’ve done this in 2017. And in 2007. But here we are again.

I know you’re hurting right now, Husker Fan. I know you’re struggling with how to respond to this team. Here’s some guidance to help you maintain your sanity.

I. THOU SHALT CARE. This might be the hardest one, other than maybe the Tenth Commandment. The rational thing to do after seeing this debacle is to detach yourself emotionally and walk away.

Don’t.

Caring passionately about a football team is a blessing, a gift that lets you feel emotions and experience life in a way that those who aren’t fans won’t ever understand.

I know, I know, that means you just went through all of that agony – a feeling you’ve had at some level basically for the last two decades. That’s part of it – and it’s still worth the exchange.

Following a team, being a Nebraska fan, gives you a rhythm to life, and a connection to the past. It gives you things to think about, to focus on, to be excited for. Giving that up is just too high of a price to pay.

II. THOU SHALT FIND A HEALTHY SPACE FROM YOUR FANDOM. Having said all of that from the First Commandment, it is also really important to understand the need to take care of yourself. It’s perfectly fine to put your Nebraska fandom to the side for a little bit and let yourself heal.

Things will look better tomorrow, I promise. And better the day after that. By Friday, after a nice Thanksgiving meal (properly socially distanced, of course) you might even be ready to watch the Iowa game.

Your social media account will be just fine without you doomscrolling for the next few hours. Your bulletin board will muddle through without your ALL CAPS SCREED.

Rake your leaves, walk your dog, bake some bread, play a video game. Find something else that makes you happy and engages your brain.

Nebraska football will be there when you get back. And its going to need you, healthy, to stick together in all kinds of weather.

III. THOU SHALT TURN THE OTHER CHEEK. It’s gonna be ugly, Husker Fan. Nebraska’s going to be the butt of national jokes. Opposing fans are going to revel in Nebraska’s struggles. Your Hawkeye relatives and neighbors are going to luxuriate in this. You’re even gonna get things like this.

(Honestly, well played, Illinois social media team.)

Let them. It’s OK to acknowledge that – right now – the team you love is kinda garbage.

There’s zero point in getting into a fight with someone about this. Just acknowledge that Nebraska’s a mess, and that you still love the program. There’s a level of respect you’re going to earn for acknowledging the reality of your team being bad, and you sticking with them. And I promise, the Fourth Commandment will help you get through that.

IV. THOU SHALT SEPARATE YOUR FANDOM FROM YOUR SELF-IMAGE. This might be the most important thing to remember, just to help keep yourself sane. Yes, Nebraska’s kinda garbage right now.

But that doesn’t mean that you are kinda garbage.

You as a human being are awesome (of course you are, you’re a Double Extra Point reader)! Your friends and family don’t love you any less because your favorite team is bad. Please, please, please don’t let those streams get crossed.

Because if you’re able to remember that your team being bad doesn’t mean you are bad, that will help you keep things in perspective (see the Ninth Commandment) and stay healthy.

V. THOU SHALT NOT STRIKE YOUR COLORS. No hiding, Husker Fan. This is the time when you really earn your respect as a fan. It’s easy to be a fan when your team is good.

Now’s the time you earn your respect, Husker Fan. Wear your colors with pride, even at Thanksgiving with your Hawkeye relatives (over Zoom, of course) and let them take their shots.

I promise you, Husker Fan, not only will you earn respect, but you’ll feel better about yourself too.

VI. THOU SHALT ACCEPT REALITY. You guys, Nebraska’s bad. And there’s plenty of ways this could get worse. Both this year and looking forward.

That’s got to be your starting point. And it’s OK. What is now is no guarantee that it is what will be, whether that’s next week, next month, or next year. More on keeping faith alive in the Tenth Commandment, I promise.

But denying reality is the heart of quite a few problems we are laboring under in 2020. You will do yourself no favors cocooning yourself in a fantasy world. Accept where things are right now – good, bad, and ugly – and ride the wave out with the rest of us here in reality.

VII. THOU SHALT TAKE THE LONG VIEW. When we’ve been at these turning points before, it was pretty obvious that a coaching change was coming and that was a source of long-term hope. That’s – probably – not coming now. Frost almost assuredly isn’t going anywhere, even if Nebraska ends this strange, pandemic-influenced year 1-7.

So you gotta dig in for the long haul, Husker Fan. Yes, it looks bad now, but losing to Illinois doesn’t mean that Nebraska can’t be successful under Frost. Failure under Frost is far from a guarantee.

Of course, success under Frost is far from a guarantee too.

Nebraska football as a program is bigger than one coach – yes, even Frost. Maybe he’s not the right guy for the job. Maybe it’s the next guy that comes in that gets Nebraska back to the promised land.

Nebraska has played college football since 1890. Memorial Stadium was built in 1923. Nebraska fans have been, well, Nebraska fans, swarming to follow the scarlet and cream to its first Rose Bowl in 1941.

Nebraska football will be there after Frost is gone – whether he’s fired after abject failure or after winning national championships. That’s why being a Nebraska fan is so powerful – because it connects you to that history, that tradition, that rhythm of life that was there before you were here and will be there once you’re gone.

Don’t give up on that, Husker Fan, even though it’s not a ton of fun right now.

VIII. THOU SHALT TAKE IT ONE WEEK AT A TIME. I know, it’s hard to think that there’s a benefit of being a fan of a bad team. But one of the benefits is that you can take each game as a discrete, week-by-week experience without worrying about how it fits into the “bigger picture” of things.

College football is beautiful in large part for its weirdness. Nebraska gets Iowa next week, and the scoreboard will start at 0-0 regardless of how ugly this loss to Illinois was.

So take these gifts for what they are Husker Fan. Yeah, it doesn’t seem likely right now, but maybe things click right and Nebraska finally gets a win over Iowa on Black Friday. Or maybe they play a great game against Purdue. Or maybe they thump Minnesota.

Or, maybe none of that happens. But sports is the ultimate in reality television, and you’ll never know unless you watch. So do your best, Husker Fan, to silo off each week’s contest as a one-off rather than seeing it as a bigger picture. It’ll help you feel better, I promise.

IX. THOU SHALT MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE. I know, I know, “it’s just a game” is loser talk.

But, really, it is just a game. And that’s the beauty of it. One of the reasons sports is such an important part of life is that it gives us a chance to feel passionately human emotions – happiness, excitement, fear, joy, anguish – about something that is ultimately meaningless.

Feeling those emotions – all those emotions, good and bad – is part of what it means to be alive, to be human. And having this big, loud, ridiculous spectacle to funnel those emotions through without (for the most part) anyone getting hurt is a tremendous blessing.

So yeah, Husker Fan, this sucks to feel like you’re back in the wilderness again, stuck there for the better part of two decades. Don’t dismiss or denigrate how bad or sad or mad you feel right now.

But if you remember that, ultimately, it is just a game, then you’re going to be well on your way to finding the strength to do all those other things that will keep you strong, healthy, and sane – well, as sane as a Nebraska fan can be, anyway.

X. THOU SHALT KEEP THE FAITH. Here’s the biggie, Husker Fan. Faith is tough, because it’s a belief in the unseen, the unproven. Faith is holding on to something even when there’s no reasonable explanation for doing so. Faith is looking into the teeth of a frightening, uncertain future and deciding to still believe in a better tomorrow.

Faith is hearing the whispers of doubt, of despair, of apathy, whispering in your ear to take the easy way out – and gently, firmly, saying no.

Faith isn’t something inherent, something you’re born with. It’s a choice. And (because it’s important to stay On Brand with this site) it’s best described by Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Lt. Commander Data I once had what could be considered a crisis of the spirit.

Lieutenant Worf You?

Lt. Commander Data Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android – nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form; however, I realized that if I was simply a machine, I could never be anything else. I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept, so I chose to believe… that I was a person, that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold.

Lieutenant Worf How did you come to your decision?

Lt. Commander Data I made… a leap of faith.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Rightful Heir,” Season 6, Episode 23

You’ve done that as long as you’ve worn scarlet and cream, Husker Fan. Many of you made that leap after Nebraska was mauled by Colorado in 2001. Or Kansas in 2007. Or Wisconsin in 2012.

Make it again, Husker Fan. I promise you, it’ll be worth it. Stick with us. Just listen to this smart and particularly handsome analyst from 2007 – who admittedly might have been just a bit hyperbolic (and even, ew, used the word “haters”) in his younger days.

We must stand firm, and stand together. We must care for and respect each other, even when we disagree. We must remember that we all want the same thing. And we must believe – nay, we must know – that brighter days are ahead. Nebraska will rise again, because we the people will demand it, and will not rest until we are delivered. Let the haters crow and enjoy our time in darkness. We will rise above them, and we will once again be the insufferably polite fans who cheer as our team dominates all opponents.

GBR, baby.