Pressure on Scott Frost, Nebraska to avoid sinking feeling in Big Ten opener

Nebraska coach Scott Frost was asked to place the value of getting a victory in the Week 0 opener against Illinois at Big Ten Media Day on July 22. 

“These kids deserve a little wind under their wings,” he said. “That first game is going to be an opportunity for us against a Big Ten opponent. That really is a big game, but any one game isn’t going to catapult or sink us.”

Is that true? It’s easy to fall back on “it’s just one game,” but given what happened since, the pressure falls squarely on the Huskers to start the season with a win. On Aug. 18, it was revealed that the NCAA is investigating Frost and the program for the improper use of analysts and consultants . The Huskers also face allegations of running unauthorized workouts off campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BENDER: Will Alberts/Frost pairing lift Nebraska’s fortunes? 

On Monday, Frost dished out a series of short answers to those questions at his weekly press conference , including how the team has responded to those issues. 

“I don’t know,” Frost responded. “I’m focused on this Saturday.” 

Frost could face punishment for those actions, and this could potentially give Nebraska leverage to fire the fourth-year coach without paying a $20 million buyout . It’s a big step backward after what appeared to be the start of a productive relationship between Frost and new athletic director Trev Alberts , a fellow Tom Osborne-bred winner from the 1990s heyday.

Is Nebraska really going to ask the same brutal question that Michigan has been asking the past few seasons with former quarterback Jim Harbaugh. That is, “If Frost can’t do it again, then who can?” 

Frost checked every box coming in. He is a former national champion quarterback. He flipped UCF to a true College Football Playoff contender in two seasons. Who would the Husker entertain hiring if Frost cannot get the job done? 

It has become a futile exercise to compare the five coaches who have succeeded Osborne at Nebraska. 

The Huskers are 124-89 since firing Osborne’s first successor, Frank Solich; a .582 winning percentage that ranks 38th among FBS schools since 2004. The Husker sit uncomfortably between UCF (128-87), where Frost coached before coming to Nebraska; and Ohio (119-89), where Solich coached after leaving Lincoln. 

That’s not all. Nebraska has struggled to find a Big Ten identity since joining the conference in the last turn of realignment. Former Big 12 conference mates Texas A&M (130-83) and Missouri (131-84) have better records since 2004 and have benefitted from the move to the SEC. 

Frost, meanwhile, is being asked questions about how the Huskers might respond if they lose to Illinois in the opener; a team that beat Nebraska 41-23 in Lincoln, Neb., in 2020. 

“I don’t think any team responds well to a loss,” Frost said when asked that question at Big Ten Media Days. “The one thing we need is momentum right now.” 

That has yet to happen in September under Frost. In 2018, former Big 12 rival Colorado edged Nebraska 33-28 in a thriller. The Buffs beat the Huskers 34-31 in overtime in Week 2 of the following season. Ohio State routed Nebraska 52-24 in the 2020 opener Oct. 24. 

Could one loss sink this team? No, but the rest of the schedule is brutal. The Huskers have a non-conference showdown at No. 2 Oklahoma on Sept. 18 and crossover games against Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State. Frost is 0-5 against No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 18 Iowa, Big Ten West rivals who have revelled in beating the Huskers.

Before the allegations surfaced, Frost appeared to have Nebraska headed in the right direction.

“There are so many good things happening in our program,” he said. “Our team has improved so much. Our talent has improved so much. The culture and attitude has improved so much.”

This is one game to show it. A win might not be enough to catapult Nebraska given where the program stands now.

A loss, however, could sink the Huskers’ season before it gets started.

 

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