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Meeting of the Minds: What’s up at Nebraska?


Forget about Texas and USC. What's going on with Nebraska? Photo: USA Today Sports

While all of college football's hot-seat talk seems to center in both Austin and Los Angeles, a new group seems to have emerged as "The Most Disgruntled Fan-Base."

That honor goes to Nebraska, which saw a 21-3 lead against UCLA evaporate Saturday, and end with the Bruins scoring the final 38 points in a victory over the Cornhuskers.

The loss led to a lot of frustrated folks in Lincoln, including legendary ex-quarterback Tommie Frazier, who tweeted (in part):

“After letting it sink in for about 4 hours I [am] still struggling. It’s time to get rid of the defensive play caller, the Dc, lb dl and db coaches."

Guys, things are getting bad in Nebraska.

Still, does a program which has won at least nine games every year since Pelini has taken over (and 10 games twice) have a right to be this upset?

Andy Coppens: 100 percent, because of three big reasons: no conference championships, 6-13 against Top 25 opponents, and the defensive struggles over the past two years.

Does Nebraska have some nice parts on it's current defense? You bet they do, but having some nice parts and building an engine that hums are two completely different things and that's on coaching.

Just watch what happened to this team in the 2nd half of both UCLA games and tell me that Pelini didn't get out coached either? Up at the half to not even scoring a point in the 2nd half… Really?

Additionally, we're talking about Nebraska and winning a conference title once over a six year period shouldn't be too much to ask—especially since the Huskers have made appearances in four of his previous five years. Losing once or twice, OK, it'll happen, but 0-4 is unacceptable at a place like Nebraska.

Do fans in Huskerland have some unrealistic expectations nationally right now? For sure, but those asking for a conference championship once in a great while aren't far off base. 

Kevin McGuire: Nebraska fans have every right to be upset, because many of them remember when the Huskers were one of the absolute top programs in the country. This fan base is starving for a winner, but they also may need to embrace the reality of the situation. This is not the 1980s or 1990s any more. The game has changed, migrated and evolved while Nebraska's biggest change was moving to the Big Ten.

The question when it comes to Nebraska is about where the bar is supposed to be for the program. Is everything in place for the Huskers to be a dominant force in college football the way they were in decades past, or has the game evolved to a state where it is difficult for Nebraska to maintain a footing at the big boy table on a regular basis? The Bo Pelini era has helped Nebraska stay within Top 25 consideration from year to year but it has also resulted in a pair of Big 12 championship close calls and a blowout loss in the Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska has been a very good program, but can this program be great once again to make a run at programs like Alabama and Oregon? If you believe the potential is there, the next question centers around the coaches in place.

Entering this fall one of the big questions has been whether or not Pelini is ultimately the guy that can get Nebraska over the hump. The evidence we have seen would suggest he is not. If a coaching change, or staff adjustments is the answer, I'd love to see who jumps in and gets Nebraska back on top. I'm not sure that is the case though.

It all comes down to recruiting and this is an area in which Nebraska is losing ground and they may not be able to rebound enough to put it all together. I'm not saying the right coach can't make it happen, but it my be extra hard to do so thee days compared to when Tom Osborne was in his prime.

Allen Kenney: Nebraska has entered the college football netherworld where the team isn't winning enough to keep people happy and not losing enough to make anyone feel as though the current coaching staff deserves to go. In those cases, the first issue that needs to be addressed is if expectations are out of line.

I hate to say this, but I doubt the Cornhuskers can do that much better than what they're currently getting from Bo Pelini. Nebraska's program is adored throughout the state and is rightfully thought to have one of the richest traditions in college football. Unfortunately, the days when the 'Huskers were competing for national titles feel like a distant memory at this point. The program just doesn't have much pizzazz right now, which hurts on the recruiting trail. Furthermore, the move to the Big Ten cut NU off from one of its traditional talent bases in Texas.

In other words, the 'Huskers are probably living up to their talent. Coaching isn't an issue. If you're going to dump Pelini, you better be sure the next guy can at least live up to that.

Andy: Coaching isn't an issue? That is THE BIGGEST issue Nebraska has… Bo Pelini can't win the biggest games and in the vast majority he was out adjusted and out schemed by his counterpart. Yes, some of the blame goes to the players in those games (16 missed tackles this past weekend), but those issues also speak to coaching.

That blowout last year in the Big Ten title game was all about a coach not having his team ready to play a football game too.

Pelini has also done a bad job of coordinator hires as well. Getting outgunned at home by UCLA, Northwestern and Ohio State in the past few years wasn't thinkable even as long as a decade ago and the coaches around him couldn't find a way to make the right adjustments or put the right players out there to make a difference.

Blaming recruiting is just weak too… How else do explain what Wisconsin or Northwestern have done over the past three years? If it's all about how he can't recruit the right players then what is he doing coaching? A school like Wisconsin or Northwestern will never have the name to it that Nebraska has and they don't get the caliber of player a school like Nebraska has gotten in the past, yet they win and win a lot with so-called inferior talent, why can't Pelini do the same?

Pelini has had plenty of talent come in to Lincoln in his days there, at least enough of it to have one at least one or two conference titles, yet he can't quite get over the hump. If you aren't moving beyond that glass ceiling perhaps the common denominator is yourself?

Kevin: The argument about recruiting is using a pretty small sample size when mentioning Northwestern. Nebraska's last 15 years have shown a trend in downward talent in Lincoln compared to the past few decades. And Wisconsin has gone through ups and downs as well when it comes to recruiting, yet even at the height of the Badgers' recent success they still have lost three Rose Bowls and struggled to get over the same hump Nebraska is stuck on as well when talking about the national picture. This is not to suggest it is impossible, just that it is much more difficult for schools like Nebraska (and Wisconsin not to mention Northwestern) to remain consistently competitive at a high enough level to even contemplate national title expectations. Nebraska is so far removed from that conversation I feel the program needs to scale back the outlook and start achieving smaller goals. I believe the school is capable of doing that, but fans are always a different story.

I understand that you can't blame recruiting separate of the coaching. It is the coaches who bring in the talent to begin with, so the question may be whether or not Pelini and his staff are bringing in the right talent but not reaching potential, or if a different coaching staff can bring in better overall talent.

The criticism of Pelini is fair. He has not won the "big games" in his career. Since Pelini has been hired as head coach Nebraska has gone 0-3 in Big 12 and Big Ten championship games (2009, 2010 in Big 12 and 2012 in Big Ten) and the Huskers have lost three straight bowl games. Coaching is absolutely a concern in Lincoln, but is a coaching change the cure-all for the Huskers right now?

Allen: Nebraska's recruiting class rankings since 2006, per Rivals: 20, 13, 30, 28, 22, 15, 25, 16. Hard to argue with the results if you're winning between nine and 10 games a year in a BCS with that level of talent. I don't think that makes Pelini a great coach. He's probably in the middle of the pack.

If Nebraska can land a coach who they think can do better, I say go for it. I think you'd be surprised just how few actually could.

Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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