6-7. 9-4. 4-8. Those are the records for Nebraska the last three seasons. Yeah, they aren’t pretty (that 9-4 record isn’t as good as it sounds).
This year, with Scott Frost at the helm, Nebraska should be better than 4-8. Even with a nearly identical roster, Frost is a much better coach than Mike Riley, so he should be able to squeeze as much talent out as possible.
ESPN’s Football Power Index has the Huskers ranked at 50, with a projected record of 5.5-6.5. That’s the same projection as a season ago, when Nebraska went 4-8. Just for some background, in 2016 FPI projected 8.7-3.7 with an actual record of 9-4, and in 2015 FPI projected 7.7-4.5 with an actual record of 6-7. Not too terrible of predictions, but there is still room for the unexpected.
Let’s take a look at the schedule and see if 5.5-6.5 is reasonable. Will the Huskers overachieve or, even worse, underachieve in Scott Frost’s first year in Lincoln? It’ll be tough with an absolutely brutal schedule. In parentheses I will include each team’s FPI rank and projected record.
Week 1 vs. Akron Zips (104, 5.2-6.9)
While the Zips had a successful regular season last year, the ended the year with two straight postseason blowouts (MAC Championship vs. Toledo and Boca Raton Bowl vs. Florida Atlantic). I don’t think coach Terry Bowden has enough chops to pull off the upset due to a sheer talent differential.
Huskers win 52-23
Fun Fact: Scott Frost ran for a career high 123 yards in Nebraska and Akron’s only other meeting – 1997, where the Huskers came out victorious, 59-14.
Week 2 vs. Colorado Buffaloes (79, 4.1-7.9)
Colorado was supposed to be trending in the right direction with head coach Mike MacIntyre when they had a 10-4 two years ago. Unfortunately, a disappointing 5-7 campaign last year has the Buffs right back in purgatory. The former rivalry could be fun to watch, but with both programs trending in different directions, it could be a stinker by the final frame.
Huskers win 45-21
Fun Fact: Scott Frost is 3-0 as a player against the Buffaloes, with one win at Stanford (not the starter) and two at Nebraska (two starts).
Week 3 vs. Troy Trojans (97, 7.3-4.7)
Troy was a very good team last year. They were led by hot-head coaching candidate Neal Brown and star quarterback Brandon Silvers. Although they beat LSU, Silvers is gone, and I don’t think the coaching staff will underestimate the Trojans. It might be close, but the Huskers will lead the whole time.
Huskers win 31-21
Fun Fact: In four meetings all-time with the Trojans, Nebraska has outscored them 159-30, all wins.
Week 4 at Michigan Wolverines (11, 8.6-3.5)
This is where the year gets fun and not the good kind. Nebraska has one of, if not the, hardest schedule in college football next season. This game will pit Frost and Harbaugh against each other and it should be entertaining. It will also feature two Ole Miss transfers squaring up, with Michigan QB Shea Patterson and Huskers LB Breon Dixon going head to head. But your first Big Ten conference game is at the Big House? Tough draw for coach Frost.
Huskers fall 41-30
Fun Fact: While Scott Frost did lose to the Wolverines while at UCF, he split the 1997 championship with Michigan as a player, which led to this quote:
“If you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play?”
That, among other things, already show us the coach Frost has a distaste for Michigan.
Week 5 vs. Purdue Boilermakers (47, 5.4-6.6)
Purdue was a bright spot in the Big Ten last year, as coach Jeff Brohm showed off his chops and led the Boilermakers to their first bowl game in five years, where they beat Arizona. I expect the Boilermakers to stay on the rise as long as Brohm is there. But then again, this was one of the four teams the Huskers beat last year. That means they are lumped in with Arkansas State, Illinois and Rutgers. Not great company.
Huskers win 45-38
Fun Fact: Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm and Scott Frost both played for the Cleveland Browns in the early 2000’s.
Week 6 at Wisconsin Badgers (12, 9.6-3.0)
Wisconsin has had the Huskers’ number ever since joining the Big Ten. The Badgers lost a lot on defense to the NFL, but their offense returns QB Alex Hornibrook, star RB Jonathan Taylor and most likely an entire offensive line of NFL players. I think the Huskers offense hangs around with an inexperienced Badgers defense, but I think Wisconsin’s balance on both sides make it tough to pull off the upset.
Huskers fall 34-24
Fun Fact: Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst and Scott Frost are two of the three Big Ten coaches that played quarterback for the team they now coach. Jim Harbaugh is the other.
Week 7 at Northwestern Wildcats (31, 6.3-5.8)
It’s at Northwestern, but that really doesn’t matter. Last time that looked like a home game for the Huskers. Plus, I think coach Frost is not going to want to start his Big Ten career 1-3. If future NFL-backup Clayton Thorson is healthy…actually, that won’t matter.
Huskers win 49-30
Fun Fact: Stanford tied with Northwestern in 1994, which would have been Scott Frost’s sophomore season. Current Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald was a Northwestern linebacker at the time.
Week 8 vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (60, 5.7-6.3)
Minnesota kicked the Huskers to the curb last season. Good news for Nebraska is that Demry Croft, the QB who accounted for 183 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Bad news is that Rodney Smith and the other players who helped Minnesota rush for 408 yards are still there. Nebraska’s offense won’t be asleep for this one, however.
Huskers win 38-35
Fun Fact: I couldn’t find any ties to the Minnesota, so instead I’ll just remind everyone that Nebraska racked up 790 yards of offense (nearly 600 rushing) on Minnesota in 1983, where they won 84-13.
Week 9 BYE
The Huskers enter by week at 6-2 and 3-2 in the Big Ten. They’re already overachieving! Can they keep it going?
Week 10 at Ohio State Buckeyes (4, 10.3-2.0)
Nope. Good news is the new coaching staff doesn’t have to have nightmares about the last two games for the Buckeyes. Bad news is that the talent differential, especially on the defenses, is worrisome. Coaching keeps it closer, but not close enough.
Huskers fall 52-27
Fun Fact: Current Ohio State QB Joe Burrow has some Nebraska ties. His father, Jim, and both of this brothers, Jamie and Dan, played for the Huskers. His dad is currently the defensive coordinator at Ohio, under Frank Solich, who also played and coached for the Huskers.
Week 11 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (70, 4.6-7.4)
Sorry, Lovie. Frustrations from the previous week must come out somewhere. Lucky for the Huskers, you’re just the depleted squad they need to see. It’ll also be tune-ups for the next two weeks.
Huskers win 45-17
Fun Fact: Scott Frost and current Illinois defensive coordinator both played for the Green Bay Packers in 2002.
Week 12 vs. Michigan State Spartans (10, 9.5-2.7)
So far, Memorial Stadium has yet to see a loss this season. Can that change against the Spartans, who everyone is very high on? Nebraska has had the most success against them than the rest of the top Big Ten squads. I think that continues. UPSET.
Huskers win 38-36
Fun Fact: Scott Frost’s first career college start (at both Nebraska and anywhere) was against the Spartans. The Huskers won 55-14 and Frost added two touchdowns.
Week 13 at Iowa Hawkeyes (25, 8.2-4.1)
The Heroes Game. Aptly named, only if the Huskers win, however. Iowa (along with Wisconsin) has been the primary villain in Nebraska’s Big Ten story. Wouldn’t it be the perfect ending for Scott Frost to take it to the little brother and finally shut up the Hawkeyes? Yes, it would. Unfortunately, perfect endings don’t happen in college football…at least in a coach’s first year.
Huskers fall 42-34
Fun Fact: Current Huskers defensive coordinator Erik Chinander played along the offensive line for the Hawkeyes from 1998-2002. The former walk-on was the “Offensive Team Leader” in his final season.
Final Record: 8-4 (5-4 in Big Ten)
An 8-4 finish and a bowl berth after a disaster a year ago? If the Huskers are able to pull this off, I think it truly shows the Huskers are taking a step in the right direction. Only time will tell, however.