Welcome to the Hot Topic, a weekly look at the state of Nebraska football. Each week on the Life in the Red Podcast, Parker Gabriel, Steven M. Sipple and Chris Basnett will discuss an important topic heading into that week's game, and that discussion will appear in the Journal Star's Huskers section on the day before gameday.
Is this the biggest game of Scott Frost's tenure at Nebraska?
Steven: Biggest to this point. If they keep playing well there’s going to be bigger games than this, but if they lose it — it feels as big as any game Nebraska’s had through Frost’s first three-plus years.
If you lose you’re out of the West race. On the other hand, if you win, you’ve got a shot — you’ve got Northwestern coming into your home turf with a chance to go 2-1 in the Big Ten and put yourself squarely in the race; really enhance your bowl chances, which is critical. It’s one of the things fans are looking for this year at a minimum, to make a bowl game.
I think it’s important for the players. After all these near misses, you heard Deontai Williams, you heard Garrett Nelson talk about how sick they are of coming close. They’re tired of it. So a win is affirmation for the players that all this hard work is paying off.
A loss is just one more bit of frustration, and you wonder at what point that frustration begins to affect preparation, affects mindset.
I think this program needs a win like this badly. Not a win against Buffalo, not a win against Fordham, a win against a top 25 program.
Parker: I think I’ll say that it is, although I’ve got a couple other contenders for what could have been.
I distinctly remember sitting in the press box the last time Scott Frost and Mel Tucker coached against each other in Boulder in 2019, when Nebraska was leading that game 17-0 at halftime and dominating, and Adrian Martinez was 9-for-9 for 180 and two touchdowns, I remember looking around and going, this is pretty wild — they’re dominating, the stadium is 60% Nebraska fans, and they’re going to be ranked in the top 15 next week. And at that point that felt like the tide could have turned that day, but it didn’t. So it just goes on the heap of close losses.
And then I think you could make a similar argument about that 2018 game in Columbus, where they almost knocked off Ohio State, had a chance to win in the second half, and didn’t get it done.
To me, it’s the most important game because it’s the next chance to find that jumping-off point that they’ve been really convinced is just over the horizon.
Certainly this has the potential to be that sort of turning point, or just another on the pile of ‘oh well, that could have been a big moment.’
Chris: I agree with what you’re saying. You’ve also kind of made my argument for me. And that is, how many times are we going to say this is the biggest game in Scott Frost’s tenure this year? Whether it’s been this year, last year, whenever it was.
If they win this one, then does Northwestern become the biggest game, because it’s the next one after this one? Or does Michigan become the biggest game? Or does Minnesota become the biggest game?
Is every single one of these games from here on out going to be the biggest game of Scott Frost’s tenure based on the previous result?
I don’t know. It’s absolutely an enormous game, I don’t disagree with that. But man, it’s exhausting for me to talk about it. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Scott Frost and that coaching staff and those players.
It’s like what we’ve talked about before, where every single week is a referendum on this team, on this coaching staff.
Whether that’s fair or not, that’s what it is. So is it the biggest game of Scott Frost’s tenure? It very well might be. But it also probably isn’t going to be the last time we say that this year depending on what happens Saturday and what happens down the road.