Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nebraska Football: 10-2 Deceptive

You can't fire a coach who wins a conference championship . . . can you?

Nebraska's pathetic performance against Iowa was the 12th game of Year 5 under Bo Pelini. Iowa is a bad team. It should have been a stat game for NU. Instead, NU scored one touchdown and the defense had to intercept a pass late in the game to preserve a 13-7 margin.

If NU performs the same way in the Big Ten championship game, Wisconsin will win by two touchdowns. If NU cleans up its act and wins, humiliation could await at the Rose Bowl.

The good news is that the Pac 12, the conference that will supply the other team in the Rose Bowl, also is down this year. The bad news is that UCLA, which produced more than 600 yards of offense in beating NU in September, is one of the possible opponents, and is indicative of the challenge awaiting NU in the Rose Bowl.

Pelini seems unable to stop the downward trajectory of the program since losing the 2009 and 2010 Big 12 championship games by a total of 4 points. There is no aspect of football in which NU is consistently good.

Don't be fooled by the 10-2 record. NU benefits from playing in a weak football conference. NU has beaten one team in the Top 25, Michigan, whose best player was knocked out of the game against NU in the second quarter.

I've never believed "a win is a win" even if it's "ugly." If you struggle to get by Iowa (and everybody else on your B10 schedule except Minnesota) and get blown off the field by the best team in the conference, that generally means you are going to be walloped by a Top 10 team. You're not as good as 10-2 would lead you to believe.

Even the 9-2 or 10-1 Tom Osborne teams, which generally looked good during the regular season, got beat solidly in bowl games (until the 90s, of course) because winning a game doesn't necessarily mean you're playing at a high level compared to the best teams in the nation. Frank Solich was fired right after winning a 9th game because the only good teams on the schedule blasted NU.

It's college football. Players can improve and coaches can coach better in the interim between a conference title game and a bowl game. May that be the case for NU.

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