Is Scott Frost facing his last stand at Nebraska, or his defining turnaround moment?
There is little question that Scott Frost is entering the defining month of his Nebraska tenure. But will November mark the beginning of the end for Frost, or merely the end of an unsuccessful beginning?
Based on conversations with people who cover the Cornhuskers, the perception is that new athletic director Trev Alberts is holding out hope that Frost can somehow swerve away from the impending iceberg.
The reason, of course, being money. Thanks to a sweet contract extension he signed in 2019 for improving from 4-8 to 5-7 in his second season, Nebraska is on the hook for $20 million if it fires Frost without cause prior to Jan. 1, 2022. And in this context, being a crappy coach does not qualify as cause.
Merely winning any of his 3 remaining games against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa may be enough to buy him a fifth season, because the cost of failure will be $5-10 million easier to swallow a year or so from now.
Lose all 3, and the Huskers will have ended the season on a 4-game losing streak with 3 of those games played at Memorial Stadium. At that point, some booster is going to raid the 401k to make Frost go away.
For many, the outcome probably feels academic. Frost is already 0-8 against the upcoming 3 opponents in his career. Losing out isn’t just in the cards — it’s likely.
But this isn’t a lost cause just yet.
Why Nebraska can beat Ohio State
Operative word for any Buckeyes fans who stumble upon this piece — “can” does not mean “will.” It will very much be an upset if the 14.5-point home underdogs pull this off. Or even if they cover the point spread.
However, if you were to build a team with the right components to spring an upset over the Buckeyes, it would have a lot of Nebraska’s parts.
As last week’s performance against a listing Penn State offense demonstrated, Ohio State’s defense remains suspect against teams more potent than Rutgers, Maryland or Indiana. And Nebraska can move the ball.
The Huskers are second in the Big Ten in yards per game and third in yards per play. They can punch it in when they get close to the goal line, scoring touchdowns on 64.2% of their red zone trips. That rates third in the conference. Ohio State, on the other hand, has the league’s very worst red zone defense. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 70.8% of their visits inside the 20 against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is also committing the second-highest number of penalties in the B1G. Given the issues with false starts and snap infractions against Penn State, this area has to be a concern for Ryan Day as his team prepares for its first true road test since visiting Minnesota back in Week 1.
Odds are Ohio State has too much firepower for any of this to matter. But if Nebraska can finally put together a game where it doesn’t repeatedly shoot itself in the foot — which unfortunately is the defining nature of the Scott Frost Experience — there is a clear blueprint for a Cornhuskers victory.
Why Nebraska can beat Wisconsin and Iowa
This one is pretty simple. Neither the Badgers nor Hawkeyes are particularly adept on offense, ranking 10th and 14th in yards per play respectively. Nebraska can win both games if it simply avoids turnover issues. Which, once again, runs counter to the M.O. the program has established under Frost.
But the way you show growth is by avoiding the habits that got you into this jam in the first place.
Given the financial stakes, the bar for Frost to stay in office looks incredibly low. And it’s pretty telling that we aren’t sure if he’ll reach it.