Patience, Huskers fans. There’s still 6 games to play.

After winning 2 Big Ten games in a row — something Nebraska hadn’t done since 2018 — the Mickey Joseph hype train is gaining steam. There’s no doubt Joseph is in the thick of the candidate pool to become Nebraska’s next coach. But now’s not the time to speculate. Showing patience and letting the next 6 games play out is the right move.

Could Joseph be AD Trev Alberts’ choice and land the gig? Absolutely. And that’s surely a scenario Alberts has in the back of his mind.

But the smart move is to let things play out. The Huskers were a mess under Scott Frost. They’ve turned things around under Joseph. The defense is playing faster and with a sense of purpose under new coordinator Bill Busch. The offense, while still struggling up front, is making winning plays. Confidence across the board is growing.

But the reality is Joseph has no prior head coaching experience. He’s adjusted marvelously on the fly as the interim coach. How he would fare building a staff, upgrading talent and running the show full-time in a Power 5 league remains to be seen.

Keep showing improvement

One aspect Alberts is certainly keeping a close eye on is player development. Are the units improving by the week? So far, so good, except for offensive line play.

Donovan Raiola’s group needs to make major strides soon. As quick as the defense has turned it around, O-line play is lagging. Too many missed assignments and breakdowns. Casey Thompson was hit far too often against Rutgers. Tougher opponents litter the remaining schedule, starting with a stout Purdue unit Saturday.

Thompson made mention of the fact coaches are working hard in practice to correct mistakes up front. Guard Ethan Piper thanked Thompson for “hanging in there” against the Scarlet Knights. He vowed on behalf of his unit to do better.

Play in the trenches will go a long way in determining whether Nebraska makes a run at 6 wins and a bowl berth. Even with the B1G West down this year, it’s still a physical league. The Huskers will need to continue to run the ball with Anthony Grant, and provide better protection for Thompson.

Make no mistake, Joseph will have his hand in any personnel adjustments up front. He even hinted at making changes weekly until the staff finds the right group.

Outside of the offensive line’s difficulties, the other units are moving in the right direction. Garrett Nelson and Ochaun Mathis are leading the charge on defense, getting more pressure on opposing QBs. Malcolm Hartzog has slid in at cornerback opposite Quinton Newsome and performed well.

Trey Palmer and Travis Vokolek are spearheading an improved receiving corps, while Grant continues to be a workhorse at running back.

It’s what you want to see under Joseph’s leadership if you’re Alberts — or just a fan of the Huskers.

What’s the magic number of wins?

Sitting at 3-3 at the season’s midway point, the Huskers need 3 more wins to reach a bowl for the 1st time since 2016. The ESPN FPI index gives the Huskers an 8 percent chance of getting there. It’s an uphill climb.

It starts this Saturday night with a trip to Purdue. The Boilers have won 2 straight road games and enter as 14-point favorites. Casey Thompson will need better protection, more time to throw. Running against this Purdue defense is an arduous task.

After a bye week, Nebraska welcomes a red-hot Illinois team (and it’s league-leading defense) to Memorial Stadium. Minnesota visits a week later, followed by games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Finishing 3-3 against that bunch could (should?) earn Joseph the job. Others have said he needs to get to 7 wins.

Regardless, it’s a tall order. Nebraska hasn’t won more than 3 games in a season since 2019. They’ve lost 8 straight to the Badgers. Iowa’s bested them 7 in a row. They’ll need to end some streaks to make a bowl game a reality.

That’s where this team is currently. A bowl game? Yes, that’s progress. And arguably enough to earn Joseph a crack at the full-time job. He’ll have pulled an upset or 2 to make it happen.

Another factor to consider is the candidate pool. The Carolina Panthers fired Matt Ruhle this week. He’s almost certainly headed back to the college sidelines, where he had remarkable success at Temple and Baylor. He’s known for rebuilding programs. Alberts is crazy not to have his eye on him.

The shortlist at the moment seems to include Joseph along with Ruhle, Baylor’s Dave Aranda, Kansas’s Lance Leipold and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. There are likely others. Alberts has been tight-lipped and very little, if any, inside info has leaked.

But when push comes to shove, will any of the above names actually want to jump ship? Nebraska requires a massive rebuild at the moment. The job’s not what it used to be. It’ll take the right guy, with the right connections and energy level to turn it around.

Final thoughts

Joseph checks several boxes Alberts is seeking. High-energy, great recruiting ties and high character. The players love playing for him. He’s allowed them to be themselves and play with confidence. It’s evident in the players’ body language and demeanor.

With speculation running rampant, it’s best to sit back, grab some popcorn, cold beverages and enjoy the ride. Take it week by week. Celebrate the successes and hope for the best.

If Joseph ends up as Nebraska’s head man after it all, he’ll certainly have earned it.