There’s arguably no tougher task remaining in college football this year. For Nebraska interim coach Mickey Joseph and his staff, navigating the Cornhuskers through the remaining 9 weeks of the season is a huge challenge.

There’ll be constant chatter about the next coach. Which current coaches may stay? Who will go?

Players hitting the transfer portal? Almost a given.

Nebraska (1-3, 0-1 B1G) enters next weekend’s game against Indiana in a tailspin. The Huskers’ lone win is over FCS program North Dakota.

What’s left to play for? Six wins and a bowl berth? That looks like a pipe dream.

A starting point for Joseph is to get his team more competitive. Especially on defense.

Nebraska is dead last in the league in total defense. They’re surrendering 514 yards per game and giving up 35.5 points. They’ve been atrocious across the board.

When asked by reporters what a good defense looks like in his mind, Joseph was blunt.

“A defense that stops the run and stops the pass. A defense that shuts people out. That’s a good defense.”

Nebraska’s far from putting a “good defense” on the field. The bye week has been spent on tackling, playing gap-sound and moving at a faster pace. The results going forward can’t be worse. Right?

Better overall effort

It may sound cliche’, but improving basic effort should improve results.

Too many times, Nebraska’s looked lost. Especially on defense. Players have been aligned poorly. Taken poor angles. Given up on plays.

That’s unacceptable and has to change.

Bill Busch takes over defensive coordinator duties from Erik Chinander. Busch is passionate. He’ll preach and demand full effort at all times. Fundamentals will be reinforced. He’ll simplify schemes so players are on the same page.

Is it enough to get immediate results?

That remains to be seen. Personnel changes are likely coming. New faces in the lineup Saturday wouldn’t be a surprise. Playing hard to the whistle will and should always be the standard.

Giving max effort shouldn’t be something college coaches have to coach. If Joseph, Busch and staff can raise the bar in that simple area, it at least gives them a fighting chance to be more competitive.

Offensive line fixes

Oklahoma exposed Nebraska’s porous offensive line on multiple occasions. At times, it was downright embarrassing. Casey Thompson was sacked, hurried and hit way too often.

Where does NU start up front? Left tackle Teddy Prochaska is done for the year with a shoulder injury. Bryce Benhart has struggled with consistency at right tackle. Communication has broke down too often.

What options do the Huskers have? Let’s start by asking where Hunter Anthony’s been.

Anthony, the Oklahoma State transfer, has played sparingly. He’s also a guy who started in last year’s Fiesta Bowl for the Cowboys in a 37-35 win over Notre Dame.

With the current state of affairs up front, you’d think a veteran like Anthony could provide help. Nebraska needs to find solutions to its pass protection issues. Thompson is taking too many hits.

Donovan Raiola’s 1st season as position coach is presenting obstacles. Simplifying calls and getting back to basics are a must. As is finding the right position combination.

Staying on blocks longer and picking up blitzes are a starting point. Let’s see if the bye week can help alleviate the errors.

Thompson had other options coming out of the transfer portal. With the current state of his offensive line, he’s likely wondering if he dropped the ball.

He has the weapons at receiver and running back to engineer a high octane offense. But without immediate help up front, the sputtering will continue.

Resetting expectations

The mood is somber in Lincoln. There was hope a bevy of additions from the portal and several new assistants could help Scott Frost turn things around. It didn’t happen.

Joseph is now tasked with captaining a ship that’s headed for the rocks. The remaining coaches know their days in Lincoln are likely numbered. Yet they hit the recruiting trail this week.

They’re message? You’re committing to the University of Nebraska.

Joseph’s a class act. He’s a former Husker QB. He intends to see this through. Even if it’s only for 8 more games.

The bye week came at a much-needed time. It gives players a chance to recalibrate. Fans a chance to breathe.

Yes, there’s still a whole B1G slate to play (minus Northwestern). Things can change for the better. But it will take a lot.

At this point, Nebraska fans know to temper their enthusiasm. They’ve endured much over the past 2+ decades. Lots of heartache. Starting from scratch.

It’ll happen again once the Huskers finish at Iowa Nov. 25. Another coaching search. The 5th since Frank Solich’s ouster in 2003.

Before then, there’s a 2022 season to finish. Throw out wins and losses. Minor improvements should be commended.

For Joseph and staff there’s only one way to go. Up.

As for the fans of this once-proud program? They can’t throw in the towel. Keep supporting and hope for better days ahead.