Nebraska getting closer -- one small, difficult step at a time
Take a look at the latest AP Top 25 as a Nebraska fan, if you dare.
Start at the bottom, it’ll be easier that way.
There aren’t any 3-loss teams — and certainly no 4-loss teams.
But there’s Texas at No. 25 with a 4-2 record. Higher up, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas populate the second half with identical 4-2 records.
The Longhorns lost to No. 4 Oklahoma and an unranked (at the time) Arkansas.
The Gators lost to No. 1 Alabama and an unranked (at the time) Kentucky.
The Aggies had their loss to unranked Mississippi State forgiven because of their upset of No. 1 Alabama.
The Razorbacks are on a 2-game skid, both to ranked teams.
If not for that Week 0 loss to Illinois, you’d have to think Nebraska would be right there among them, even at 4-3.
How could they not? Look at the top of the AP poll:
There’s Oklahoma (7), Michigan (3) and Michigan State (3).
Those numbers in parenthesis aren’t those schools’ current rankings. (That would be 4-8-10.) No, it’s the number of points Nebraska lost by in each of those matchups with now-Top 10 teams. Three losses by one score to three of the top teams in the country.
You’d better believe if there was an SEC team in that scenario, there would be arguments made it should be ranked because of how tough the conference schedule had been. But not with that Week 0 loss. It was a bad one for Nebraska — worse than we even realized at the time. Unforgivable, even, if it ultimately costs them a bowl. The other three? Not at all.
It’s okay to feel that Scott Frost should be able to take on Jim Harbaugh, who has had 7 years to implement his plan and fell short, or Mel Tucker, who’s in Year 2 and overachieving. All three have the same number of Big Ten Football Championship Game appearances: Zero. Being in between in Big Ten longevity has been anything but just right for Frost.
But these results prove that the Huskers are competing at that level. They’re just losing. The rankings show they’re falling oh-so-short in the games they’re supposed to lose, but the margins suggest that this team is better than its record and somebody is going to find that out this season.
“We’re so close. One more play. One more stop,” Frost said after the loss to Michigan, but it applies to all 4 one-score losses this season — and 16 in his career at Nebraska.
It’s that ranked-teams hump the Huskers can’t get over.
Frost is 0-10 against them. Nebraska will have at least a couple more opportunities this year to take that next small step and get … even closer.
Players are expecting it.
“We’ve been in a lot of tough games — close games, too — that we should have won,” said Nebraska running back Rahmir Johnson, who ran for 67 yards and scored on a 41-yard reception. “Each game that we play like that, we just learn and learn. … We’ve just got to find a way to win it. We’re getting there, and we’re gonna get it. So I’m looking forward to it.”
For fans of the 3-4 Huskers, that day can’t come soon enough. But they’ll be ready when it does.