You can’t. You just can’t.

You cannot be the guy who reportedly tried to duck a matchup against a former rival, only to fail and then get embarrassed on a national stage.

You just can’t.

Scott Frost is running out of time to show that he’s building anything more than frustration in Lincoln. Ross Dellenger’s story on Florida’s hiring of Dan Mullen outlined that Frost was “unimpressive” in his 2017 interview with the Gators and that they came away from it believing “he wasn’t ready for a big-time job.” Among other things noted? Many people feel that Frost will be fired by Christmas.

So yeah, Saturday’s showdown at Oklahoma is monumental for Frost.

It isn’t necessarily a win-or-go-home game. The Huskers are 3-touchdown dogs on the road. They have yet to beat a ranked team under Frost, much less a top-5 team with the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite in Spencer Rattler.

What does that mean then for Frost? It means the first step in turning around that overwhelming feeling that his days are numbered is staying on the field with Oklahoma. If there’s one thing that’ll make Nebraska fans hark back to the glory days, it’s playing in competitive games against the Sooners.

Nobody is dubbing this one the “Game of the Century.” If Oklahoma were to lose, however, it might be dubbed the “collapse of the century.”

That almost happened in the opener against Tulane when the Sooners squeezed out a 40-35 win. In a way, that actually puts more pressure on Frost and Co. Get held to 14 points and there would be a fair question worth asking — how come Tulane put up 35 and Nebraska put up 14 with a fourth-year starter at quarterback?

Optics. They’re everything.

Beating Buffalo and Fordham won’t change anyone’s opinion of Frost, nor should it. A coach making $5 million is defined by how his team stacks up against elite competition. So far, no good.

In 7 games against AP Top 25 teams during the Frost era, Nebraska:

  • A) Went 0-7
  • B) Averaged 17.7 points
  • C) Hit 30 points once
  • D) Lost by at least 16 points 5 of 7 times
  • E) All the above

It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”

The only instances in which Nebraska really hung around with Top 25 teams under Frost came in that encouraging, but now baffling 2018 game at Ohio State and the 2019 finale against Iowa … which still ultimately ended the Huskers’ bowl chances.

You know what Frost could use? A repeat of that 2018 Ohio State game. On that day, Adrian Martinez looked the part and the Blackshirts forced Dwayne Haskins into some puzzling decisions.

Is it crazy to think that Nebraska will have similar success against Rattler? It’s not too far-fetched to think he could make some mistakes. Again, this goes back to Tulane. If a team from the AAC can pick him off twice, one would think Nebraska is capable of doing so, as well, right?

But what the Huskers have failed to do in those Top 25 matchups under Frost is put 60 minutes together. In those games, they allowed an average of 42 points. That’s an average margin of defeat of 25 points. Away from Lincoln vs. Top 25 competition, that number jumps to 28. In road games in general under Frost, Nebraska is 4-12, and 2 of those road wins came in empty stadiums because of COVID. Those 4 teams finished a combined 14-26, and a 6-win Illinois team was the only one who went on to win a road game.

So why bring up all of this? Do I just want to see Nebraska fans miserable?

(It’s actually quite the opposite. I’m a former Nebraska resident and I made plenty of friends out there who bleed red. Let me rephrase that. They bleed big* red.)

Because any path to Frost getting some support back starts this weekend. In a Big Noon game on FOX, we know the masses are armed and ready with all the Husker jabs. We saw that play out against Illinois. The difference there was that Nebraska was a touchdown favorite … against a first-year coach for a team fresh off a 2-win season. That’s just a hair off from being a 22.5-point underdog against a team riding a streak of 6 consecutive top-7 finishes.

The bar can’t be much lower. Nobody is expecting the Huskers to make it feel like 1971.

Shoot, nobody is expecting the Huskers to make it feel like 2010. That was the program’s last game in the Big 12. It was a thrilling, down-to-the-wire showdown against Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship. Nebraska turned the ball over 4 times, but it somehow still had a chance with a potential go-ahead drive in the final minute, which ultimately came up short.

On Saturday, it’d be a surprise if Nebraska was within a score at halftime. And it’s true that the stakes aren’t the same as they were 11 years ago. Publicly, Frost downplayed the significance of the renewed rivalry:

Frost can say his team doesn’t have much to lose in this game, but as for his future? I’d beg to differ. If you’re still not capable of being competitive against a Top 25 team in Year 4, what does that say to your new boss Trev Alberts?

It might’ve been over for Mike Riley when Shawn Eichorst was fired following a historically bad home loss to Northern Illinois, but it was really over for Riley a few weeks later when his team lost by an average of 32 points at home against No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State.

There might not be much that can salvage Frost’s future if his team gets taken to the woodshed once again on Saturday. That’s not to say he’s about to get left on the tarmac like he’s Lane Kiffin. Even Bo Pelini got to finish the 2014 season out before he eventually left Lincoln with 2 middle fingers raised.

But get waxed in another spotlight game and the hay could very well be in the barn for Frost as a Husker.