When Nebraska hired Scott Frost as its football coach before last season, it was a move that appeared very similar to Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh in 2015.
Both were former quarterbacks at the school where they now coach. Both had been successful coaches in places where a lot of coaches hadn’t found their kind of success.
Both were viewed as someone who understood the football program they were now taking over, unlike some of their immediate predecessors.
They “got” Nebraska. They “got” Michigan.
Four or five years ago a prediction that Frost, with only two years of experience as a head coach before Nebraska, could return the Cornhuskers to national prominence faster than Harbaugh could fix what’s wrong with Michigan probably would have produced laughter.
A lot fewer people are laughing these days.
Legendary coach Bob Devaney turned Nebraska into college football royalty. From 1962 to 1972, the Cornhuskers won two national championships (1970, 1971), had a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Rodgers) and played in a New Year’s Day bowl eight times in 11 seasons.
Osborne’s teams won three national championships (1994, 1995, a shared title in 1997), had a Heisman winner (Mike Rozier) and played in a traditional New Year’s Day bowl 15 times.
Nebraska fans, like fans everywhere, thought the good times would go on and on into the future indefinitely.
Frank Solich, who followed Osborne, won 59 games in six seasons. But that wasn’t good enough. Bill Callahan had coached in the NFL but his teams weren’t nearly good enough to satisfy the expectations at Nebraska.
Bo Pelini’s teams won 9 or 10 games each of his seven seasons at Nebraska. But that wasn’t good enough.
Pelini was abrasive so the next coach, Mike Riley, was the opposite of abrasive. He also was much less successful than Pelini and was forced out after the Cornhuskers went 19-19 in his three season.
Frost got a reputation as a miracle worker when he took Central Florida to a 12-0 record his second season as coach there after going 0-12 his first season.
He inspires so much faith in some of Nebraska’s fan base that there was more optimism after a 4-8 season last year than there was after winning seasons under some of the Cornhuskers’ past coaches.
Tonight’s game against Ohio State would only add to that reputation if Nebraska would find a way to upset OSU.
How likely is that? Not very likely, but the Cornhuskers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) do have enough talent to make it much closer than the first four games of the season have been for Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten).
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten and receiver J.D. Spielman is a threat at wide receiver and as a punt returned. Frost’s first recruiting class was ranked No. 18 nationally and No. 4 in the Big Ten by247sports.com.
Nebraska will undoubtedly try to get pressure on OSU quarterback Justin Fields, but it is hard to picture a defense than ranks No. 11 in the Big Ten and gave up 38 points to Illinois in its last game, doing that.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Nebraska 17.