“Expectations.” It’s a word us Husker fans have heard quite a bit for years.
Nine wins was looked at as the minimum for having a successful season for the longest time. The 60-3 run from 1993-1997 made for many National Title or bust expectations. From 1998-2003, Nebraska went 59-19 and resulted in the firing of head coach Frank Solich. Then, we here former athletic director Steve Pederson stated forcefully in his ensuing press conference, “I refuse to let this program gravitate to mediocrity” and “We will not surrender the Big 12 title to Texas and Oklahoma.”
Then the Bill Callahan era followed with a 27-22 four-year run that included two bowl-less seasons. Think about that for just a moment. The college bowl system is watered down worse than a flat Budweiser as 68 of 120 Div. I-A teams make it to a bowl game. That’s like an NBA or NHL team not making it to the playoffs. An even better analogy, it’s like Tiger Woods not making the cut. At schools like Nebraska, you have enough talent to sleepwalk your way to a bowl game.
One thing that stood out to me when Bo Pelini was hired to replace Callahan was that he does not shy away from expectations. I remember very specifically an interview he did on the Jim Rome Show. For starters, I do not listen to Jim Rome because while he knows his material, his show reeks of too much adolescence for my taste. However, since Bo Pelini was his guest, I decided to make an exception and listen.
I remember Rome using the word “rebuild” in one of his questions. Pelini replied with a statement to the effect of, “I’m not here to rebuild, I’m here to win now.” At the time I thought, well we probably won’t win big right away in 2008 or even 2009 but the fact that he’s not backing away from expectations was refreshing.
When Nebraska won the Big 12 North title in 2006, its first since 1999, I was happy because I felt it was the first step necessary to getting back where we needed to be. However, I was a little disturbed at parading around the field with a trophy. This isn’t Missouri!
Anyhow, I digress.
With Year One of the Pelini Era in the books, fresh off a 9-4 finish with a season closing four-game winning streak, I ask what are your expectations?
Truthfully, runs like what happened from 1993-1997 don’t just fall out of the sky because while college football is not quite like the NFL, there is clearly far more parity than there was even a decade ago.
I’m of the mind that to be a perennially consistent program, you ideally want to be in the 8-4 to 10-2 range and maybe every 5-7 years you get that special team that makes a run at the National Title with an 11-1 or 12-0 record. I know 8-4 might seem low but every now and then even the best programs will have a down year whether it’s a talent issue, a health issue or that every break goes against you.