Saturday, June 9, 2012

Huskers need to protect the homefront

Lost in the Nebraska football roller-coaster ride from great-to-mediocre-to-bad-to-mediocre-to-bad-good but great is the fact that the Huskers once dominated homes.

Between a 36-21 loss to Washington in 1991 to a 20-16 loss to Texas in 1998, Nebraska won 47 consecutive home games and of those wins only four were by seven points or less and 36 were by 21 points or more. After the aforementioned loss to Texas, Nebraska went on a 26-game home winning streak that lasted until 2002 before losing 27-24 to Texas. Since that game, Nebraska has gone 50-16 at home. Granted, most teams would gladly take that record but it is a far cry from the milestones the Huskers reached for much of the 1990s.

In 1991, the Huskers returned to the Orange Bowl as Big Eight champions. In 1992, NU beat a top ten team for the first time in four years. That led to the undefeated regular season of 1993 that put them into a national championship game. Along the way, Nebraska went over seven years without losing in Memorial Stadium. If Nebraska wants to make a similar climb to the top echelon of college football, chances are it will begin with a good long home winning streak.

This year's home slate is as tough as any in memory. The Huskers open at home with a Southern Mississippi team that finished in the top twenty nationally and won 12 games last season. After a road date at UCLA, Nebraska then hosts defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. Idaho State is admittedly sort of a de facto bye week before defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin comes to town for a night game in Lincoln. The environment under the lights can go a long way in turning the tables on the Badgers after last season’s 48-17 fiasco in Madison.

After two tough road games (at Ohio State and at Northwestern) sandwiched around a bye, the game of the season goes down in Lincoln against Michigan. That contest will be another night game and the crowd will have to do their part if Nebraska wants to get by the Wolverines. Two weeks (and a tough road game at Michigan State) later, the Huskers have to be on their toes hosting Penn State. Then they need to stay awake and contain Minnesota's MarQueis Gray on senior day if they want to go a perfect 7-0 at home.

Nebraska hasn't gone undefeated in Lincoln since 2001. Not coincidentally, that's also the last time they played in a BCS bowl. A perfect season overall seems like a high bar. Who goes 14-0 in this day and age? Going 7-0 in your building would not only go a long way toward making 2012 a great season, but also sets the stage for bigger and better things in the seasons to come.

Winning anything of substance - division, conference, national title - starts with winning at home. A team can’t really win anything if it doesn’t win the division.

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