In today’s college football world, there is no one game that will decide a team’s season anymore like when Nebraska and Oklahoma clashed in the ‘70s and ‘80s. There are maybe two teams in Alabama and Ohio State that are expected to smash “lesser” squads. Everyone else is fair game.
The spotlight shines brightly on the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes along with Louisville, Clemson, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, and the Top 25 as a whole. However, there’s one team that’s just kind of doing its thing, winning games and now heads into its first bye week undefeated.
That’s Nebraska. A Nebraska team that could very well move up again from the No. 15 ranking it has very quietly earned.
Mike Riley’s bunch has been sharper this year with five wins already versus all of last year’s six. The execution is better and boy howdy, you’d best come correct in the fourth quarter. The Huskers have outscored their first five opponents 78-6 in the final stanza and they make it look easy.
“I think that our team has made plays to win games, and I think the fourth quarter is when you’re doing that,” Riley said. “Like I said, I’m proud of that. Maybe whatever they did, and what our people did to condition them and to last and play. I don’t know if that’s a part of it, but it could be. I think the biggest part is the mental competitiveness. Keep your poise, keep playing, even though it wasn’t very pretty, and then make some plays to win the game. It was great.”
You know the old saying about teams taking on the personality of their coach? This is a team that very much represents Riley. It’s a team that keeps its head down, works hard, stays humble and just flat out gets the job done.
Saturday was very kind to the Big Red as it worked its way to another win, this time over Illinois.
Iowa lost to a Northwestern team that Nebraska beat last week, Wisconsin lost to Michigan 14-7, Minnesota lost in overtime to Penn State. The Huskers took care of business and now own sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West.
Say what you will about Nebraska’s win over the Fighting Illini. Was it pretty? No. Should the Huskers have maimed the Illinois and easily covered the spread? Maybe. Did they win? Yes, and that’s what counts.
Yeah, the Big Red may win ugly at times this season. It certainly didn’t help that they had five starters out at one point versus Lovie Smith’s crew including two on the offensive line, but they’re simply finding ways to win.
If Nebraska ends the season with double-digit wins, you won’t hear many fans (there are always a few) complaining about how the Huskers got there.
For now, Nebraska gets to heal and prepare for the next step as they take on the Indiana Hoosiers in a couple of weeks.
By the time they play Wisconsin, who knows?
They may be the quietest Top 10 team in prime position to lock up their spot the conference title game before too long.