Nebraska Favored Over Northwestern But Who Else?
On paper, the easiest game remaining game for the Huskers this season is next week's visit by Northwestern to Memorial Stadium. The early line has Nebraska favored by seven and a half and the Sagarin ratings would suggest that perhaps it ought to be ten. As bad as the loss at Minnesota feels, the Cornhuskers didn't lose to the Golden Gophers at home like the Wildcats, nor have they lost four straight conference games as Northwestern has.
If we relied on the Sagarin predictor ratings to generate the point spreads, Nebraska would only be favored over Iowa after the Northwestern game. That would leave NU at 7-5 overall with a 4-4 record in the Big Ten. The best chance for an upset would be at Penn State and the Huskers would only be a slight underdog at home to Michigan State. None of the spreads (beyond Northwestern) reach even 7 points. Most are a field goal or less.
That would suggest that if Nebraska can circle the wagons and become a better team than they've been through 7 games, they'd still have an opportunity to win 8 to 10 games. Given the heat on Bo Pelini, they'll likely have to do just that. It also means any further regression by the team could take them out of contention for bowl eligibility.
Tom Osborne's stated criteria for job security for any sport when he was Athletic Director was a winning conference record. That would require the Huskers to win at least three more games and would leave the team at 8-4 with a chance to win a ninth game in the bowl.
We've seen Nebraska lose games they were supposed to win under head coach Bo Pelini before. We've also seen a few upsets. Clemson was a favorite to win the Gator Bowl after the 2008 season but NU won. The Huskers were underdogs to Oklahoma in 2009 but managed to pull the upset. Last year, Michigan was favored coming into Lincoln but lost. So it would not be unprecedented for the Cornhuskers to score an upset under Pelini either.
That now seems almost essential going forward. Otherwise, seven or fewer wins might lead to a regime change. And as with ouster of Frank Solich, the phrase "be careful what you wish for" may apply.