Nebraska Football: The Future of Nebraska Football and Bo Pelini
It's day three in what will most likely be the longest two weeks of the Husker football season.
In case you haven't heard by now, Nebraska lost to Ohio State in the Horseshoe. Perhaps "lost" isn't the best term to use. Maybe "blown out," "shellacked" or "routed" would be more appropriate to describe the 63-38 beatdown the Buckeyes inflicted on Nebraska.
And with that loss, the Pelini critics are out in full force. On social media. On message boards. Almost everyone in the state that lives and dies by its football program has an opinion on the head coach.
But the critics are by far the loudest.
They say things like, "Bo doesn't know defense anymore," "He can't get the recruits he needs for his system," and so on and so forth. Some are pointing out the fact that he had no head coaching experience prior to being hired.
People are looking back on what Pelini has done at the helm of the Huskers. Here are the facts.
In 2008, Pelini led a Husker team coming off a 5-7 season to a 9-4 record and a comeback victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.
In 2009, Bo took his Huskers to the Big 12 Championship, where they lost (albeit on a controversial call). They ended up winning the Holiday Bowl by shutting out Arizona to finish 10-4.
In 2010, the Huskers again went to the Big 12 Championship and Holiday Bowl. They lost to Washington (who they previously beat earlier in the year) and finished 10-4.
In 2011, Pelini guided the Huskers through the Big Ten for the first time. They made it to the Capital One Bowl, where they lost to South Carolina to finish 9-4 on the season.
In 2012, halfway through the season, Nebraska is 4-2 with embarrassing defensive play on the road.
That's Pelini's first four-and-a-half years as head coach.
Let's look at the first four years of some of college football's other active head coaches.
First, Nick Saban.
Saban started his head coaching career at the MAC school of Toledo. He was there for one year and led the Rockets to a 9-2 record.
After a stint with the Browns, Saban came back to college football, this time as head coach of Michigan State.
In his first three years there, he went 6-5-1 with a loss in the Independence Bowl, 6-6 with a loss in the Sun Bowl, and 7-5 with a loss in the Aloha Bowl.
Now look at Urban Meyer's resume.
Meyer started in the MAC like Saban but was the head coach of Bowling Green.
In his two seasons there, he went 8-3 and 9-3.
Meyer then went to Utah. He led the Utes to a 10-2 record with a Liberty Bowl victory and a 12-0 record with a Fiesta Bowl win in his two seasons with the Utes.
Finally, Les Miles.
Miles started out at Oklahoma State.
In his four seasons there, he went 4-7, 8-5 with a Houston Bowl win, 9-4 with a loss in the Cotton Bowl, and 7-5 with a loss in the Alamo Bowl.
What is my point?
Look at where these coaches are now. Look at the level of success that their current programs maintain.
The difference between them and Pelini? They started coaching at small-time programs that were down.
When Saban took over the Rockets, they were coming off consecutive 6-5 seasons. The Spartans hadn't had a winning season since 1990 (he was hired in 1995).
Meyer took over a Bowling Green squad that went 2-9 the year before. The Utes were 5-6 the year prior to Urban's arrival.
Miles took over a Cowboys team that was 5-6, 5-6 and 3-8 the years before.
Pelini came to Nebraska to lead the Huskers away from the 5-7 record that Bill Callahan compiled the previous year.
It's as if Bo missed an important part in his coaching career. Whereas the others had time to experiment and pick up new ideas that would eventually become their future teams' identities, Pelini is doing all of that at Nebraska. He's learning what works and what doesn't. These are his "sandbox years."
Remember the offense the first couple of years when Pelini took over? There was none. Now look at it. The defense was terrible the first year. It could be called that this year as well. Pelini needs to find the recruits for his system or get a new system. He needs to learn.
But in order to learn, he needs time.
If many more losses like last Saturday occur, he might not get it. But he should. He took a program derailed by Bill Callahan and has turned it around. Now it's time to focus on the little things: the penalties, the fumbles, the dumb mistakes.
Heck, it took Tom Osborne—the great Tom Osborne—22 years to win the big one. He continued to learn, to see what worked and what didn't. Husker fans way back when were clamoring for his job. Aren't you glad they were ignored?
Hang in there, Husker fans. Whatever happened to "In Bo We Trust?" Show it to him. Ease down with the negatives and give him some more time.
You just might like the results.
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