It wasn't supposed to be like this.
When Nebraska hired Bo Pelini in 2008, it was supposed to signal the beginning of Nebraska's return to the top. Nebraska was going to be a national title contender again, and Pelini was going to be the guy that got them there.
Somewhere between 2008 and 2012, those national title aspirations dropped to conference title and division title aspirations. When the Huskers moved to the Big Ten, the focus was back to conference titles.
Then came the post-game interview Bo Pelini gave after his Huskers lost in blowout fashion to Ohio State a week-and-a-half ago. Five words flowed from Pelini's mouth that summed up the rest of the 2012 Nebraska football season: We Need To Win Out.
How did we get here? How did Nebraska, in Bo Pelini's fifth season at the helm in Lincoln, find its way to a dark corner in a year when they play in the only AQ BCS conference without a representative in the BCS Top 25?
It feels like a rebuilding year, like next year is the year they'll take the next step. The problem is, it has felt like that during every season of Bo Pelini's tenure.
I hear all kinds of excuses for why Nebraska can't get back to the top under Pelini. I hear geography as an excuse. Supposedly kids don't want to play at cold-weather schools. I hear SEC domination-specifically that conference's over-signing methods during recruiting offsetting the college football landscape. Up until this season, I've heard the excuse that Pelini needs time to implement his system.
On Sunday, Nebraska ran out of excuses.
The first BCS rankings of the season were released. Sitting at No. 4 and No. 5 respectively in those rankings were Kansas State and Notre Dame.
Those two programs have managed to climb back to relevancy over the past two seasons. Along the way, they have had to combat the same obstacles that some have used as excuses for Nebraska.
You could argue that those programs have more obstacles. In addition to those I previously mentioned in regard to Nebraska, Notre Dame deals with what few would argue are more stringent admission standards; while Kansas State has to deal with being located two hours from the nearest major airport and 10 miles off the interstate highway system. In short, Manhattan, Kansas is a tough place to get to, let alone convince others to visit.
Be that as it may, Brian Kelly, in his third year at Notre Dame and Bill Snyder, in the fourth year of his second stint at Kansas State, have their teams very much in the national title hunt. In fact, if both do what Pelini wants Nebraska to do and win out, it is very likely that one, if not both, would play in the BCS Championship game at the end of the season.
It hasn't all been coaching for the two programs, either. Both Notre Dame and Kansas State are led by arguably the two best football players in the nation: Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
I promise both programs won't stay in the national title mix year after year. There is simply too much parity in college football. But today, nobody in South Bend or Manhattan is thinking about anything but raising that crystal football at the end of the season. I won't begin to imagine what most Nebraska fans would give to be experiencing those thoughts and feelings at this point in the season.
It's time for the Cornhuskers to get back to that point, even if only once every five or six years. If they can't, then maybe it's time for a change.
No more excuses.