Nebraska Football: Why Bo Pelini Needs a Bowl Win to Avoid the Hot Seat

Andrew SteierContributor IIIDecember 13, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 01: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini watches the action during the Big Ten Championship game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Bo Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his five season at Nebraska.  He has captured three divisional crowns in the last four years.  But that is not always enough to satisfy Husker fans.

After getting pummeled by a weak Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game and failing to win yet another conference championship game, Bo Pelini is strangely nearing the hot seat in Lincoln.  A victory in the Capital One Bowl, though, can provide the necessary momentum to let Pelini breathe a little easier heading into the 2013 campaign.

As is the custom in Husker nation, criticism has been plentiful throughout Bo Pelini’s tenure.  He has been reprimanded for his sideline demeanor, questioned for his coaching staff selections, and doubted for his recruiting ability.  Yet there was always one thing Pelini could fall back on: his team’s bowl performances.

Through much of his early career, it seemed as though the longer Bo Pelini’s teams had to prepare for their opponent, the greater advantage they had.

It began with Pelini’s first game as Nebraska’s head coach after the firing of Frank Solich.  Appointed the interim head coach for the bowl game, Pelini lead the Big Red to a solid bowl win over the Michigan State Spartans.

And after returning to Lincoln as the permanent head coach years later, Bo Pelini picked up where he left off.  First, he led the Huskers to a surprising victory over Clemson in the Gator Bowl.  Next, he and the Big Red dominated Arizona in the Holiday Bowl after falling just short in the Big XII Championship Game against Texas.

Since then, it has been tough treading for Nebraska in the postseason.

After a disappointing end to the 2010 season, Nebraska was dealt an unfortunate rematch with the Washington Huskies in their second straight Holiday Bowl.  The clearly uninspired Huskers limped to a 12-point defeat against a team they had throttled months earlier.

Then, to conclude last season, Nebraska started strong against a favored South Carolina team.  But after a failed extra point and Hail Mary from the Gamecocks at the end of the first half, the Huskers fell apart and lost by 17.

This is the backward momentum that Bo Pelini desperately needs to reverse. 

For a long time, Pelini was lauded for his preparation for bowl games.  Lately, however, these stellar performances have been replaced with lackluster efforts by the Big Red.

One more dismal bowl performance, coupled with Nebraska’s humiliation in Indianapolis, could spell trouble for Pelini.  Few fanbases would look sourly upon five consecutive nine-win seasons.  But a continuation of this downward spiral could spell serious trouble for Pelini and place him firmly on the hot seat in 2013.