The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 2013 football schedule is mostly set and the biggest surprise must be the lack of prime-time appearances for the Big Red. Despite capturing two evening slots from the Big Ten Network’s lineup, Nebraska was overlooked for the coveted ESPN/ABC prime-time slots.
And they are better off for it.
College football teams and their fans love night games, and for good reason. The late television slot provides greater exposure to potential recruits, brings national attention to the program—which helps in the polls and individual awards—and offers fans more tailgating time prior to kickoff. Plus, everyone knows that scarlet and cream look best under the lights.
When it comes to the Huskers, however, none of these benefits can overshadow the basic truth that, in recent years, Nebraska struggles in prime-time games.
Since joining the Big Ten, Nebraska has played in seven nationally televised prime-time games. And the results have not been flattering.
The Huskers were 3-4 in those contests. Although that is not a terrible figure, let’s remember that two of those three wins came largely due to injuries suffered by the opposing quarterback (Ohio State in 2011 and Michigan in 2012).
Even more, how about those losses? All four can easily be described as humiliating considering how Wisconsin (2011), Ohio State (2012) and Wisconsin again (2012 Big Ten Championship Game) all ran the Big Red out of the stadium and UCLA’s offense shredded the Blackshirts under the command of a redshirt freshman quarterback.
Simply put, Nebraska struggles under the spotlight. And that is not just literal.
The Huskers entered the Big Ten heralded as one of the favorites to win the conference and as a potential dark horse for the national championship. Under the weight of expectations and a top-10 ranking, they stumbled to a 5-3 Big Ten record and a third-place finish in the division, never mind the conference.
Then, amidst the lowered expectations created from such a lackluster year, they overachieved (according to some) in 2012. Despite the Legends Division being declared a two-horse race between the Michigans, the Big Red went 7-1, defeating every team in its division and two of the top three from the Leaders.
So, perhaps the television schedule is not as bad as one might think. Night games certainly are fun. The pageantry, the excitement and the atmosphere are unmatched. But the spotlight is no friend of the Big Red, and Nebraska could really benefit from the anonymity of Saturday afternoons.