Nebraska coach Bo Pelini needs to start winning some Big Ten championships if he wants to have a long career in Lincoln. But even more than that, he needs to coach a defense that doesn't give up a boatload of points.
That was before an audio tape was released this week—just days after the Cornhuskers gave up 38 straight points in a 41-21 loss to UCLA last Saturday—of Pelini spouting off expletives, as per Deadspin, from two years ago about Nebraska's fan base.
It was a private moment of frustration for Pelini made public. He's apologized for it, via Nebraska's website, and would love nothing more than to move on. The easiest and quickest way to do that, and to have a disgruntled fan base do so with you, is to win. It fixes practically everything and fans will justify almost anything in its name.
Pelini took the first step to maybe, possibly, getting back into fans' good graces by beating South Dakota State on Saturday, 59-20. Beating up on a FCS opponent is no major accomplishment, but after the week this program has gone through, it was necessary. What's more, the Cornhuskers were able to win big without quarterback Taylor Martinez, who was sidelined with a toe injury, as per ESPN.
Nebraska's defense got off to a shaky start after giving up 17 first-quarter points to SDSU, but buckled down by only allowing a field goal for the rest of the game.
If nothing else, it's an important first step for Pelini and this program.
Big Ten conference play begins in two weeks against Illinois. The 'Huskers have a manageable first few weeks against the Illini, Purdue and Minnesota. Pelini can't afford to overlook any team at this point, and he won't, but there's an opportunity to build some momentum.
Things get more difficult when November rolls around. That's when the 'Huskers play Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa in consecutive weeks. That backloaded schedule could line up nicely for Pelini if Nebraska is rolling. It could also spell trouble for his future if things go south again and the 'Huskers give up a lot of points.
What will it take for Pelini to keep his job? At minimum, a Big Ten championship appearance—one that doesn't end in giving up 70 points to the opposing team.
Pelini's hurt the fan base enough that there's no tolerance left for poor defensive games or blowout losses.
The only thing left is for Nebraska's administration to decide if he's capable of taking the program to the next level.