By kickoff on Saturday, Nebraska's season will have truly begun.
Similar to the 2012 season, Nebraska's final six games of the season are of the make-or-break variety. The goal is a trip to the Big Ten Championship.
Getting to that point won't be easy, though. In fact, the Huskers are in for a long six weeks.
During the Nebraska weekly press conference Monday, senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles confirmed that fact.
It’s a six-week meat grinder, is the way I look at it. No more bye weeks. No more breaks. It’s got to be one after another -- boom, boom, boom, boom. I think it’s really going to define who we are as a football team.
Nebraska has faced this schedule before, too. In 2012, Nebraska's final six games were Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa.
The only difference from one season to the next is the order of each matchup.
At this point in 2012, the Huskers were 4-2. The team had lost to UCLA and Ohio State on the road. Prior to the bye week, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes dropped a 63-38 victory on Nebraska.
In 2013, the Huskers are 5-1 at the same point. However, the season is only truly beginning now.
Junior wide receiver Kenny Bell knows it's going to be challenging.
"It’s going to be a bumpy road," Bell said. "There’s no doubt about it. When you’re playing great teams week after week, it’s tough."
The bye weeks were well-timed, though. With injuries to recover from, Nebraska's light October schedule allowed time to heal, which has been crucial for this team.
Rest is over, though.
In 2012, the Huskers needed to win six straight. They did just that. In 2013, Nebraska needs to do the same.
Some believe it should be easier for the Huskers to accomplish this go around. Northwestern has basically eliminated itself from the Legends Division title race by starting 0-3. Michigan has also already lost a game. While 3-0, Michigan State faces offensive issues. The team's 14-0 win over Purdue wasn't exactly a shining moment for the Spartans.
An interesting statistic from the Lincoln Journal Star is that the five teams Nebraska has defeated so far this season are a combined 12-22. As for the remaining six on the Huskers' schedule, those teams are 29-12.
Ultimately, the Huskers are now poised for their true test of the season.
It is likely Nebraska will enter a three-team Legends race with Michigan and Michigan State. The type of team head coach Bo Pelini has will become clear within the first three weeks of November.
Nebraska travels to Michigan on Nov. 9th, followed by Michigan State heading to Lincoln, Neb. on Nov. 16th. Michigan and Michigan State face off on Nov. 2nd. That means the Legends Division leader will most likely be determined by mid-November. It doesn't mean the Huskers can slow down.
Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern all pose a threat to the Huskers. Despite win-loss records, those three teams have the ability to snag a win from the Huskers. Penn State will also be out to throw Nebraska off course.
Pelini recognizes the challenges ahead.
You look around college football. I think everything is pretty wide-open. That’s just the nature of college football. In my opinion, you can throw 40 teams in a hat and go week to week and the teams that are going to execute that given week are the teams that are going to win football games. It’s not just the Legends Division. It’s across college football. It’s the way it is.
Regardless, it's time to get down to business. After all, no Nebraska team has made it through a conference regular season without a loss since 1997, via the Lincoln Journal Star.
Plenty of predictions are in place that Nebraska will not escape the last six games without at least one loss. However, Pelini is 16-4 in November in his five years with the Huskers.
|How Pelini has fared in final 6 regular-season games as head coach|
|Lincoln Journal Star|
The second half of the Huskers' schedule has the opportunity to erase the memory of the UCLA loss. It also has the chance to bring the Huskers back to Lucas Oil Stadium to avenge the 70-31 loss they suffered at the hands of Wisconsin last year.
In 2012, Pelini declared that his team would have to "win out" after its bye week. The Huskers did just that.
While no formal declaration has been made, Nebraska knows what it's up against. It won't be an easy road.
As far as the Huskers are concerned, Saturday is the true beginning of the 2013 season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are courtesy of Nebraska's weekly press conference, via Huskers.com.