Like It or Not, Nebraska's Prime-Time-Heavy Schedule Ups Pressure in 2014

Erin SorensenContributor IMay 1, 2014

LINCOLN, NE - AUGUST 31: A flag is waved after a Nebraska Cornhuskers during their game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Take a look at Nebraska's 2014 schedule. Notice something?

It should become apparent pretty quickly for Husker fans. After a 2013 season with only one night game (the home opener versus Wyoming), Nebraska now has five prime-time games in a row in 2014. That's quite the change in schedule from one year over the next.

Since the game-time announcements, the reactions have been mixed.

For example, wide receiver Kenny Bell was not pleased. As College Spun reported, Bell took to Twitter to share his frustration over all of the night games. He eventually dropped the subject, but it definitely got fans' attention at the time:

As for the Omaha World Herald's Dirk Chatelain, he questioned what so many night games would do to ticket holders:

When the Huskers are hosting Illinois at 8 p.m. on Big Ten Network, that’s asking too much of your ticket-holders. Those from Omaha or Grand Island, for instance, won’t be getting home until 1 or 2 a.m. Is it really worth it to watch Illinois?

Sooner or later, they’ll say 'Why don’t we just stay home?'

Both Bell and Chatelain make valid points, which led to a bigger discussion of the pressure prime-time games put on a program. A schedule full of them definitely ups the ante for head coach Bo Pelini and his team.

Prime-time games haven't been the friendliest to Nebraska in recent years. For instance, the 2012 season is the most telling. The Huskers lost in prime time to UCLA, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Nebraska also fell to Wisconsin in prime time in 2011, too.

And beyond just the prime-time games, there's always the chance ESPN's College GameDay may roll into town for the matchup with Miami. That's pure speculation at this point, but it wouldn't be crazy to assume the classic rivalry isn't on the short list of possibilities. If that were to happen, it would only add additional pressure.

After all, Nebraska hosted College GameDay in 2007, only to lose, 49-31, to USC. As for the Wisconsin game in 2011, the popular preview show was in Madison to watch the Huskers lose, 48-17. Needless to say, the prime-time factor has not been kind to Nebraska recently.

That has to put a little pressure on Pelini and staff. But like it or not, it's the reality Nebraska must face.

Additionally, it's important the Huskers get comfortable in prime time. At the end of the day, it's good for recruiting, and it's good for national exposure.

It's safe to assume the Miami game will entice plenty of recruits to town. The prime-time atmosphere will give those players a great opportunity to see Nebraska at its finest, and it will be imperative for the Huskers to win. As Pelini looks to secure one of his best recruiting classes in 2015, a big win at home under the lights can't hurt.

Needless to say, a lot of fans are concerned about prime-time games for more reasons than tailgating all day and staying up late. Many fans remember those prime-time games gone wrong and have found the Huskers tend to fare better in earlier time slots.

That may sound crazy, but after quite a few big losses in prime time, it's hard to not feel the pressure.

But there is good news. As the Lincoln Journal Star pointed out, the Huskers are actually in a much better position than fans assume, as "Nebraska is 39-5 in night games at Memorial Stadium since the first one against Florida State in 1986. The Huskers have won 13 in a row in such a setting."

That's right. Despite the losses in prime time on the road, Nebraska has performed well during that time slot at home. That means Miami and Illinois have the odds in the Huskers' favor.

As for Fresno State, Michigan State and Northwestern, Nebraska will be battling to overcome the prime-time curse (for lack of a better word) that follows the team on the road.

Prime-time games add pressure, regardless of the team. Pelini is in the same spot as any other team with a prime-time game. It just feels different for Husker fans because some of the biggest losses in recent years have come at the hands of a prime-time game.

So the pressure is on in 2014 as the season of early kickoffs is gone. Can the Huskers beat the pressure? Like it or not, they're going to have to.