Is this Nebraska team for real?
Many people had said before last Saturday’s Virginia Tech game they could not tell how good Nebraska was. I wrote that Saturday’s game would be the bellwether for the season.
If Nebraska had dominated the Hokies, then fans would have been looking for a win next Saturday night against the top 10 Missouri Tigers. With a closely contested loss to a top 25 team, it appears that Nebraska is a legitimate top 30 team. The next two games on the Huskers' schedule should be challenging for any team in or out of the top 10.
Before saying if the team is for real, people have to agree on what “real” means. If "real" means a top-10 team like the Huskers that dominated the 1990s, then it appears another season’s wait will be required.
If "real" means are they good enough to beat a top team on any given Saturday then we can probably conclude that the Huskers are for real. Last Saturday was just not their day.
When will we know if this team can reach its potential?
Three wins against teams with a cumulative 8-5 record that have no win against any top 25 teams was a warmup and not a test. Losing to a team ranked back in the top 25 is a better measuring stick. Luck is a fickle thing, and last Saturday it broke the Hokies' way.
Writing off a traditional powerhouse after a slow start is not in most coach’s plans for success. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is probably reminding his Tiger team daily not to overlook Nebraska. Texas Tech’s Mike Leach is probably more worried about overlooking Kansas State this week, but next week NU will be in his crosshairs.
Following those two games, a potentially 3-3 Huskers have two possible wins at Iowa State and back home against Baylor. A motivated Nebraska will face traditional rival Oklahoma in Norman in the sixth of eight straight weeks of football. When the final gun sounds on the Nov. 1 OU game, spectators and the last three opponents should know Nebraska’s potential in the final weeks of its Big 12 North competition.
Every season has to come to a close sometime. This team’s season may end with a Black Friday TV game against Colorado. It might end in a December bowl game with a traveling fan base frustrated from a lack of invitations. Either way, it should end with more promise than Husker teams have had since Tom Osborne retired from coaching.