Gophers Will Face a Desperate Scott Frost, Nebraska Team on Saturday

Photo: Jesse Johnson – USA TODAY Sports

You learn most about a person when their back is against the wall. Or in the case of Nebraska football, you learn most about a program when it appears on the precipice of disaster. That’s the outside perception of 4th-year head coach Scott Frost and his (3-4) Cornhuskers heading into Saturday’s matchup vs the Minnesota Gophers.

Inside Husker Nation, many fans and all of the Frost sympathizers see a good 2021 team that continues to get better as the season goes on. The problem has been their incredibly difficult schedule to start the season. Nebraska has already played against three ranked opponents and they’re yet to claim victory.

In fact, after falling to #9 Michigan last weekend, Scotty Frost is 0-10 against top-25 teams since taking over Nebraska. Some numbers matter and some don’t. This one looks like the former.

Schedule from hell

Life won’t get any easier for the Cornhuskers going forward.

Saturday’s matchup against the Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium is the first of two straight non-ranked opponents the Huskers will face. They host Purdue after their bye week, before finishing vs (#6) Ohio State, @ Wisconsin and vs (#2) Iowa. Frost needs to somehow find three victories out of those 5 games just to get bowl eligible.

That makes the games against Minnesota and Purdue must-win. It’s very clear why Frost may or may not have went out of his way to try canceling the back-to-back matchups vs Oklahoma in 2021 and 2022. If Nebraska loses this weekend in Minneapolis, the 2021 season could quickly spiral out of control, leaving plenty of questions about Scotty’s status for next year.

Optimistic Desperation in Lincoln

Someway, somehow, despite his 15-24 record, Frost still has more defenders than offenders throughout Husker Nation and its media. Barring a horrific finish that changes minds in Lincoln, Frost’s job is expected to be safe this offseason.

Frost is proud of his team because they continue to show fight and play well, despite their propensity to lose close games against ranked opponents. None of Nebraska’s four losses this season, including the three against ranked teams, have been by more than one score.

The Huskers lost by 8 to Illinois, by 7 to (#3) Oklahoma and by a pair of field goals to (#20) Michigan State and (#9) Michigan. Keeping things close might be enough for Frost to keep his job security when facing ranked opponents, but it won’t get him off the hook in Lincoln against a flawed Minnesota Gophers team.

Given their remaining schedule, the Huskers cannot afford to lose to the Gophers on Saturday. It would put them in an hole that would be impossible to dig out of. Losing in Dinkytown this weekend would signal the start of that “spiraled season” previously mentioned.

Gophers need to be prepared

The Minnesota Gophers have owned the Nebraska Cornhuskers during PJ Fleck’s tenure, posting a 3-1 record that has given the maroon and gold faithful infinite bragging rights over the loud and annoying Big Red fanbase. But the Huskers need this win more than the Gophers do.

Sure, Minnesota needs Saturday if they are going to stand any chance of competing with Iowa for a Big Ten West title. But, Nebraska and their coaching staff are playing for their credibility and, quite possibly, their job security. Oh, and Frost hates PJ Fleck, constantly throwing passive aggressive shots at him through the media. Randy Johnson (Star Tribune) dug up this gem of a quote for a piece he wrote in Friday’s paper. It was uttered at Big Ten Media Day back in June.

That means PJ Fleck needs to have his team ready to play on Saturday morning. Desperate teams and desperate head coaches can be dangerous but they can also be taken advantage of. I expect the Huskers to throw anything and everything at the wall in hopes that it sticks for a victory.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan