Football season is nearly here and as such, we’ll close our lookahead series with Iowa’s final opponent of the season, Nebraska.
There are a number of things I’m going to say about the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but I’ll start with this: I absolutely love this game.
When the news dropped that Wisconsin was going to play Iowa as the last game of the season in 2020 and 2021, I got a little disappointed. The Black Friday football game vs. Nebraska has been one of my favorite new Iowa traditions and, thankfully, it looks like it’ll continue after the series with the Badgers.
Having that feeling though was a little strange. I mean after all, Nebraska is still a relatively new member to the conference. Sure, there was a bit of history and, of course, the states’ close proximity. Nebraska, though, was a team and a school where growing up, the only thing I really knew about them was a story my dad told me about how shitty the fans were to him and his brother (an Iowa State fan) during a Big Eight game in the 90’s.
I never expected a rivalry to bud with a made-up trophy, but somehow it has — much to the vexation of Nebraska fans. It’s perfect, really. Nebraska comes to the Big Ten expecting to compete for national championships and have rivalries with Michigan and Michigan State (who, if you’ll remember, were in the Leaders Division with Nebraska and Iowa back when Nebraska joined the conference).
Instead, Nebraska somewhat unwillingly creates a rather vicious rivalry with their neighbors to the east, whom they hold with the utmost contempt.
Which, by the way, is a regionalism I’ve never completely understood. Minnesotans fake hate Iowa. People from Wisconsin just roll their eyes at us as they stumble home drunk. Illinois people are usually all right and half of the Iowa fanbase is from Naperville or Oak Park anyways. Missouri is the south.
But Nebraska. Nebraskans just hold Iowa with a level of condescension I’ve simply never understood, and maybe never will. It’s the constant bringing up of the championships and the sellout ‘streak’ and how Scott Frost is the second coming of Tom Osborne. It was the casual disdain in which (former) athletic director Shawn Eichorst infamously dismissed Iowa before turning around and making one of the worst Power-5 football hires of this decade.
The fanbase suddenly has delusions of grandeur, and its somehow made a massively insufferable group of people even more so. With all in mind, it’s perfect this is, indeed, a rivalry. Fate certainly has a sense of humor.
One of my favorite bits of random Iowa trivia is that the Hawkeyes shut out the Cornhuskers in their first-ever meeting, 22-0.
Nebraska, of course, would go on to win 15 of the next 18 matchups between the two schools, with ties in the other three games. The Hawkeyes drew first blood, however, on that late November day in 1891.
In a little bit more recent times, Iowa’s outscored Nebraska 124-44 in the last three meetings, all Hawkeye wins. The Hawks also hold a 4-3 advantage in wins since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, though the Cornhuskers still hold the all-time series 29-16-3.
Scott Frost’s first experience against Iowa will be in Kinnick Stadium, which is a heckuva way to be baptized into playing the Hawkeyes for the first time.
At the center of Nebraska’s current offensive issues is at quarterback, a position that’s been problematic for them since like, the mid-2000s.
Redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and true freshman Adrian Martinez are your forerunners, I guess, and we’ll see which one of them is starting games by the time Iowa rolls around. Neither of these two players will probably be on the team next season, as Frost will have them thrown into a cornfield to make room for whatever superhuman he’s recruited as his QB of the future.
In the meantime, chalk them up for at least two interceptions against the Hawkeyes. At this point, it’s just a tradition, much like the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry.
Greg Bell, Maurice Washington and Devine Ozigbo seem likely tote the ball, at least for the start of the year. Tre Bryant is injured and might play at some point this season. We’ll see.
At receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. is still annoyingly good, just like every other Cornhusker wideout (e.g. Jordan Westerkamp) I can think of. De’Mornay Pierson-El is finally gone after what felt like approximately 1000 years of playing in Lincoln. An aside: living in Lincoln for 1000 years is my own personal hell.
Mike Riley created defenses primarily of wet paper and as such, this part of Nebraska hasn’t been ‘good’ or ‘above average’ or even ‘slightly better than horrendous’ for, uh, quite some time.
The blackshirts don’t exist anymore, especially now that Nebraska is in Frost’s 2060’s future era coaching style in which defense doesn’t really matter. That’s not completely true, of course, but Frost has always been an offense-first coach, and I think that continues in Lincoln.
Anyways, some good news, at least Nebraska fans (?), is that Frost managed to smuggle half of UCF’s team onto the private jet the school sent for him. There’s certainly going to be growing pains in this unit (especially in the secondary) but they do return a little bit. Linebackers and defensive line seem passable. They won’t be pushovers.
Oh and by the way, Nebraska’s defensive coordinator Erik Chinander is from and played at Iowa between 1998-2002. Because of course he did.
Nebraska football will win games under Scott Frost, that is undeniable.
The Cornhuskers will win a lot of games, maybe as soon as this year. They will rush and pass for a lot of yards and they will score touchdowns and Memorial Stadium will once again be full.
From a football sense, yes, fine. They will do well.
But what about a culture sense? That a large part of the reasoning Mike Riley was hired in the first place. Nebraska felt things under Bo Pelini had turned poisonous, which wasn’t untrue.
In July, Nebraska hired back former player development coach Ron Brown, a man who very much despises the very existence of anyone who isn’t straight. Brown coached wide receivers and tight ends from 1987 to 2003 and then was back at Nebraska from 2008 to 2014 coaching tight ends and running backs.
Brown has come back as a Director of Player Development in, “a non-coaching role, mentoring Husker football student-athletes in numerous off-field development areas.” So, basically, he’ll be there to coach the culture.
And if you’ll remember that during those previous stints at Nebraska, it wasn’t exactly great. If that’s what Frost wants in his program, it is what it is. But just remember, the constant bigotry, preaching and bubbling hatred from a person like Ron Brown isn’t healthy. It won’t lead to anything good.
Scott Frost talks about making “strides” with Nebraska’s culture. But what are they making a stride towards?