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2022 opponent preview: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Was it a Scott Frost problem or an Adrian Martinez problem?

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NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Not really sure how I want to intro this one other than to say I don’t know who made whom worse: was it a Scott Frost problem or an Adrian Martinez problem? Martinez was the starter for essentially the whole Frost tenure at Nebraska so far and they continuously lost on the back of silly mistakes all over the place. Iowa’s win last year was no exception (and it didn’t even involve Martinez!):

Up 15, Nebraska 1) couldn’t recover a botched reverse, 2) committed a third down pass interference penalty, 3) had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, 4) fumbled, 5) was sacked for a safety, 6) gave up a 55-yard run to set up Iowa’s go-ahead touchdown, 7) threw an interception.

There were probably some things I left out.

What a rush.

Onto this year.

5 Ws

Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers (Lincoln, NE; Big Ten Conference)
Head Coach: Scott Frost (15-29 at Nebraska, 34-36 overall)

What: A Black Friday Tradition

When: November 25th, 2022

Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA

Why: Because Jim Delany wanted to rebuild a Black Friday Tradition

4 Stats

0: Nebraska’s point differential going 1-8 during their 2021 conference schedule.

5: Nebraska’s win total in 23 one-possession games under Scott Frost, a 21.7% rate. That includes seven one-possession losses in 2021.

4.2: The yards/carry from Nebraska’s opponents last year. While it’s a 0.9 yard increase from the first season under Frost (109th in the country), it still ranked in the middle of the pack of the country at 66th and fifth in the Big Ten West.

-0.5: The Cornhuskers’ turnover margin per game last season. It ranked 103rd in the country and second worst under Frost.

3 Guys

Casey Thompson (#11, Jr, 6’0”, 195 lbs): The Texas transfer had a solid, if tumultuous 2021 season. He completed 63% of his passes for a cool 8.1 yards/attempt with 24 touchdowns and nine touchdowns.

But it’s Texas and that 5-7 record has to hang on someone.

The former four-star recruit selected the Longhorns over darn near everyone does a good job getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers and is dangerous on the run. He underwent hand surgery in the offseason after the injury impacted his performance in the back half of the 2021 season. In an open practice, he looked to have regained his form from the best parts of last season.

If he doesn’t go, it’s likely Chubba Purdy (Brock’s brother) would be the starting QB. I have to yield how poetic it would be for Brock to be winless against Iowa only for his brother to snag a win against the Hawks.

Rahmir Johnson (#14, RB, So, 5’10”, 185 lbs): The Huskers leading rusher, non-Martinez division, in 2021 returns for a more varied role in Mark Whipple’s offense.

Though he’s transitioning away from being a true RB, there’s a case his more slight frame wouldn’t hold up as lead back in a Big Ten season. After all, he played in just 10 games and accumulated 650 yards from scrimmage in those games. A transition to a spot in the slot will allow him to get in space and use his slipperiness to generate big plays for the Huskers.

Luke Reimer (#28, LB, Jr, 6’1”, 225 lbs): The hometown Husker led Nebraska in tackles in the 2021 season with 108, including six for a loss. Most notably against Iowa, he forced two fumbles as Iowa’s offense struggled to get traction last November.

BONUS: Decoldest Crawford (#1, WR, Fr, 6’0”, 180 lbs):

2 Cases

Best case: The Iowa Hawkeyes had Scott Frost his pink slip.

Worst case: Nebraska flips the last seven seasons on their head and whoop the Hawkeyes on their home a la Iowa’s 2017 thrashing, which sends the Cornhuskers to their first Big Ten Championship Game in a decade.

1 Question

Did Scott Frost do enough to stem the tide? For as average as the Big Ten West can be, it’s not lacking in storylines. How Scott Frost manages the adversity he’s been in throughout his time in Lincoln is arguably top of the list, considering it’s the hottest seat in the conference. In the offseason he went and got Whipple, who helped build Kenny Pickett into a 2021 Heisman finalist. He allocated Billy Busch to special teams coordinator. He went into the portal and got a top tier QB.

But are the changes enough to cover up the cracks which have been around the program under his stead? Cracks in culture come out in things like penalties and turnovers, things the Huskers regularly rank poorly under Frost. Yet they’re an advanced analytics darling because of all the stuff which isn’t the stuff. If they can get out of their own way, the Huskers can absolutely compete for a championship. The defense has been trending in the right direction. The offense and special teams made important changes. If 2022 is the season Frost finally turns it around, I’m not optimistic it’ll end well for the Hawkeyes.

Big “if” though.