After a story-book season with UCF that saw the team go a perfect 13-0, with a Peach Bowl win against Auburn, Scott Frost was hired by Nebraska with the specific intention to rebuild his alma mater from the ground up after a span of years that saw the team in decline. Was Frost the right hire? Is the team bound for greatness or mediocrity? Let's dive on in to explore where the team currently stands under Frost, where the team could be headed, and ultimately if Scott Frost can be the guy that brings Nebraska back to its blue-blood, powerhouse roots.
What's the Current Situation?
Although a quick google search will show that their 2018 and 2019 seasons were very poor record-wise, the team is not entirely what it may seem. Don't get me wrong, marks of 4-8 and 5-7 with no bowl game appearances isn't good by any stretch, especially for a brand-name program like Nebraska, but consider this: the team isn't that far from a turnaround.
If we're just looking at strictly the numbers , in 2018 the Cornhuskers offense ranked 58th out of 130 FBS schools, averaging exactly 30 points-per-game. As for their defense, they ranked 88th - allowing an abysmal 31.2 points-per-game. In 2019 their offense ranked 72nd, averaging 28 PPG. Meanwhile, the defense actually improved - allowing 27.8 PPG (66th in the FBS). Keep in mind too that their blowout loss to Ohio State heavily skews these averages in a far worse direction. Still, not great by any means, but what the stats tell you is that they're not getting worse like many fans and members of the media seem to think they are. Certainly they haven't improved much either, but the important thing to note here is that they've leveled out for the time being.
Now this next statistic will blow your mind (if your a Cornhusker fan it'll probably make you wince) - of the 15 losses over the past two seasons, nine of them have been decided by seven points or less. Yes, you read that right -more than half of those games could have just as easily gone in their favor. Just for fun, let's play with this idea for a bit: in 2018 Nebraska goes 4-8, but if just two of their five closest losses go in their favor, they become bowl-eligible. Now for 2019: the team goes 5-7, but if they win just one or two of their four closest losses, again they qualify for a postseason game. And what does this mean for Scott Frost in this scenario? His win/loss record at Nebraska goes in the complete opposite direction (13-11 in this hypothetical scenario).
Sure some of that was hypothetical, "could-of-should-of-would-of" talk, but at the end of the day, numbers don't lie - Scott Frost and his Nebraska Cornhuskers are not far from a turnaround. They have been competitive in almost all of their games over the past two seasons - even with a middle-of-the-pack ranked offense and defense I should add - so imagine what the program can do at FULL capacity!
Where is the Team Headed?
Nebraska gets hit with another tough schedule (ranked 27th in SOS) but this should not be a big surprise to anyone - the Cornhuskers are a member of one of the most competitive conferences there is in the Big Ten. In the upcoming 2020 season, I see a slew of games that they can win right off the bat - Purdue, Central Michigan, South Dakota State, Cincinnati (may be a tight one, but they can do it), Northwestern, Illinois and Rutgers. The back half of the schedule is going to be a bit unforgiving (away at Ohio State, Iowa, & Wisconsin to name a few) but if they can steal a win out from under Minnesota at the end of the season, that potentially puts them at 7-6 or 8-4 depending on which of those they drop. Obviously this is all wishful thinking, but at the end of the day I can definitely see a scenario where Nebraska competes this year in the Big Ten West Division, and at least makes a bowl game.
So will Scott Frost fix Nebraska?
Obviously there is no way to be 100% sure how a coach or a program for that matter will fair, but I do know this - the fans, the media - everyone, needs to give Frost time to piece this blue blood program back together. Two years of mediocrity may feel like an eternity to Nebraska fans, but in reality it just simply isn't. Scott Frost just needs to keep doing what he's doing - heavily recruiting the local area, taking on talented walk-ons to further bolster the back end of the roster, and to keep selling his Oregon-style spread offense to new recruits and transfers alike. As of now, they have an emerging QB in Adrian Martinez who has shown he is "the guy", as well as a skill group that now has a year of playing together under their belts, so expect a refined and primed offense for Scott Frost to work with for the next few years. If the defense can continue to improve under Defensive Coordinator Erik Chinander as well, then I believe that the hiring of Frost back in 2018 will prove to be a success. It may take another season or two, but don't count him out just yet - Nebraska's native son may have something up his sleeve.
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