The Nebraska Cornhuskers earned a 23-20 overtime victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions yesterday, setting them up with a home game against the Iowa Hawkeyes to try to get to 9-3 overall on the season. That would give the Cornhuskers at least nine wins for four consecutive seasons, which have also been complemented by failures to win conference titles and bowl games.
The Cornhuskers are on a three-game losing streak in bowl games, including two consecutive losing trips to the Capital One Bowl. Last season, a Big Ten Legends division title was followed up by Nebraska getting destroyed by Wisconsin 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game. While beating Iowa can’t get the Cornhuskers back to the Big Ten Championship Game, it could earn Nebraska a third consecutive Capital One Bowl if things work out right for the Big Ten.
While few teams have enjoyed the same level of recent regular season success, it’s been frustrating how that hasn’t turned into postseason success for the Cornhuskers. It’s almost become something that you can set your clock by — Nebraska will win at least nine of their 12 games and perhaps qualify to play for a conference championship. There, they will lay an egg and do the same in their New Year’s Day bowl game.
So what’s the reason for the Cornhuskers’ inability to translate regular season dominance into postseason victory? If I could answer that definitively, I’d probably be on the Nebraska coaching staff right now. It’s been a combination of things: revolving doors on the coaching staff, injuries and the lack of execution all share the blame. Sometimes, it has seemed that the Cornhusker team that finished the regular season went on some vacation and a group of impostors showed up for the bowl game.
What’s for sure is that if Nebraska defeats Iowa this Saturday and gets to nine wins again, the questions will confront head coach Bo Pelini again about whether to expect more of the same in the Cornhuskers’ bowl game. If Pelini once again can’t deliver a bowl game win, the sentiment to replace him in Lincoln may gain more momentum. If the streak is finally broken, the might be renewed optimism that nine wins and a disappointment isn’t the ceiling under Pelini.