That's half the good news. The other half is that the post-season destination can still be somewhere pretty nice. It won't be New Year's Day, it won't be the great $bazillion pay-out that Nebraska is used to, but that's what happens when things don't go as well as expected on the field. You feel it everywhere, including the wallet.
The bad news is that the Huskers next two games, against nationally ranked Kansas State and Colorado, are virtually must-win games if the Big Red and their fans want to pack the sun-tan lotion.
Here's how it could break down. It still looks good for the Big 12 to get two teams into the BCS. Oklahoma would have to lose again to send Texas to the Big 12 Championship game. As it stands now (and it can change quickly as we know), Texas will likely get to skip the Big 12 title game, making them basically a cinch to stay in the top five and get an at-large BCS bid. The winner of the championship game gets the conference's automatic bid.
The Big Ten will squawk about deserving to get both Ohio State and Iowa in the BCS, but there are only two at large bids available, and one-loss Notre Dame will get one of them. You do the math, Big Ten fan.
If the Big 12 gets two in the BCS, that leaves the Cotton Bowl in Dallas as the consolation prize for the winner/survivor of the North Division, with the Holiday Bowl (San Diego) right behind. Two from the north – either Colorado, Kansas State or Iowa State would get those slots. The third would probably head to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
With no one from the South figuring into the mix much at this point (other than Texas A&M with a .500 record), that leaves Nebraska for either the frigid Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisana, the Houston Bowl, the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, or…gulp…the (In)Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. In December. Outdoors. (And they call that a reward? It's more like the punishment fitting the crime…).
If Nebraska wins their last two games – and they are certainly capable – they'd be 9-4 and ‘hot.' They could leap-frog Iowa State, K-State or Colorado and sneak into the Alamo Bowl, or maybe even the Holiday.
If Nebraska loses their last two – and they are certainly capable – they'd be 7-6 and ‘cold' in more ways than one. Pack your long underwear for Boise.
If they split the last two – and yes, they are very capable of that, too – then Houston, Shreveport and Orlando become probabilities. Houston? Okay. Orlando? Not bad. Shreveport? Umm, remember that ‘blizzard' game there a couple years ago?
Lose your last two, go to a bowl at 7-6, and the only good that comes out of it is keeping the bowl streak alive, because you're probably traveling to play in the "(In)Humanitarian Bohl." You will lose credibility, lose money (the pay-out will not offset the costs of travel), and probably get beat by the WAC Champs, who will have a lot of incentive – and maybe even the home field if it's Boise State.
In fact, if they lose their last two games, at 7-6 Nebraska should decline any Bowl Invite.
A 7-7 record would be an out and out disaster for this program, and wipe out all the progress that's been made in recent weeks.
So there is a lot to play – and coach – for in the final two games. The Huskers have played well since the pratfall in Stillwater, and if they can muster the same kind of effort they gave against A&M and Texas, they can beat K-State…although recent history is certainly not on their side.
As for Colorado, if Nebraska can't get ‘ready,' and can't give their best effort of the season in that revenge match the day after Thanksgiving, then there are very serious problems with this program, and this team deserves to get sent to Siberia, err, Boise. It will probably cost some coaches more than money.
IT'S IRONIC, but this week's game at K-State puts Nebraska on the other side of the coin. For many years, (most) other schools have had a bad case of Husker-envy. They all wanted to be like Nebraska. Now, It's Nebraska that wants to be like K-State.
How's that? Break it down: The teams are almost mirror images on offense – in fact the QB's could be twins. Great feet, erratic arms. It's eerie, actually.
But where K-State has it over NU is on the defensive side of the ball. K-State has been ranked in the top five nationally in total defense for the past five seasons. They've played tough, physical defense and done a great job at making big plays and creating turnovers. That used to be how Nebraska did it, and how they'd like to be able to do it again…
As for the trip to the Little Apple, the only flaw that Nebraska might be able to exploit is on special teams, where the ‘Cats are uncharacteristically weak this season. Still, a stand-off on offense means that the NU defense will have to step up and play like they did against A&M and Missouri for NU to have a shot at pulling off the big upset.
Monday Morning Quarterback: Kansas
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