Sometimes it's relaxing to reflect on life, especially when the here and now is, well, a bit uncomfortable due to a worldwide pandemic.
Think back to just more than a year ago, when Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos interrupted our relatively sleepy summer with a zinger of a comment. Asked if he had a number in mind that would represent a successful Husker football season, he said, "We really need to get to six (wins)."
At the time, Moos' statement raised eyebrows. Just six wins? Really? That's all? Really? After all, many prognosticators were picking Nebraska to win the Big Ten West Division and finish in the national top 25. We now know the rest. Turns out, Moos had a strong handle on where the program stood. The Huskers came up just shy of six wins, losing a barnburner to Iowa in the season finale to finish 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten.
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So, what does Moos say now?
"I know we're going to be better," he told the Journal Star last week. "We keep getting better players. So I think getting to the six (wins) is more doable than a year ago, and it's obviously way more doable than two years ago."
So, as for what would characterize a successful 2020 season in Moos' mind, winning at least six games remains the answer. It make sense. Bottom line, Moos said, he feels third-year Nebraska coach Scott Frost remains in building mode (after inheriting a hot mess). The roster is still loaded with youth — roughly half of the 155-man roster is made up of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Moos has been consistent in saying we should wait to judge Frost in earnest after his fifth year in charge.
"Six is still the number, and I think we're fully capable of doing that and winning even a couple more if the ball bounces right — especially if we can play the schedule as it is now," Moos said. "I mean, we have four at home right off the bat."
Nebraska is scheduled to open the season Sept. 5 at home against Purdue, which has beaten NU each of the past two seasons. During the following three weeks, the Huskers are scheduled to play Central Michigan, South Dakota State and Cincinnati.
I don't think any of the first four games will be particularly easy for Frost's crew. This much is certain: The importance of those games increases significantly in the context of the final five contests on the regular-season schedule: at Ohio State, Penn State, at Iowa, at Wisconsin and Minnesota at home. Let's just say the Huskers had better shore up their run defense, or else the autumn cold will seem much more biting.
"Every game's tough, and we certainly haven't proven that we can beat everybody and anybody," Moos said. "But to play four straight at home to begin the season, you have a good chance of getting three of those. That could be important. If the schedule's messed with, I don't think that plays in our favor."
If the schedule's messed with? What exactly does that mean?
"There's all kinds of things that are being discussed," said Moos, who was hesitant to go into detail.
An industry insider told me last week that top Big Ten administrators have discussed the possibility of shortening the season by eliminating nonconference games. It's only a possibility — one that most Big Ten coaches likely would oppose strongly unless other power conferences (most notably the SEC) would do the same. One issue that may concern Big Ten administrators is league teams playing nonconference programs that don't have the same or even similar COVID-19 testing protocols as exist in the Big Ten.
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Minimizing risk is on everyone's minds. Let's face it, so is the possibility of having no football season at all.
"I'm holding out hope that we'll play," Moos said. "But every time I turn around lately, it seems like the pandemic is spiking somewhere, and that's concerning because it starts pushing our backs against the wall. Some people are saying we may be OK by the first of September, but they're also projecting it's going to spike again when flu season hits in November. So maybe we'd lose games on the back end."
The clock's ticking on final decisions about how (or if) college football can be played. What will the season look like? There are complications galore. Moos said those decisions have to be made by mid-July or the third week of July, at the latest. After all, the new-world NCAA calendar calls for teams' "mini-camps" to begin July 24 and last until the conventional four-week preseason camp begins Aug. 7.
Not much about this season is going to feel "conventional."
That said, "Our state needs Husker football," Moos said. "I'm not just talking about Nebraska Athletics or the University of Nebraska. I'm not talking about only Lincoln. I'm saying the state of Nebraska needs Husker football, just for morale and to get people's minds off problems with their businesses and health situations and everything else. I'm hoping it can all work out."
I look forward to the day when we don't worry about players (or anyone else) becoming gravely ill. It's sort of refreshing turning to benign topics, like Athlon recently ranking Frost ninth among Big Ten coaches. Hey, he's just 9-15 at NU, including 6-12 in the Big Ten. Plus, it's the best coaching league in America, hands down.
Even so, Moos bristled a bit at the ranking.
"Well, you have to say that after his undefeated season at Central Florida (in 2017), he was regarded as one of the premier coaches in the country," Moos said. "He's got to build a program here. How do you judge a coach? By his record? Yeah, after his program's been established, and we're not established. We're taking really good strides. We're moving on solid footing with each stride.
"You judge Scott Frost in five years, not three."
Moos seems to have a strong handle on this stuff. He certainly did last summer.