It’s too bad Nebraska and UCLA are not on each other’s schedules. Regardless, we still get to figure out who will win a game first – the Cornhuskers or Bruins? I mean, they’re both going to win at some point this season, right?
Let’s give each the benefit of the doubt and say, “yes.” Though it looks more promising for one than the other. But we’ll get to that.
First, let’s look at how the Cornhuskers and Bruins each got to 0-5.
This might take time
Though the excitement level was off the charts in Lincoln when former Cornhuskers quarterback Scott Frost was named coach, the reality of an immediate turnaround from last season’s 4-8 debacle was slim. Several players opted to leave Nebraska’s program in the last year, and running back Greg Bell is the latest.
Matching the worst start in the 129-year history of Cornhuskers football was not what any of the diehards figured. Games at Michigan and Wisconsin were two that fans knew would be tough. But after a winnable season opener versus Akron was postponed, the Cornhuskers didn’t have a game under their belt when upstart Colorado came calling.
Nebraska rallied from a 14-0 hole, but blew an eight-point cushion in the third quarter and allowed the go-ahead score on a 40-yard pass play with 1:06 left in the game.
With starting quarterback Adrian Martinez hurt and possibly still reeling from the Colorado defeat, the Cornhuskers lost at home to Troy the next week. The Trojans are a good team, but not one that should leave Memorial Stadium the better team.
The Cornhuskers have not been disciplined under Frost, either, totaling 52 penalties, tied for sixth-most in the nation. They’ve also yielded at least 41 points in each of the three Big Ten contests.
Not totally unexpected
UCLA, meanwhile, hasn’t lost its first six games since 1943 and the last time it went winless in a season was 1924 (0-5-3). Like with Frost, there was plenty of excitement when Chip Kelly was brought in to coach the Bruins.
With no real established stars and one of the youngest teams in all of college football, getting back to elite status in the Pac-12 after going 10-15 the last two seasons was going to difficult. The Bruins have also faced a tough schedule, and a loss to undefeated Cincinnati doesn’t look as bad as it did to open the season, Now, Fresno State is good, but should have beat the Bruins 38-14 at the Rose Bowl.
Losing at Oklahoma was expected, and Colorado is better than most thought. Perhaps, the biggest glimmer of hope was last weekend’s 31-24 loss to Washington, in which the Bruins outscored the then-No. 10 Huskies 17-7 in the second half.
What’s to come?
If the Cornhuskers and Bruins were to play head-to-head, which they last did three years ago in the Foster Farms Bowl, based on competitiveness, UCLA would be the favorite. However, Nebraska has an Oct. 27 date versus Bethune-Cookman out of the FCS, so it seems likely it will earn that elusive victory first. If the Cornhuskers lose that one, then their situation is worse than thought.
Oregon State is perhaps the closest thing to a sure victory in the Pac-12, but the Bruins don’t have the Beavers on their schedule. UCLA will host Arizona on Oct. 20. The Wildcats have won three of four following a 0-2 start, but the Bruins might have a shot if their defense plays as it did in the second half against Washington.
Then there is always the rivalry game against USC on Nov. 17 at the Rose Bowl. The Trojans are 3-2, but perhaps not as good as their No. 15 preseason ranking suggested.
One thing is certain whether supporting the Cornhuskers or Bruins, their talent might be thin at the moment, but both teams continue to play hard and believe much brighter days are ahead.