If you want to feel better about where Indiana Football is as a program, I suggest a quick google search of “Scott Frost”. The Nebraska coach enters his fifth season as a consensus hot seat occupier, and has yet to turn in a winning season during his tenure in Lincoln.
Frost would have you believe that he’s been close, citing seven one-score losses last season, including near upsets of Michigan and Michigan State, as proof that success is right around the corner. And apparently, despite the lack of success, he’s decided to stay the course.
In an alternate universe, it would be easy to empathize with Nebraska fans; there’s nothing worse than having a historically successful program anchored to a losing coach who refuses to change his ways. There are certainly parallels to the Archie and late Crean eras, when it was clear that something wasn’t working, but was less clear whether the Athletic Directors would intervene.
In this universe, however, I have both a functioning long-term memory and a Twitter account, so I cannot forgive Nebraska fans for proclaiming their program to be the savior of Big Ten football, complaining about conference scheduling (from the Big Ten WEST!!!!), and booing injured Indiana players the last time these two teams met.
This fanbase deserves nothing, so I hope they are stuck with Scott Frost until the end of time and continue losing home games to Indiana, regardless of who is suiting up for either squad.
Here’s a preview of this year’s matchup:
In an attempt to preserve his job this offseason, Frost took a million dollar pay cut and fired four offensive assistants. Gone are former offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco.
Also gone is quarterback Adrian Martinez, who transferred to Kansas State after a turbulent four seasons at Nebraska. His replacement hasn’t been officially named yet, but it appears to be Casey Thompson, a Texas transfer, who will win the starting spot.
Thompson started ten games at Texas last year in what ended up being a disappointing season for the Longhorns and included a six game losing streak that led to Thompson hitting the portal when Steve Sarkisian hinted that the starting job would once again be up for grabs in 2022.
Thompson completed 63% of his 261 attempts last year for 24 touchdowns versus nine interceptions, but didn’t prove to be much of a rushing threat, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on 55 attempts.
In new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense, Thompson should get plenty of opportunity to air it out in an NFL-style attack. He’s obviously not likely to replicate the stats of Whipple’s last quarterback, Kenny Pickett, but he will probably average more than the 21 passing attempts per game he had last year at Texas.
The offensive line took a hit this June (no pun intended) when it was announced that guard Nouredin Nouili would miss the season for a failed drug test. New offensive line coach Donovan Railoa will now need to find replacements for three starters from last year’s group.
Mark Whipple, since taking the Nebraska job, has been criticized for an unwillingness to run the ball, to the point that opponents didn’t even plan for the run against Pitt last year. Similarly, Scott Frost hasn’t had an offense that featured a running back as the leading rusher since 2019. It’s safe to say the running back group will not feature heavily in whatever tweaks Frost is allowing Whipple to make on the offensive side of the ball, where Frost retains “CEO” power.
Nebraska’s defense was credited for keeping them in the games that the Huskers had a chance in last year, and perhaps suffered a bit statistically for being tasked with such a burden, as last year’s Indiana group was. The Husker’s finished in the middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed per game (366), but fell closer towards the bottom of the conference in points allowed per game (22.7), ahead of only Indiana, Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Maryland.
The linebacker group looks solid again this season, with juniors Garret Nelson and Luke Reimer returning. Nelson led the Huskers with five sacks last year, while Reimer led the team with 108 tackles.
The line welcomes transfer Ochuan Mathis from TCU, where he was twice named Second Team All Big-12 and was an honorable mention for the conference’s defensive lineman of the year award in 2020. Last year with the Horned Frogs, he had four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
The secondary took a big hit, losing three starters from last year, two of whom have since received NFL contracts in Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams. The Huskers bring in some young transfers from Arizona State and Northern Iowa, but it appears that this group will be young, at the very least, and that there is a lot of playing time up for grabs.
Is there ever really a reason to believe that Scott Frost has turned it around at Nebraska? Until he does so, no. Unfortunately, Indiana faces a similar quandary with their history of offensive coordinators under Tom Allen not named Kalen DeBoer.
This should be the best test for Indiana’s secondary to this point on the schedule, assuming Thompson is still healthy and playing reasonably well by the time Indiana heads to Lincoln. That said, the lack of a real running threat should allow Indiana to get decent pressure on Thompson and hopefully force some bad throws.
Between the linebacking group and the defensive line, this game will be a test for an unproven offensive line that is arguably a bigger question for Indiana than the quarterback competition. The secondary could be vulnerable, but whoever Allen goes with at quarterback will need enough protection to exploit that for it to be a major factor in this game.
The matchup on paper may favor Nebraska purely because of how the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two programs line up. On the other hand, it’s still a Scott Frost Nebraska team, so there’s really no reason to expect them to win any game.
Of course, if Nebraska enters this game with fewer than three wins and a competitive loss to Oklahoma, who knows if it will even be Frost’s team by this point. In a full season of perplexing, hard to call games for an unproven Indiana team, this stands out as exceptionally chaotic for the sheer fact that Nebraska may be the only team in the conference with more to prove than Indiana.