Welcome to The Hot Seat, where each week we will preview a game that could make a coach's season or maybe end his tenure. It's Big 10 time.
The circumstances surrounding Northwestern and Nebraska as the two teams get set to meet on Saturday are not what we thought they'd be.
Nebraska still has legitimate dreams of a Big 10 title and a Rose Bowl berth, but they were tampered significantly with Saturday's loss at Minnesota. Northwestern had those dreams too, especially after being 4-0 and hosting Ohio State and College Gameday.
Now after four consecutive losses, those dreams are gone. Well, they could still be there. They're just not realistic.
Questions surrounded Bo Pelini's status as Nebraska head coach following the Huskers' loss to UCLA in September and the leak of the 2011 audio of his comments about Nebraska fans. Those suspicions about his future arose again after Nebraska was soundly outplayed at Minnesota. This is the once-strong (and still fairly mighty) Nebraska football program after all. Lots of fans and former players won't stand for losing to Minnesota and UCLA in the same season.
Is it fair? Well, those expectations come with the job, even if Nebraska will never be realistically what it once was in the Tom Osborne era. And while Bo has nothing to do with what's happened at Florida Atlantic, the questions about his brother are inevitably going to be asked after the game on Saturday. His response to them is likely going to depend heavily on the result of the football game.
Pat Fitzgerald is entrenched at Northwestern. It's become his program. But that ownership is in both losing and winning. A year after breaking its bowl losing streak, Northwestern is on a losing streak that's similar to what it endured a two years ago. In 2011, the Wildcats lost four Big 10 games in a row (and five overall) before defeating Indiana and... Nebraska. And that was in Lincoln, nonetheless. That's the only conference game that Nebraska has lost in its Big Ten tenure at Memorial Stadium.
Plus, a Northwestern victory puts them just one win away from bowl eligibility with a winnable game against Illinois remaining. If it happens, the reaction after the UCLA and Minnesota games could be just the prelude for Pelini.
- - - - - - -