Published Monday, December 3, 2012 AT 9:19 AM / Updated at 8:50 PM
Mad Chatter, Dec. 3
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

Someday, Husker fans, it will be worth it.

All the time, money and emotion you poured into the football program the past 11 years. All the anxiety, humiliation and regret. It will pay off. It must. But that day, right now, seems far, far away.

You didn’t just suffer heartbreak Saturday night, you were victims of fraud. You got suckered into thinking this was the year momentum changed, the year Nebraska started playing like vintage Nebraska again.

Coaches and players sold you on progress. Most of the media bought in. Six straight wins. A level of resilience that defines championship teams. How do you explain four double-digit comebacks? These guys were flawed, but also unique. Special.

Turns out, the joke’s on you. It was smoke and mirrors. I can count on one hand how many times a Nebraska performance has shocked me like this one. Iowa State 1992. Arizona State 1996. Colorado 2001. This was the ugliest of the bunch.

Like that ’01 season, a soft 2012 schedule created an illusion of power. The best comparison, though, might be 2003, when Nebraska went 10-3. It beat nobody. Its three losses were by a combined 70 points. You know what happened to Frank Solich after that season.

Bo Pelini’s new AD likely will have more patience than Solich’s — and more sense. But some of the same red flags exist.

Pelini’s players swear by him. He’s built a roster of smart, high-character guys; I don’t remember many senior classes more likable than this one. But his teams continually go deer-in-the-headlights in big games.

Bo isn’t good enough to get over the hump. He isn’t bad enough to fire. Nebraska is stuck in purgatory.

It’s like the girl who’s been dating the same guy for eight years. He says and does all the right things, but won’t get down on one knee. Is this program trending up or down? Who knows.

At least in 2002 the embarrassment was new. At least in 2007 you knew change was coming. How is Nebraska football going to change? Pelini seems completely without explanations or ideas. He knows one way to conduct his business and only one.

Barring a bowl game upset of Georgia, he’ll lose four games for the fifth straight year. It easily could’ve been worse.

This team needed a decade’s worth of breaks just to win the Legends Division. In nine Big Ten games, the Huskers scored 262 points. They gave up 265.

Face it, Nebraska has more in common with Michigan State and Northwestern than with Top-10 teams. Considering the meltdowns on national TV, which have tarnished the Big Red brand immeasurably, college football fans won’t take NU seriously for a long time.

Of course, regardless of what happens in Orlando, by next August local optimism will return in full. It always does. You’ll be talking about a dynamic offense and a fast, young defense and an early-season schedule as soft as Cheetos Puffs.

Nebraska will start 7-1, maybe even 8-0. And you’ll think, “Maybe, just maybe, this is it.”

Then the Huskers will travel to Michigan, a program with a veteran coaching staff that is stockpiling top-10 recruiting classes.

I’m not gonna tell you to resist hope at that moment. Without hope, there’s no reason to watch. But be careful with your emotions. Guard your hearts. Because triumph is inevitably followed by disaster.

Five years in, that’s The Process.

***

>> For Kirk Herbstreit to blast Northern Illinois’ Orange Bowl bid is hogwash. The Huskies finished ahead of the Big Ten and Big East conference champs in the BCS rankings!

Besides, who cares if Oklahoma gets demoted to the Cotton Bowl, which is a heckuva lot nicer and closer to Norman? We need to stop making a big deal of BCS at-large bids. Nobody cares … except administrators who write the checks.

You mean to tell me that Stanford-Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl has greater status than Clemson-LSU in the Chick-fil-A? (I know which one will have better food.) Or that Florida-Louisville in the Sugar is more attractive than OU-Texas A&M or Georgia-Nebraska? No way.

The BCS has a whole lot of flaws, which is why it’s going the way of Blockbuster Video (a great bowl sponsor at one time). But the top-16 clause for non-BCS schools isn’t even close to the top of the list. Herbstreit and ESPN should’ve embraced Cinderella, not ridiculed it. I’ll be rooting for Northern Illinois to take down Florida State.

>> One of the key factors during the bowl season is motivation. Who treats those December practices like a chance to make a statement? Who coasts through them, wishing the season were over? That’s why Nebraska actually has a chance against Georgia.

The Dawgs may play well, but they also may have left their guts on the Georgia Dome turf Saturday night. It’s not easy playing in the Capital One Bowl when you were 5 yards from the BCS championship game. For that reason, I think Georgia is more beatable than LSU or Texas A&M.

>> Georgia lost the SEC championship, but it was a championship-caliber effort. A good look at the ‘Dawgs.

>> As good as Georgia was, it couldn’t beat Nick Saban, who’s always one step ahead of the competition, writes Dan Wetzel.

>> One of the stranger bowl developments is that Louisiana Tech, who contended for a BCS bowl late into the season, isn’t going anywhere. Bruce Feldman examines why.

>> Ranking all 35 bowl games, by Sports on Earth.

>> Tell me which Big Ten teams win their bowl games. Wisconsin-Stanford. Nebraska-Georgia. Michigan-South Carolina. Northwestern-Mississippi State. Michigan State-TCU. Minnesota-Texas Tech. It’s gonna be another long holiday season for Jim Delany.

>> For years, Kirk Ferentz defended his program by citing its January bowl appearances. Never mind that the Big Ten played most of its bowl games in January. Ferentz has a new talking point when he’s criticized for the 2012 season. “Hey, we beat Northern Illinois!”

>> It’s fun to tease Iowa, but you gotta give ‘em credit, they do put players into the NFL. In fact, four ex-Hawkeyes scored touchdowns Sunday. This is the crazy part: They were all tight ends!

>> Closer to home, former UNO Mav Greg “Legatron” Zuerlein beat the 49ers with two bombs. He nailed a 53-yarder as time expired in regulation, then hit a 54-yarder late in overtime.

>> Three excellent columns on Rick Majerus, who died Saturday. Doug Gottlieb. Bernie Miklasz. And Gene Wojciechowski.

>> Remember what I wrote Friday about Carl Jones, St. Joseph’s point guard who lit up Creighton last year? Well, he scored nine points on 3 of 10 shooting Saturday at the Century Link. Nice win, Jays. When Creighton is hitting shots early in the game, it has the ability to bury opponents. St. Joe’s won’t be the last victim.

>> Two years ago, what were the odds of Taylor Martinez, Cody Green and Shawn Watson competing for conference championships on the same weekend at three different schools? You would’ve shaken your head even harder knowing Martinez was the only one who lost.

>> We’ll have a special edition Tuesday Mad Chatter tomorrow featuring the best emails of the weekend. Send me your thoughts on the Husker loss.

>> Let me leave you with this thought: Of all the people who watched Saturday night’s mess unfold, what must Tom Osborne have been thinking?

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com