On Friday, Nebraska will play Iowa in the last regular season football game of the 2013 football season. If you listen to some members of the Omaha media, it may also be Bo Pelini's final game as head coach of the Huskers.
So how hot is Bo Pelini's hot seat? From a national perspective, not very. Only noted Husker-hater Patrick Vint of Black Heart Gold Pants finds it much of a possibility. Football Rumor Mill lists him as "safe for now" and John Henderson of the Denver Post doesn't even mention him on his list of hot seat coaches. That's not the impression you'd get locally, thanks to a small circle of media friends who've been continuously drumming the beat. Arguably, it's retribution for a now two-year old squabble between Pelini and a member of the local media.
That's not to say that Pelini shouldn't face scrutiny. Punt returns have been atrocious this season, and turnovers continue to be an issue, though upperclassmen have shown improvement this season. But the 2013 season is pretty easily explained with a couple of statistics: on offense, twelve players on Nebraska's two-deep roster have missed significant playing time, and on defense, nine freshman are listed on the two-deep roster on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Every team has injuries - especially this late in the season. And every team has to call on some young players. But not to the extent of this Nebraska team. Any team would feel the ill-effects of losing an all-American offensive lineman and an all-conference quarterback. It's not an excuse, it's reality. And that's just the start. Only I-back Ameer Abdullah hasn't missed significant playing time this season, and even he hasn't been healthy. On our 2013 Michigan State preview, a Spartan fan tried to blame Michigan State's 7-6 record in 2012 on two offensive line injuries. Nebraska's down six: Spencer Long, Brent Qvale, Jeremiah Sirles, Jake Cotton, Mike Moudy, and Cole Pensick.
Some people want to say that Nebraska's close calls make the 8-3 record seem more like 6-5. That's fair. It's also fair to say that most good teams would float around .500 with this many injuries.
Some critics look at Pelini's record from a 50,000 foot level and conclude that it's "stagnant" with no hope of ever improving. That's their opinion, but they aren't looking very closely.
Since the SDSU game Nebraska's defense has gone from being ranked 107th nationally to 45th. NU went from 105 to 33 in pass defense. #Huskers— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) November 27, 2013
In rushing defense Nebraska went from 86th to 62nd and from 75th to 43rd in scoring defense. Pretty big jumps over seven games.— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) November 27, 2013
Again, that's the sign of a young defense getting scorched early after being thrown to the fire right away, then starting to get the hang of things. And now showing signs of definite improvement. So why the continued drumming of the "Bo's a failure" line?
We know Nebraska's not a top ten team now. Not going to play in the Big Ten championship game this season. That's not what Husker fans want. That's not where Nebraska football needs to be. In my eyes, though, it's not a question of where Nebraska has been, but where it's going. We see signs of a good defense emerging in Lincoln. Can the offense become more efficient next season? What does Nebraska need to do better on special teams?
Those are the questions that seem more appropriate to me than whether Bo Pelini is going to be fired or not. And when you ask why the vendetta continues, athletic director Shawn Eichorst gets thrown under the bus by the same group for not giving Pelini the dreaded "vote of confidence".
The uncertainty at Nebraska this month is divisive and potentially long-term damaging. One person can end it: http://t.co/8Bai3JNFpS— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) November 25, 2013
Yes, that's right. It's Eichorst's fault for not saying something, not the media for continually discussing things they don't believe will actually happen. Hold them down, and critic after critic acknowledge Pelini isn't going to be fired.
The "FOD" crew keeps saying that if only Shawn Eichorst would give Pelini a "vote of confidence" like Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley did with Will Muschamp, then this whole situation would be dropped.
Except that Foley's statement hasn't done anything to stop the debate. Whether it's the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or Florida Times-Union, the debate continues as nearly everybody has rejected Foley's vote of confidence.
So is Pelini going to be fired? Like the critics, I suspect not. There's likely only two or three people who know, and until one of them says something, nothing is happening.