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Countdown to 2012: 14 Years After Osborne; 14 Games for 2012?

14 years since Tom Osborne stepped down as coach? Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
14 years since Tom Osborne stepped down as coach? Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

14 days left until the 2012 season kicks off. Two weeks. Just one more Saturday after today where you have something to do except watch football on Saturday. So get that tree trimmed this weekend and all of those other household chores because free Saturdays are going to be in short supply until Christmas time.

It's been 14 years since Tom Osborne retired as head coach. Frank Solich tried to keep it going, and frankly, wasn't far off the pace. 1998 wasn't very good, thanks to injuries, going 8-4. In 1999, Nebraska went 12-1 and won a Big XII Championship. Probably would have won the national championship that season if the Huskers could have held onto the ball. Fumbles doomed the Huskers against that team down south, though the Huskers got their revenge in the championship game.

In 2001, Nebraska seemed to be headed for a BCS national championship until Craig Bohl's defense discombobulated in Boulder. A series of upsets allowed Nebraska to make it to the Rose Bowl anyway, where they were summarily dismantled by Miami. Then that brutal 7-7 2002 season where Bohl's defense looked like swiss cheese resulted in wholesale changes on the coaching staff.

Bohl was out, and this guy named Bo Pelini came to Nebraska to lead the Husker defense. Nebraska went from being one of the worst defenses to being one of the best. The Blackshirts were ridiculous in forcing turnovers, though fourth quarter meltdowns led to three ugly losses. Steve Pederson had seen enough and fired Solich and the rest of the staff.

In came Bill Callahan, who had a Super Bowl on his resume. He tried to take players recruited to run the option and installed a pro-style West Coast offense. That stroke of brilliance led to Nebraska's first losing season since 1961. But Callahan was brought in to dazzle the world with recruiting, and he did just that. A junior college quarterback bought Callahan time with two decent seasons in 2005 and 2006. Even bigger things were expected in 2007 as a NFL draft prospect quarterback transferred to Nebraska. But that prospect never figured out how to run Callahan's offense...and Kevin Cosgrove's defense made Bohl look like an absolute genius. Two losing seasons at Nebraska was two too many; Pederson and Callahan were shown the door. They live on as the butt of jokes as the only men to figure out how to lose at Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Pelini was elsewhere leading defenses to the national championship game (Oklahoma 2004, LSU 2007), making him the prime candidate to return in 2008. Pelini promptly got Nebraska back to winning nine games every year, along with a couple of Big XII Championship game appearances.

But Nebraska wants more. It's not enough just to make it to the conference championship game; even Bill Callahan did that. Nebraska fans want to win that game. It's something that hasn't been done since 1999 at Nebraska; the incoming freshmen were in pre-school when the Huskers were last conference champions.

So for 2012, Nebraska needs to at least get to the Big Ten Championship game, and dadgummit... win the doggone thing for once. That means a 14 game season in 2012. There's that number again.

Play 14 games in 2012...and win at least those last two games.