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Countdown to 2012: Red October - Can We Win It All?

Thanks to Osborne, the bar for October success is super high. (30-0 in October from 1990 to 1997.)
Thanks to Osborne, the bar for October success is super high. (30-0 in October from 1990 to 1997.)

Ten days, ladies and gentlemen. Ten days until our fall Saturdays are filled with ESPN analysts making terrible pronouncements. Ten days before Notre Dame and Florida State start another season filled with disappointment. Ten days until Rex Burkhead scores another touchdown. Ten whole days.

Now yesterday, I upset some of you with visions of humanely decommissioning Lil' Red. So today I'm going to take a different approach. Let's talk about something we can all agree on: football.

Yes, football.

More specifically, we're going to talk about the tenth month of the year, October. Actually, it was the eight month of the year under the Roman calendar. But we're all on the Gregorian calendar now so it's the tenth month.

What? Oh, RIGHT, football.

October is an important month to any season. In the old Big 12 and the new Big Ten, October typically represents the beginning and middle of the conference slate. Win October, and your chances for representing your division come December improve dramatically. Lose October, Nebraska re-hires Dr. Tom Osborne and writes you a check to go away.

It is important to note that Dr. Osborne, at least in the 1990s, was the king of October. In 30 games played between 1990 and 1997, Osborne went undefeated in the month of October. In that same span, Osborne won THREE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS and five outright conference championships (and one co-Big 8 championship). An impressive achievement, especially as we delve into the numbers for his successors below.

(A huge thank you to HuskerMax for providing us fans with access to season records and stats and everything else which makes posts like these possible.)

Solich went 19-6 over his six seasons resulting in a win percentage of around 76%. His claims to fame in that span are six bowl seasons, with a Big 12 championship (and 2 North division crowns, one outright, one shared) and a MNC game appearance (as unfortunate and frankly undeserved as it was). I think Solich is a more appropriate mark for the post-Osborne era. He wasn't great but he wasn't terrible.

Because both Callahan and Pelini only have four seasons recorded at Nebraska, let's take Solich for his first four seasons only. Funny enough, there is no change. Solich still managed a 76% win percentage in his first four years with the same accolades. (He lost one game in October in 2002 and 2003.)

On to Callahan. Callahan managed an absolutely dismal 39% in October. October was by far Callahan's worst month. His best mark in October (3-2) came in 2004, which by most accounts was by far his worst season. (Texas Tech, anyone? Another October game.) It should be noted that he went 0-fer in 2007.

With Callahan's impressively terrible October in 2007, Nebraska fired Pederson and hired Osborne. Osborne would then hire Pelini to fix up the mess that Callahan left behind.

And so how has Pelini fared since then? A 10-6 record earns Pelini a 62.5% win percentage in October with steady improvement from 50% in 2008 and 2009 to75% in 2010 and 2011.

Of course, I should note that in 2010, the lone loss in October was to a 5-7 Longhorn squad and the 2011 loss was to Wisconsin. And this team *almost* lost to Ohio State (but didn't).

So does the Ohio State win mean this team is learning how to handle October better? I'm not sure. Thus far in Pelini's tenure, Nebraska has been blown out in one game every October: Missouri 2008, Texas Tech 2009, Texas 2010 (push, I know) and Wisconsin 2011. That needs to be fixed, and pronto, if this team has higher aspirations than division crowns.

Looking ahead to October 2012, let's check out the schedule:

10/6 At Ohio State

10/13 Bye

10/20 At Northwestern

10/27 Michigan

Three games. To put this stretch in context, Nebraska faces Wisconsin the week prior and Michigan State the week after. A brutal stretch, even with the bye week in the middle.

Is this October winnable? I don't think we'll go undefeated. I suspect Nebraska will drop at least one game, if not two. (I can see us splitting Ohio State and Michigan and dropping one from Michigan State-Northwestern-Wisconsin.) With the question marks on our offense, I don't see the juggernaut that would be necessary to run that five game stretch without dropping one of the games in October. And if our defense doesn't take the step up we need it to, winning two in October may not be possible.

Of course, if Nebraska wants to win the Big Ten or at least make it to Indianapolis, we'll have to win at least two games in October (and likely split Michigan/Michigan State). If Nebraska wants a national championship run, they'll have to run the table.

What say you? How do you feel about October? Is it winnable? What would you want to see this September that would improve your confidence? (Yes, you should obviously take this opportunity to demand for Cotton to be fired.) Should Admiral Ramius have defected to the United States?

- Salt Creek and Stadium