Heading into the season, I think a lot of Husker fans were concerned about the Fresno State game. After all, Fresno State has traditionally been a team that can hang with the big boys of college football. Not only that, but it's at Fresno State and kickoff isn't until 9:30 PM CDT. Those are all certainly legitimate reasons to be concerned about this game.
Nebraska's inconsistencies this season between game 1 and game 2 are well documented, but Fresno State looked terrible in both of their games so far. However, both of their games were against good teams and both were on the road. USC could very well end up being a top 4 team this year, and Utah seems to be solid as well. That's not an ideal opening schedule for a team that's trying to replace a 4 year starting quarterback. I'm personally not convinced that Fresno State is as bad as they've looked so far.
Let me clarify- I think Nebraska should roll over Fresno State. But I don't think they will. I started thinking about night road games over the past few years and I did some digging.
I decided to classify night games as any game with a kickoff of 6:00PM CDT or later. Under that classification, Nebraska has played in 10 night games since joining the Big 10. Here they are.
vs. Fresno State- W 42-29
@ Wyoming- W 38-14
@Wisconsin L 17-48
vs. Ohio State W 34-27
@ UCLA- L 30-36
vs. Wisconsin- W 30-27
@ Ohio State- L 38-63
vs. Michigan- W 23-9
*B1G Championship- L 31-70
vs. Wyoming- W 37-34
*neutral site game
So here's some takeaways from those results:
- Nebraska is 6-4 in night games since joining the Big 10. They are undefeated in night games at home but only 1-4 in road/neutral site games. The loan road win came at Wyoming in 2011.
- The average score in these contests is Nebraska 31, Opponent 46. #WisconsinScoresAgain
- Nebraska seems to really struggle in the 2nd half of night road games, and is on average outscored 11-24 in losses.
Obviously playing at Fresno State is a lot different than playing at Wisconsin, Ohio State, or even UCLA. But nonetheless, it seems that Bo Pelini's teams have struggled to be consistent in night games. That 5-0 record in night games at home looks nice until you consider how close Nebraska was to losing some of those games. Nebraska was down big at halftime to Wisconsin and Ohio State, but managed to pull off the 2 biggest comebacks in school history to get those wins. They nearly gave the game away to Wyoming at home last year, and in 2011 Nebraska was losing to Fresno State at home at halftime.
To me this all points to one thing: You cannot trust Nebraska in night games, especially on the road. I'm not really sure what can be done to improve the focus and consistency, but perhaps it's time for the coaching staff to at least reassess their gameday schedule for night games, if they haven't already.
Nebraska is currently an 11 point favorite at Fresno State. The game kicks off at 9:30PM, which is more than 2 hours later than any game Nebraska has played over the past 3 seasons. There's plenty of reason to believe that Nebraska can win and cover, but history tells us that they will struggle.