The two head coaches for Nebraska and Penn State find themselves in situations they did not expect coming into the 2020 season. We knew Nebraska’s schedule would be difficult. Being winless to this point is still surprising, especially considering the winding road we have taken to get to this point. The Huskers had the game against Wisconsin canceled and there was a roller coaster that ensued trying to schedule another game. It didn’t materilize.
Even the most optimistic of fans did not expect a victory in Columbus to start the season. The Northwestern game was tight. It produced more frustration as another game that it feels like the Huskers should have won.
Penn State came into the 2020 season with lofty expectations. The Nittany Lions were ranked seventh in both the preseason AP and Coaches Poll. The team was seen as one of the contenders from the league to dethrone Ohio State. That has not materialized for them. They have started 0-3 with the most recent loss being a lopsided defeat at the hands of Maryland, 35-19.
Penn State coach James Franklin could not have envisioned the sequence of events that led to a lot of tough questions on Tuesday during his press conference. He thinks everyone in his program has done a good job of handling things away from football. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Franklin said. “One of the things that I have not done a great job of handling, personally, that I have to be honest with myself and honest with the team and honest with you guys, I have not done a great job of managing my family being gone. They’re my fuel. I go home, you know, they’re able to pour into me and I have not done a great job of that, but at the end of the day, I have to. I have to manage those things. I’ve got to come to work. I’ve got to do a great job.”
The two opponents this week are in different spots in developing the program. Franklin has had a lot of success at Penn State, so his team is trying to regain the momentum it had in the preseason. For Nebraska, Coach Scott Frost is trying to get his alma mater off the ground to become the program he once knew. No one is putting more pressure on the program to return to glory than Frost.
“You know I’m always going to point my thumb at myself and not the finger at someone else,” Frost said. “The state of Nebraska means so much to me. This program is everything. This is my life right now and I’m doing everything I can to get this where everybody wants it as fast as possible. It certainly hasn’t gotten there as quick as I want it to, but I haven’t for one second lost hope and belief in where we’re going and what we’re doing.”
Frost and Franklin are friends, dating back to their time together on the Kansas State staff in 2006. Franklin was the offensive coordinator on that staff, while Frost was a defensive graduate assistant. There is a lot of mutual respect between the two coaches.
It’s no surprise that Frost believes Penn State is better than its 0-3 record shows.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Frost said. “You watch the first game and give credit to Indiana, but you know Penn State pretty much dominated most of that game and just didn’t come out on top. I thought they battled with a really good Ohio State team and just had some unfortunate things happen to them in the Maryland game, but I’m sure they’re going to be hungry for us.”
Saturday’s matchup is very important for both teams. For Nebraska, the chance to beat a blue blood program could be a valuable confidence boost. Penn State is hoping to salvage its season.
At first glance the stakes aren’t high between two winless teams. The two friends on opposing sidelines understand the importance of who comes out on top in Lincoln on Saturday though.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.