Every Monday after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments, and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.
The case to fire Scott Frost
Week 0 has come and gone, and it was a glorious day of wire-to-wire football. Aside from the games themselves, one of the best parts of football is the communal aspect of it. On the field, football is the ultimate team sport, where a roster of over 85 players works as one to achieve a goal. Off the field, it can bring the most people together. Look at the TV numbers. Nothing draws a crowd like a football game. On Saturday, many of us turned on the TV, opened Twitter, and proceeded to watch and tweet the games together like one big community.
It was there, as a community, we saw the epitome of the Scott Frost Era. An era that if the world was merciful would have ended last year. But, seemingly because the Big Ten is a non-serious conference, has been extended due to a reimagined contract, including Frost taking a pay cut and agreeing to a cheaper buyout. A buyout that drops on Oct. 1, in case you want to keep track.
Frost came into this season touting new energy around the program. Frost fired his entire offensive staff, let his starting quarterback walk, and brought in 22 transfers, many of whom are expected to be impact players this season. If you listen to Frost and the national media, this was Nebraska’s year. They were so close last year and with the new staff, the transfers, and a new Scott Frost — so confident in his changes he gave up play calling to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple — Nebraska was going to finally break through. Despite four mediocre seasons under the tutelage of the former Nebraska quarterback, there was hope.
Yet, what the world failed to realize is that new coaches, a new starting quarterback, a renewed focus on special teams, and 22 transfers to boot cannot fix the core of the issue. Which is simply: Scott Frost is the head coach. The game started so well, as many Nebraska games do, with Nebraska firing on all cylinders. Texas transfer Casey Thompson came out on fire, throwing the ball to transfer teammate Trey Palmer. Thompson also connected with transfers Marcus Washington and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, who went up for an awesome touchdown catch on the first drive and finished the game with four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska started fast and looked to be the better team, but Northwestern knew what we all knew — if you keep the game close, the coaches will make a mistake, the players will stop executing, and Nebraska will give you the game in the fourth quarter. Pat Fitzgerald, who does not have his best team in Evanston, coached like a man who knew he did not have to bring his A-game — and trust me, he did not — to leave Ireland with a win.
Nebraska, whose defense was a good unit last year, could not stop the run, got bullied up front all night, and let Ryan Hilinski, who is objectively one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big Ten, look like a world-beater. Despite this, Nebraska went on to hold two 11-point leads. Fitzgerald and his quarterback did everything they could to lose this game. Fitzgerald by settling for field goals, refusing to pick up first downs, running dives, and no other running plays, and ultimately playing not to win, while Hilinski made it his job to throw short on every third down play despite multiple leaks in Nebraska’s secondary.
Frost couldn’t accept the win. Despite Fitzgerald’s good Irish nature trying to hand him the game, Frost refused to be anything other than the worst coach on the field. Up 28-17, Frost decided to kick an onside kick that went straight to a Northwestern player and led to an immediate scoring drive. The Cornhuskers never scored again. Thompson, after starting 17-24 for 230 yards and a touchdown, finished the game 25-42 for 365 yards and two interceptions, one on the final drive to seal the loss.
Nebraska left this game with another close loss, and they have no one to blame but their head coach, who in turn blamed the offensive staff for their lack of creativity. Maybe some of you, including the national media, believed the hype. Believed that Nebraska could turn it around. But with Scott Frost at the helm, there is no hope.
Nebraska should be on their way to their fifth losing season in five seasons under Frost. Hopefully, this story ends with Frost being fired after his buyout drops. But if we must deal with frost in Lincoln for the rest of the year, expect more games to end in the fourth quarter after Nebraska gets out to a double-digit lead. It’s the Frost way.
Until then, Frost and Nebraska will continue to be the laughingstock of college football:
Illinois routs Wyoming
Illinois is going to be a fun football team. If you watched this game, then like me early in the first quarter you had to double-take and make sure you were watching a Bret Bielema-led team. After scoring in 40 seconds on a pass to all-Big Ten candidate running back Chase Brown, the Fighting Illini spent most of the first half in spread formations, including empty, and letting transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito drop back and pass.
Welcome to 2022, where new offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr., who previously led a top offense at UTSA, has been tasked with modernizing Bielema’s run-heavy scheme. As expected in a Week 0 game with a new coordinator, there were bumps. But overall, the offense looked more multiple while maintaining their toughness and overall blue-collar mentality. Brown looks even better than last year, finishing the game with 19 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns while adding three catches and a touchdown through the air.
DeVito is not a world beater, but he is an upgrade over Artur Sitkowski, and when Illinois can keep him clean — they finished the game with zero sacks allowed — he can make throws to keep drives alive and put some points on the board. Wyoming is not the toughest test. They entered 2022 without seemingly every good player from last year’s team as many of them transferred to P5 programs, including two quarterbacks and their star wide receiver. Yet, Illinois came into the game with a plan, dominated a weaker opponent, and end the game with their backups. That’s all you can ask for a Week 0 game.
The schedule isn’t easy, but if Illinois can win the games they’re supposed to, then I fully expect them to make a bowl game in 2022, which would be a major success in Bielema’s second season at the helm.
Chase Brown is still good at football:
Jim Harbaugh makes a decision to not make a decision
Jim Harbaugh, via a university-sanctioned podcast, has announced that he isn’t willing to make a quarterback decision, instead choosing to start incumbent starter Cade McNamara in Week 1 against Colorado State, while J.J. McCarthy will start Week 2 against Hawaii. He will then, somehow, miraculously be able to decide on the starter despite not being able to make one in the nine months since last season ended.
In-season quarterback competitions have never worked. It likely cost Ohio State a national championship in 2015. But Harbaugh is content with bucking trends. Michigan’s non-conference schedule is a joke, so this won’t hurt their chances to win their first three games, but come conference play this has a chance to ruin their season. Watch out for the Maryland game, as Taulia Tagovailoa, Rakim Jarrett, and Dontay Demus Jr. look to upset the reigning Big Ten champions.