Nebraska Football: Rutgers is the biggest game of the year

Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) scores a rushing touchdown (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) scores a rushing touchdown (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Remember when there were all those pieces about how the Nebraska football game against the Northwestern Wildcats was the biggest game of the year? The rationale was that it was more than the first game of the year. It was also the bellwether game of the Scott Frost era. The game was supposed to tell us if things had really turned around. If things were finally headed in the right direction. Those articles were all right. That game was the biggest game of the year for the Frost regime.

That’s why the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is the biggest game of the year for the Huskers under Mickey Joseph. This is the bellwether game for the interim head coach. This is the game where Cornhuskers fans finally figure out just what this team has in it.

Under Joseph, Nebraska has been blown out by Oklahoma. It’s also put up a dominant half of football against Indiana. This team is still an enigma.

We’re about to find out just what Joseph has managed to accomplish in a short period of time. The Nebraska football team is about to play its first true road game of the year. Against a Rutgers team that is fresh off its own blowout loss.

If the Huskers are going to turn the corner this year, if they’re going to really compete for a bowl game and maybe even the Big Ten West title, they’re going to have to win on Friday night.

More than that, if the Cornhuskers want to show that all the love and respect that has come Joseph’s way since he was hired is real, they’re going to need to handle their business this week.

This is the turning point. A 3-3 record for this team is quite a bit different than 2-4. It’s the difference between hope for the rest of the season and just playing out the string.

And it’s the difference between Mickey Joseph being a real contender to keep the job and being nothing more than a placeholder for the next man up. That might not seem all that fair. It’s not. But it’s the hard truth of college football these days.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how unfair this season is to Joseph’s coaching career, he took the job. He’s said he can do the job. And someone who can do the job can lead the Nebraska football team over Rutgers. In fact, he needs to lead the Huskers over the Scarlet Knights.

That’s why this is the biggest game of the year. It’s the tone-setter for the Mickey Joseph era. It’s the measuring stick of the job he’s doing. And it’s the game that keeps the excitement of the post-Frost era that Nebraska football fans have been feeling since this season became the post-Frost era.