LINCOLN, Neb. — Negativity seems to have swirled around Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska’s Scott Frost as they returned as coaches at the schools where they found so much success as players.
The vibe around both teams is certainly upbeat this week, with the teams meeting in the top five for an all-time win on Saturday night.
Michigan is 5-0, ranked ninth and coming off a convincing win against Wisconsin.
Nebraska is 3-3, believes it could be 5-1 if it weren’t for the special teams meltdown, and fresh from a 49-point win over Northwestern that was the Cornhuskers’ most in a Big Ten game. was more one-sided because they had attended the conference 10 years ago.
For the team that wins this weekend, the belief that it will be a successful year will last at least another week. For the losing team, Mojo will be gone.
Both Harbaugh and Frost were seen as saviors for their respective programs, both were given lengthy contracts and both have yet to meet the high expectations set for them.
“I can definitely see all the potential stories out there,” Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “Former quarterbacks. People who played in the NFL. Alma matters. Respected in their industry. It’s a big game for both of us. I know they’re trying to build momentum and so are we.” “
Frost, 46, was Nebraska’s quarterback in the mid-1990s and led the Huskers for part of the ’97 national title (with Michigan) after famously lobbying for votes following an Orange Bowl TV interview. He spent more than four years in the NFL as a backup security.
He was a rising star as an Oregon assistant and arranged a quick turnaround in Central Florida, his first head coaching job before returning to his home state.
“You want to win everywhere. You probably take it a little more personally at home one way or another,” Frost said on Monday. “There is nowhere I would probably hate to lose more than here. Difficult to handle here. But at the same time, I don’t know that I have ever enjoyed victory as much as I have here.”
Harbaugh and the Wolverines beat Nebraska 56-10 in the Huskers’ third game under Frost in 2018. It was part of a 10-game Michigan winning streak that ended in a 62–39 loss to Ohio State.
And there’s the rub. Harbaugh is 54-22 in his seven seasons, and his team usually wins the games it needs – yet rarely should they. Harbaugh leads 0-5 against Ohio State, 2-12 against top-10 teams, 2-8 against ranked teams on the road, and 1-4 at Bowls.
Last week’s 38-17 win over Wisconsin gave Harbaugh his first win in 13 tries as an underdog and ended a 20-year drought against the Badgers on the road. The game brought relief and joy.
The Michigan players had so much fun when the “Jump Around” scare after the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium that they danced to the side with enthusiasm like the students in the stands.
“It was a natural,” Harbaugh said. “It just happened. We talked about this earlier in the week: ‘When you walk down the street you want to embrace that atmosphere, cheer their crowd like yours is cheering, their music Make it your music. Weeks as the crowd noises. I think they made it theirs in that moment.
The fact remains, however, that Michigan has finished more than third in the Big Ten East only once in the past six seasons under Harbaugh. However, Wolverine is convinced. He hasn’t backed down and hasn’t turned the ball in five games.
“Our hope is to win a championship – the Big Ten and the national championship,” said fifth-year senior and captain Joss Ross.
Championship hopes for Nebraska would be premature. Huskers are still a week-to-week proposition, and the fan base was hopeful that Frost would go further.
He returned to Lincoln in December 2017 with an air of bravery after UCF’s incredible run. He was the national coach of the year, and said in his introductory news conference that he expected the Big Ten to accommodate him and his up-tempo offense rather than the other way around.
Frost is 15-23 in Nebraska, including 10-19 against Big Ten opponents. Their teams have been undisciplined on the field, taking poor penalties, and terrible special teams.
He is 0–9 against ranked teams and has yet to win more than five games in a season. That rival is 0-3 against Iowa and a combined 3-4 against Big Ten West weaknesses Purdue and Illinois.
A month ago, after a terrifying defeat in Illinois, fans and the media wondered if this team could win three games. Northwestern’s 56-7 beatdown has resumed talk of going to the bowl.
“I think they see formula one now,” Frost said of his players. “He prepared really well for several weeks in a row. Saturday was a massive go our way. There’s no reason to change anything.”
AP Sportswriter Larry Ledge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contributed.
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