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When Nebraska lost to Michigan State two weeks ago, there was a notion that the Huskers would have nothing to play for over these final two weeks.
With no conference title or BCS bowl berth on the line, there's technically some truth to that theory, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there's still some uncertainty with head coach Bo Pelini's future until Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst makes his full evaluation of the program at the end of the season.
The fight and toughness Pelini's team showed this past Saturday at Penn State was proof for Eichorst NU has not given up, despite the fact they are out of the conference title race. This week against Iowa has the same feel, as both the Hawkeyes and Huskers are in similar places with 8-3 and 7-4 records searching for some late season momentum to head into December recruiting with.
"Shawn (Eichorst) has a process he goes through and I have respect for that process and I would respect everybody else to have respect for that process," Pelini said. "As far as I'm concerned it's business as usual, I'm just concerned it's a short week and I'm just concerned about coaching football - that's what I'm worried about."
Do I think Eichorst and Chancellor Harvey Perlman make a move on Pelini? No. If anything, Perlman learned in 2003 the type of backlash you can receive firing a 9 win coach. No matter what decision is made, there are going to people that disagree with it.
The fact this team hasn't quit and they have shown great progress on defense are all things I'm sure Eichorst has taken note of.
However, still missing is a conference title and an appearance in a BCS bowl game.
"For me, no it's not satisfactory," Pelini said of a possible 9-3 season. "I expect to win them all and our goal will remain as long as I'm a head football coach here to win a conference title and a national title. I'm not into reasons why into making excuses or anything else.
"That being said, I like our football team. I think we've overcome a lot - I'm proud of this group. It's not for lack of effort or lack of toughness, but am I happy with being 8-3? No. I'd be lying if I told you I was. If you asked anybody in our locker room they'd tell you the same thing. They have high goals and the standards will remain high as long as I'm the head football coach here."
When Nebraska traveled out to State College on Saturday, over 60 percent of their travel roster was freshmen and sophomores. NU will lose some keys members along their offensive line and in the secondary, but other than that they return several key players in 2014.
"I like the direction of this program, I like where we are, I think the future is bright, I think we are very close - I really do," Pelini said. "I think there are some things I'll tweak along the way I'll worry about when the season is over into the off-season and I'll work on some things that I think will make us better."
Remembering this senior class
Here are just a few stories and memories I have about the group of 26 players who will be honored at Nebraska's senior day on Saturday.
***Cornerback Ciante Evans has made a lot of big plays over his career, but the one I will always remember is when he stuffed quarterback Blaine Gabbert short of the goal line during his true freshman season. Evans was playing for Alonzo Dennard, who went down with an injury.
***When you look at fullback C.J. Zimmerer, I'll remember him most as the guy who came up with the idea to have Jack Hoffman come into the Red-White game and score a touchdown. Zimmerer was one of the orchestrators of the biggest sports moments of the year, as Hoffman's run captured an ESPY Award this past summer.
***What I will always remember about quarterback Taylor Martinez is he's a guy that I felt like Husker fans really truly never got to know. I think once you spent time around Martinez and understood him for the person that he was, you realize he's a well-mannered young man that would do anything for his teammates.
***Thinking about offensive lineman Andrew Rodriguez, it's amazing the road he's traveled from New York City to small town Nebraska. Rodriguez moved to Aurora to be with his older brother, and credit the football coaching staff there for developing him into one of the best offensive linemen prospects in the country. I'm sure when Rodriguez first set foot into Central Nebraska in his wildest dreams he never thought he'd be starting at Nebraska.
Three and out
***Running back Ameer Abdullah said he and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon trade text messages back and forth throughout the football season about winning the Big Ten's rushing title. Right now Abdullah has a commanding 92 yard lead over Gordon.
***I see a lot of similarities with Iowa's offense and Penn State's. Look for the Hawkeyes to pound the Huskers front seven just like PSU did last week. This game will come down to putting Iowa into passing situations.
***It looks like the Outback Bowl in Tampa is the most likely bowl destination for Nebraska, and they shouldn't fall past the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. As long as Wisconsin beats Penn State on Saturday, the Badgers look to be in good shape to earn a BCS at-large bid, which would slot every Big Ten team up one bowl.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.