The Nebraska Cornhuskers are one of nine unbeaten FBS football teams going into the final weekend of October. They are ranked in the top ten in the nation and have a big game this weekend against the Wisconsin Badgers and if they win, they could very well be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game in early December for a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
This comes one season after many including myself chastised the Cornhuskers for accepting a bowl invitation with a 5-7 record. The Huskers went to San Francisco to play the UCLA Bruins who were 8-4 in a late December bowl game that the Huskers won. Did that bowl win spring board them into a contender this season? Well, it certainly didn’t hurt. If Nebraska winds up this season with ten or more wins the season after making a bowl appearance at 5-7, and it appears they will, then the next big name program (Notre Dame? Oregon? Stanford?) who accepts a bowl invite despite a train wreck of a season will point to Nebraska whenever someone asks how they can do this with a straight face.
Does this mean we should accept the fact that 5-7 bowl teams are here to stay? Perhaps. And really, is it that big of a deal? If we look at bowl games as what they were originally intended as; exhibition games, then is it so bad when a Nebraska, who has a huge following and national appeal, plays UCLA in late December? There are many teams who have losing records right now who will be playing this weekend. Nobody has told them to cancel the season. In fact, if these teams finish well, many will commend them on not giving up.
If you don’t think a Notre Dame vs Oregon game in December in Orlando is worth your time, then don’t watch it. But if you are a fan of college football then this game is not meaningless. These games count in the standings and as we have now see, they can be huge going into the following season. So maybe 5-7 bowl teams isn’t the worst thing in the world after all.