Before the Iowa State game, HuskerH8ter AJ asked if that game was a must win for Callahan. I said no at that time. In the end, it was a moot point; the Huskers won handily.
So, let's fast forward 4 games. After a victory against Kansas State, Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium on a 2 game losing streak to face Missouri, with the winner having a 1 game lead and the tiebreaker in the race for the Big XII North.
Is this a must win for Bill Callahan?
My take: No...but it's awfully close.
First, why not: With a loss, Nebraska will be 6-4 which would still be bowl eligible, even if they were to lose out. It's tough to fire a coach who made it to a bowl game (not that it matters to a certain athletic director), and frankly, three years probably isn't enough time to judge a coach. Nebraska certainly doesn't want to hitch a ride on the coaching carousel that sabotaged schools like Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa State in the 80's and 90's.
But here's why it's close: With the sorry state of the Big XII North the last 3 years, there is no excuse for not winning a title. Finishing the regular season at 7-5 most likely does not send a strong message that this program is in a resurgence after an 8-4 season in 2005. If a 75% winning percentage wasn't good enough for the Cornhusker football program in 2003, it's hard to accept these results.
Even if it doesn't result in the immediate firing of Callahan, a loss puts an end to all the goodwill gained from the end of the 2005 season. Already the firesteve.com and FireBillCallahan blog are back in action.
Here's another factor: In the Sagarin computer rankings, Nebraska's loss to Oklahoma State dropped the Huskers to #39. That's 5 spots behind Hawaii, 4 spots in front of Navy, and potentially even more problematic to the leadership in Lincoln, only 10 spots ahead of the Ohio Bobcats, a perennial bottom-feeder in the MAC that hasn't been to a bowl game since 1968. That's a comparison that has to be extremely uncomfortable to anyone who made outrageous statements about "gravitating to mediocrity."
The best way to keep this in check is to win on Saturday. Must win? No. But if they don't win, things are going to get rather hot.