8-4 overall, 6-5 conference, 2nd Big 12 North
Against the spread
6-5 (3-3 home, 3-2 away, 1-1 grass)
7-4 (4-2 home, 3-2 away, 1-1 grass)
-.17 per game
2005 Season Summary
The Nebraska Cornhuskers, after improving to a 9-3 regular season record after a 7-7 mark in 2002 fired head coach Frank Solich after he DEFEATED Colorado 31-22 at Boulder. Although Solich had done his job by making staff changes, particularly on defense, and had improved the team, Nebraska still felt that it was not enough and that Solich was not recruiting enough top shelf athletes. It was also believed that the option offense, a staple of Big Red football for roughly forty years, was now outdated and that the program needed a complete makeover and modernization.
West Coast approach
Solich was replaced by Bill Callahan, who was fired by the Oakland Raiders, just one year after leading them to the AFC championship. Callahan brought with him NFL pedigree to sell to potential recruits and his West Coast offense. Callahan’s immediate problem was that he would try and run the West Coast offense with option personnel. It would prove to be a difficult transition as Nebraska suffered their first losing season since 1962 as they finished 5-6 straight up and 4-6 against the spread and Callahan was the object of much derision by season’s end.
Some signs of encouragement
Despite the rough first season, Callahan’s recruiting classes were highly touted and respected throughout the nation and it was believed that he had the program headed in an upward direction. While a North Division title was not expected for 2005, a return to respectability and a bowl was as there were some signs of encouragement.
Nebraska opened 2005 with a weak 25-7 win over 1-AA Maine. The one positive of the Maine game was that it made Nebraska an incredible bargain in their next game as relatively small 6.5-point home chalks against Wake Forest in a strong 31-3 win that revealed a tough Husker defense. Against Pitt the following week as 9-point chalks, however, Nebraska barely escaped with a 7-6 win as the defense staved off disaster. Nebraska was 3-0 straight up but 1-1 against the spread and sending mixed messages to gamblers.
Bargain hunters delight
In their next game at home against Iowa State, a team touted as a North Division contender, Nebraska was a small 4.5-point chalk and scored a 27-20 win as they proved just how tough they are at Lincoln. High flying Texas Tech payed a visit the following week and the Huskers were an uncharacteristic 5-point dog as they seeked revenge for one of the most humiliating losses in program history, a 10-70 blowout loss at Tech the previous season. Once again, gamblers paid for the folly of opposing Nebraska at home as Tech won but didn’t cover 34-31. The Huskers continued to be a bargain hunters delight the following week in a 23-14 win at Baylor as 2.5-point chalks. Nebraska stood at 5-1 straight up and 4-1 against the spread and was gaining respect.
Nebraska was a 2.5-point chalk at Missouri and was blown off the field in the second half in a 24-41 loss. At home against Oklahoma the following week as a 2-point chalk, the Huskers suffered a most discouraging 24-31 loss. Things were to get worse the following week at Kansas, however, as the Huskers lost to the Jayhawks for the first time since 1968 in a 15-40 rout in a pick’em game to complete a three game straight up free fall.
Recovery and redemption
Nebraska returned home for Senior Day against struggling Kansas State as a small 5-point chalk and barely escaped with a 27-25 win as they lost to the oddsmakers for the fourth straight game.
Nobody gave Nebraska much of a chance at Colorado in the regular season finale as 17-point dogs but they scored a shocking 30-3 domination win over the Buffs which greased the skids for CU coach Gary Barnett’s firing.
In the Alamo Bowl against fellow “name brand” team Michigan, Nebraska scored a tremendous 32-28 comeback win as 10-point dogs to end the season with recovery and redemption as Callahan went from under fire to being celebrated as having the program on the upswing.