- Associated Press - Thursday, September 27, 2012

WAHOO, NEB. (AP) - Eric Otte was killing time shelling corn in the back of his red pickup during a break from work on a warm afternoon this week when a buddy who owns the car repair shop across the street came over to chat.

The conversation, as it eventually does here and everywhere else in this state, turned to Nebraska Cornhuskers football.

It’s not all happy talk these days.

“This is my year where I’m deciding if I like where it’s going because this is all of Bo’s picks, all his recruiting,” said Otte, a 24-year-old crop insurance adjuster. “This is the year where it will be figured out.”

This is Bo Pelini’s fifth season as head coach. No one disputes he cleaned up the mess Bill Callahan left behind.

Pelini has yet to win fewer than nine games in a year.

But he also has yet to lose fewer than four.

Twelve seasons have gone by without a conference championship for the proud Huskers, their longest such drought since 1941-62. And it’s going on 11 years since Nebraska last played in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Judging by the tenor of fans on social media and radio shows _ or in Otte’s case, in the back of a pickup on Sixth Street in Wahoo _ they’re not willing to accept a new normal of nine- or 10-win seasons that end in second-tier bowl games.

They want the Huskers playing for the conference championship _ every year _ and in the national title conversation most years.

Asked what he would say to a fan base growing edgy, Pelini said: “What do you want me to say? I’m pretty edgy myself.”

Tom Osborne, who retired from coaching in 1998 after three of his last four teams in Lincoln won national championships, hired Pelini shortly after becoming athletic director in 2007. Osborne, who announced his Jan. 1 retirement this week, declined an interview request for this story.

Lots of other folks are talking in this state of 1.8 million, in addition to fans around the nation, as 22nd-ranked Nebraska (3-1) heads into Saturday’s Big Ten opener against two-time defending champion Wisconsin (3-1). The consensus is that last year’s third-place finish in the Legends Division was a big disappointment.

This year they believe the Big Ten, based on its collective mediocrity the first month of the season, is there for the taking. A caller to an Omaha radio show this week suggested it would be a “colossal failure” if Nebraska doesn’t win the conference.

Are the high expectations justified?

Story Continues →