The truth is the schedule isn't that hard. Sure, the nonconference schedule isn't piled high with weenies. It's basically Three Men and a
Sooner or later, and probably sooner but I've been burned by that assumption before, I'll write the obit for the London regime. It'll say the words quarterbacks about a hundred times. The list of things London has mismanaged is long and distinguished and - here's the scary part - mostly unfixable this year. He could address a few things, like the crappy special teams and his nonsensical clock management, but truly fixing them - no, that would take a couple years. In some cases because the issues are structural and in some cases because we need a couple years of evidence to call them fixed.
There is one place he can make tangible progress, though. Besides winning, there's one absolutely huge, glaring difference between the football team and the other major programs at this school: Identity. Basketball, baseball, lacrosse, you've seen what they've built and the reputations they have. A program's identity and its relationship to success is a little bit of a chicken-or-egg question, but a coach has gotta know what he stands for, and I don't mean getting his players to go to class. That's what drives your recruiting and your teaching and your coaching.
I know Mike London is a man of character and he wants his players to be great guys and hard-working and all that, but that's not really it. That doesn't translate into coaching and to the extent that it's translated into recruiting, it hasn't driven the on-field direction of the team. Tony Bennett recruits players of tremendous character, not just for the sake of it but because his incredibly successful system requires a ton of selflessness and trust in your teammates. Brian O'Connor recruits only college-enthusiastic players because it means he doesn't have to sweat out the draft and because they see Omaha as more than just a place where scouts gather.
What's Mike London's philosophy? Best I can tell, it's that athletes and speed make a football team and you can recruit a bunch of them and mold them into football players. Besides the obvious roster-management problems with this (essentially, these guys can only play three positions - WR, CB, S) it's sort of telling: even the one thing that London can be said to be consistent about is essentially a scattershot lottery. Take a decent-looking athlete and hope he develops. Trent Corney has for years now tantalized with his immense raw talent, and played almost never.
There are hopeful glimmers. They're not likely to be enough to save the regime, but they're out there, and all on defense, where the one truly credible name on the coaching staff resides. In just a couple short years Jon Tenuta has established his identity on his side of the ball, and you saw it emerge last year. Offense is a so-far hopeless cause; it's just kind of there and the coaches are still talking about changing its aims and goals. Now we want to be a power-running team, right after spending years neglecting O-line recruiting. That should work. Defense, though, is Tenuta's blitzy-blitz scheme and his disruption, and you can actually tell what he's trying to do.
This is the challenge that awaits the football team this year: On offense, start developing some kind of identity. Most successful football teams are known by what they do on offense. If they're going to put their chips on the power running game, that means they can't go out to Pasadena and start going all screen-happy again. The defense has to be able to keep up this year what they did last year, with almost entirely new front-seven personnel.
If London, Tenuta, and Steve Fairchild are successful in finally moving the football team toward a defined plan, an identity, a meaning, then they'll probably be at least somewhat successful in the one metric that matters, and they just might keep their jobs. If they can't, they won't get another chance.