More than nine months since playing an actual game, Ohio State and head coach Ryan Day sit just three sunrises away from the much-anticipated 2020 season opener.
At one point, it seemed the fall season would be lost altogether but Day and Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, among others, pushed the Big Ten to reconsider its decision to postpone action until least January. Now, the two coaches are set to do battle on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
A friendship already existed between the two but keeping in touch during the turbulent period of wondering whether or not there'd be a season brought them even closer.
Day expanded on he and Frost's connection while recalling Nebraska's dominance over 20 years ago in yesterday's session with the media.
I remember it really well, watching them play for national championships and being a powerhouse. One of the greatest traditions in all of college football. Nothing but respect. A lot of great players have come before, and certainly Scott was one of them.
Well, Scott coached for Chip and he and Chip were really close. So I got a chance to meet Scott when he coached with Chip at Oregon, and we’ve continued our relationship. There’s a lot of guys on that staff that I have a lot of respect for that I worked with. Always had a lot of respect for Scott. We had a lot of conversations during this time, and I know that there was times when we never thought we would be playing the season. Now, the fact that we are is great. The fact that we’re playing in the first game, I mean, we’ve gotta play each other at some point. Our guys were looking forward to it. But always had a lot of respect for Scott and certainly do after spending the last couple of months together on the phone.
A willingness to fight for their players is certainly a shared trait but when it comes to generating positive on-field results, the duo couldn't be more different.
Similarly, Ohio State's success predates Day's arrival in the same way Nebraska's mediocrity precedes Frost's arrival as the former player charged with restoring the glory.
Frost certainly faces an uphill battle leading a program that hasn't won at least 10 games in a season since 2012, has exactly zero Top-10 finishes since 2001 and last captured a conference crown in 1999.
Since head coach Tom Osborne's squad shared national title in 1997, Big Red has just two seasons with 11 more wins. In fact, the Huskers have lost more than three games in 18 of 22 seasons since Osborne hung up his whistle. During Osborne's 25-year run, the Huskers never lost more than three games in a single season.
Frost was a huge driver of Nebraska's late-1990s success, going 24-2 as the starting quarterback across the 1996 and '97 campaigns, becoming just the 10th quarterback to throw and rush for at least 1,000 yards in the same season.
The program would enjoy very respectable success in three of Frank Solich's six seasons but ran him off after a 7-7 season in 2002 followed by a 10-3 season in 2003 resulting in a No. 18 final ranking.
Bill Callahan then stunk it up for four seasons, going 27-22 with one season ranked in the final Top-25 at No. 24 in 2005.
Bo Pelini arrived and won at least nine games in seven straight seasons but the reality is the program was just good enough to not be good enough, finishing inside the Top-15 only once during his tenure (No. 14 in 2009).
Nebraska's administration wanted more however and felt Mike Riley was the answer ahead of the 2015 season. Spoiler: Riley wasn't the answer. The well-traveled head coach lasted just three years going 19-19 overall with two losing seasons.
With Riley out of the picture, Nebraska targeted their savior in Frost, who had not only led Nebraska to that shared '97 crown but had also just wrapped up a perfect 13-0 season at UCF.
The fairy tale hasn't worked out through two seasons however as Frost went 4-8 including a 3-6 mark in Big Ten play in year one before posting a 5-7 record featuring another 3-6 finish in conference action.
His combined 9-15 record thus far includes wins over Bethune-Cookman, South Alabama, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Maryland, Illinois twice and Michigan State. He's winless in six tries against teams ranked at the time of the game.
This season, Frost's program drew a much-discussed tough schedule with four ranked teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota) dotting the eight-game regular season slate.
The first test against a ranked foe comes Saturday against an Ohio State team that's assuredly underrated at No. 5 in the AP and Coaches Polls.
Past history also isn't on Frost's side as Ohio State is 7-1 all-time against he Cornhuskers including five-straight wins with four coming in blowout fashion.
In the five matchups since 2012, the Buckeyes posted victories by an average score of 53-19, putting up over 60 points twice.
Last year, Ohio State built a 38-0 lead and prevailed 48-7 on the strength of 580 yards of total offense. The defense was also stout, limiting the Cornhuskers to 76 total yards in the first half with all seven possessions ending in either a 3-and-out or an interception as quarterback Adrian Martinez completed 2-of-8 passes for 10 yards with those three picks leading to 17 points for Ohio State.
Those numbers could be bouncing around Martinez's head upon entry to the Shoe on Saturday with Frost announcing his plan to start the junior over redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey.
As such, it's hard to fathom Saturday becoming the program-changing win Frost so desperately needs. With Wisconsin in the on-deck circle and a trip to Penn State two weeks after that, Nebraska could very well be staring down the barrel of a 1-3 record at the midway point of the regular season.
Could Nebraska's administration find itself in the same position as Michigan is with Jim Harbaugh, where the hero as a player charged with returning the program to glory as the head coach simply can't get the job done? Frost seems like a great dude but it's sure starting to feel like the administration's expectations (rooted in reality or not) won't ever match what Frost will ultimately produce.