Is the UCLA Game Make or Break for Nebraska's Bo Pelini This Time Around?

Andrew CoppensContributor ISeptember 12, 2013

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 7: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini greets his players before their game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Every summer there are names thrown about to be on the "coaching hot seat" and for the past two or three years the name of Nebraska's head coach, Bo Pelini, seems to come up. 

It's almost a right of summer passage these days. However, after last season's trip to the Big Ten Championship game and the disastrous results, the pressure is clearly mounting on the sixth year head coach. 

Which brings us to Saturday's matchup against No. 16 UCLA. It's Pelini's first big test with the new defense, one that has given Huskers faithful fits and left the rest of us asking serious questions as well.

However, the one question most aren't asking may actually be the most important of his career: 

Is this UCLA game make or break for Bo Pelini? 

Will he get fired or earn a massive raise on Sunday following this game? No, but that's not the point. 

The point is that this game will tell us a ton about where this season's football team is at.

A win against a ranked opponent in the non-conference season and we could be looking at a Big Ten contender once again.

Lose like they did a year a go and Pelini's squad could be in for some big time trouble, especially given his history. 

Let us not forget that Pelini's won a ton of division titles, four to be exact, so there is that. 

But you and I know we're talking about Nebraska, home to the five time national champions. Division championships mean nothing in Lincoln. They're just a stepping stone to greatness. 

Except in Bo Pelini's world, they've been a stumbling block. He's never been able to clear that final hurdle when needed. 

Let us examine the records that matter most—games for conference titles and against ranked opponents.

Five years in and zero conference crowns.

Even more telling? Five years in and a 6-12 record against ranked opponents.

Those numbers don't paint a pretty picture for Bo Pelini and they sure don't match the expectations for the red clad faithful that flock to Memorial Stadium every home weekend. 

This weekend, Nebraska has a chance to erase a lot of those memories and build some new ones under Bo Pelini. Beat UCLA and you become a part of the Big Ten brotherhood more so than ever before.

Not only that, but Pelini show's he is capable of hanging with and beating the best competition around. 

Especially on the heels of last season's second half meltdown at the Rose Bowl against the Bruins. That's something you don't have to tell Bo Pelini, he's already aware that he "owes" UCLA for that one

A loss against the Bruins for a second straight year would be just another example of why Pelini can't lead this team to the promised land. Add in recruiting worries and you have a picture of a team in decline. 

Not to mention a new AD in Shawn Eichorst who may not have the loyalty factor that a guy like Tom Osbourne has had in the past. 

Sure, Saturday is just one game, but between the mounting evidence of "good, but not good enough" results and the future outlook of the program, the result of Saturday's game would sure go a long way in determining exactly where this program goes.

Ultimately, doesn't that make Saturday make or break for Bo Pelini at Nebraska?


*Andy Coppens is the lead Big Ten writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for all the need to know info and game day shenanigans.