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Mike Riley was already on the hot seat ... and then he lost by 33 to 5-5 Minnesota

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Nebraska’s bad year just got worse.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It already felt unlikely that Mike Riley would be back as Nebraska’s head football coach in 2018. After Saturday, it feels highly unlikely.

The Huskers visited Minnesota and got smacked, 54-21. That’s a stunning margin against a Gophers team that entered the day with America’s No. 104 scoring offense, at 23.4 points per game, and had put up a total of 20 points in its previous two games. It’s a horrible look for both Riley and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

It might not be the most embarrassing loss of Nebraska’s year, only because previously, the Huskers lost to a MAC team for the first time in program history by throwing two pick-sixes at home. But at least NIU didn’t make that game into a rout.

Riley’s results have been mediocre, and now they’re just bad.

He’s now 19-17 in three seasons. He won nine games last year, and that was fine, but Nebraska didn’t hire Riley to win nine games. (The school fired his predecessor, Bo Pelini, when he was averaging exactly that many wins per season.) Riley’s team is now 4-6, and barring back-to-back upsets against Penn State and Iowa, will finish sub-.500.

Minnesota hadn’t scored 54 points against an FBS opponent since 2006, when it topped 60 against both Indiana and Temple. In Big Ten games this year, the Gophers’ previous high was 27 points, which they doubled against the Huskers.

Nebraska’s probably firing Riley, and this result just makes it easier.

The school already fired his boss, athletic director Shawn Eichorst, and replaced him with the Washington State AD who hired Mike Leach. Former star quarterback Scott Frost is riding shotgun as maybe the hottest coaching prospect in the country, and Nebraska’s new AD has already publicly praised him. There are enough dots here that aren’t hard to connect.

Nebraska extended Riley’s deal earlier this year, so he’s under contract through 2020. That extension made sense as a recruiting move when the university announced it in September, when the Huskers were 1-1. But Riley’s buyout is reportedly relatively small: about $6.6 million at the end of the season, per USA Today. That shouldn’t be a prohibitive cost if Nebraska wants to make a change, and the Huskers probably do.

This should all be over shortly. Nebraska got bowl-eligible at 5-7 in 2015, Riley’s first season, but probably won’t have Academic Progress Report scores to save it this year. Unless something surprising happens, Riley’s run in Lincoln has two games left.