Monday, September 24, 2007

Big Red Roundtable, Emergency Edition

Due to the Husker's performance the past two weeks, an emergency Big Red roundtable was convened to discuss the current state of Nebraska football. As soon as everyone has theirs up, I will link to the other Husker bloggers' entries. Here are the guys who have posted thus far:

Corn Nation

Midwest Coast Bias

Husker Faithful

Husker Mike's Blasphemy

Big Red Network

1) Assess the Huskers performance this season.What
is going well, and what has surprised you?

Well, I'll get to the defensive problems on the next question. First off, what is going well? For starters, the passing game has been extremely efficient the past couple of games. One reason for the aerial explosion is because it is what the game situation necessitated: We had to throw to make it look respectable at USC, and against Ball State the Huskers found themselves in a shootout that again called for a lot of passing. While Keller struggled to get in a rhythm against Wake Forest, he has clearly hit his stride the past couple of games. Not surprisingly, this has coincided with the receivers finally playing up to expectations and catching the ball. Drops were problematic in the first two games, but have nearly disappeared in the past two weeks. One disappointing aspect of the offense has been the running game. After the demolition of Nevada, a lot of Nebraska fans (myself included) thought that the balance we had sought for the past couple of years offensively would finally be realized. Three games later, reality has set in in the form of 3 straight games of averaging less than 3 and a half yards a carry (3.3 against Wake, 1.1 against SC, and 3.2 against Ball State). Obviously, these stats are skewed because of the effect that sacks have on total rushing yardage. After all, Marlon did have 102 yards on 21 carries against BSU. But that hardly negates the fact that our running game is obviously nowhere near where it needs to be to challenge even decent defenses. We still don’t know if Lucky is the feature back we all hoped he could be. And quite frankly, he better start showing it now that we are heading into conference play. Shootouts might be entertaining and fun for the quarterbacks and wideouts, but if there isn’t some semblance of a running game, you will not win many games in the Big XII. You have to be able to average at least 4 yards a carry to keep the opposition honest, otherwise they can simply trot out six defensive backs every time and wait for Keller to throw a pick, which if he has to throw it 55 times a game, is going to happen. That’s not a knock on Keller, he’s going to be the guy who wins us some games this year, I’m just saying that if we are going to continue to be successful offensively, we can’t have a bad running game, which is what we’ve seen the past 3 weeks.

2)Let's not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling.What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?

I, like pretty much everyone else who is a Nebraska fan, think it all comes back to coaching. Cosgrove’s defenses were horrible at Wisconsin, and they have continued to be since his arrival here in Lincoln. For the sake of keeping it short, I only went back to 2000 for these rankings.

2000- 79th (Wisconsin)
2001- 58th (Wisconsin)
2002- 63rd (Wisconsin)
2003- 43rd (Wisconsin)
2004- 56th (Nebraska)
2005- 26th (Nebraska)
2006- 56th (Nebraska)

See a trend developing here? The year after Cosgrove headed to Lincoln, the Badgers went from 43rd to 9th in 2004. Coincidence? I think not. People are saying that our recruiting isn’t as good as it was advertised to be, and they may be right. But I have said, and will continue to say, that it is our defensive coaching, not our players, that is what is ultimately holding our defense back. When a player is out of position on nearly every play, you can throw a new guy in there. But what happens if the substitute is doing the same thing? It’s called coaching, and I knew we were in trouble when Bo left for LSU and we brought in Cosgrove.

That said, what can be done to rectify the situation at this point? Forcing a coordinator to step down 1/3rd of the way through the season is hardly the Nebraska way, and in my opinion would not cure the ills the Blackshirts are suffering from. The best chance for the Huskers is to go back to the film and break down what the hell is going on with their miscommunications and mental breakdowns, and for the sake of all that is holy WORK ON SOME F-CKING TACKLING THIS WEEK! ITS DIVISION 1 FOOTBALL! I just can’t believe how poorly the Huskers are in fundamentals. If anything, perhaps the non-stop criticism of the defense and Cos will piss them off. Something needs to light a fire under their collective ass, and maybe getting booed in Lincoln will do that. I think for us to rebound Cosgrove has to sit down with his defense and ask them, straight up, “What do you feel most comfortable in? What package do we run where you all know what you are doing without a doubt?” Then, take whatever their answer is and stick with it. Because what is killing the Blackshirts is hesitation and uncertainty. They are constantly on their heels, afraid of what comes next because their self-confidence is shattered. Run your base stuff against ISU, re-establish some confidence, and try to build on it every week.

3)Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts.How will this play out?

Barring an unforeseen turnaround in which we shut out Mizzou, Texas, and Oklahoma, I don’t see there being any way he can be allowed to stay on staff. Some might say that we should just demote him, but I don’t think keeping someone this maligned on-staff is good for the program or the team. What happens if they bring in a new guy next year? Do you really think he’ll want the old d-coordinator as his linebackers coach? No, I didn’t think so. Cosgrove should be asked for his resignation at the end of the season, and let’s be done with it. He’s had his chance, and quite frankly, he’s failed in spectacular fashion.

4)You went into this season with some expectations.
Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where
do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?

Well, I certainly expected have a defense that was higher than 75th in the country and giving up nearly 6 yards a play. But I’m not going to pile on the defense too much, I expected a lot of things that haven’t come to fruition thus far this year. Our linebackers, once expected to be the best unit on our defense, have been by far the most disappointing. Our running game, as I mentioned above, has been sub-par. I expected Nebraska to make the jump from a good team to at least a pretty good one. And with the exception of the passing game, it appears they have regressed. I don’t see how we can handle the likes of Mizzou or Texas. Sure, Mizzou’s defense is as bad as ours, and Texas has looked lackluster, but at this point I don’t see us beating them with the way our defense has performed. If by some miracle we get to face OU in the Big XII title game, I’m scared of what the final score will be. Realistically, I think we could be looking at an 8-4 regular season (losing to Mizzou,OK State, and Texas) and hopefully we win some secondary bowl game. Anything more than that has to qualify as a pleasant surprise in light of how poorly our defense is playing.

5)There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at
Memorial Stadium.Your reaction? Is it okay to boo
the Huskers under any circumstance?

I understand why a lot of Husker fans are upset about the booing. It goes against the “classy” nature of our fanbase to boo anyone, let alone our own team on it’s home field. And personally, I wouldn't have had I been in Lincoln on Saturday. But if we can boo Scott Frost, why can’t we boo an embarrassing excuse for a defense? They’ve played horribly the past couple of weeks, and while it may not have been classy, I think a lot of people around the country would have done the same thing had their team been playing so poorly, especially in light of the expectations this team had coming into the season. So Huskers (the defense in particular), there ya go. You have eight more games to re-write your legacy. You can go down as an underachieving, over-hyped group, or you can take that criticism, get pissed off, and shove it down the entire country’s throats. Your move.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Bad Hangover

Usually when you have a hangover, you can at least look at the preceding night's events and say it was worth it. You might have a splitting headache and an upset stomach, but dammit, it was worth it for the three hours of beer pong followed by some bar hopping. However, the hangover that I, and most Husker fans for that matter, have been dealing with this week is in stark contrast to one of those. This hangover has been nearly a week in duration, and unlike those of the alcohol-induced variety, was not preceded by a fun night of keg stands. No, this was was caused by a night of embarrassment and shock at the hands of the Condom warriors. That said, the time has come for us as a fanbase to move on and focus on the next couple of weeks, cause we're only three weeks deep folks, and there's a whole lot of season left.

First, a quick couple things I was thinking about pertaining to the national scene:

-Let's not get too amped up about Florida kicking Tennessee's ass. Yea, a 59-20 victory is impressive, but I think Tennessee was getting way too much hype coming into the season, and thus far they've gotten beat convincingly twice. Yes, the two losses are at the hands of two top-10 teams, but they've played poorly on special teams and defense, and that was a problem last year as well (more so on defense). Either way, I wish people would stop talking themselves into the Vols every year, because they've gone 14-10 the past two years and are having a hard time rebounding in the rugged SEC. In fact if you look back to the year after they won the national title in '98, they have gone 70-30 in those eight seasons. Now obviously winning 70% of your games isn't bad, but it is nowhere near the level that many Vols fans expect. Also, not winning a conference title in the past eight years doesn't help either. I've never liked Phil Fulmer, so either way I'm thoroughly enjoying watching the Vols struggle. Add to that the fact that two of the Clausen brothers played there (the third being douchebag extraordinaire Jimmy at Notre Dame) and it only gets better.

-What a performance by Darren McFadden in Arkansas's last-minute loss to Alabama. That team could lose three games and that guy should still get the Heisman. What can't be overlooked in this game is Bama QB John Parker Wilson's great performance. He might have thrown two picks, but he offset it by throwing for 327 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last one being the game winner with 8 seconds to play. This of course is going to result in "Alabama is back!" proclamations throughout the country, which I'm hesitant to go along with. This happened when they went 10-3 with Tryone Prothro a couple years back, and we all know how that turned out. Let's wait till Bama plays some other SEC games before we get too carried away.

I think that is one thing that irritates me more than anything is how quick the media is to jump on the bandwagons of once-dominant programs trying to make a comeback. If Notre Dame starts next year 3-0, everyone will start the "stir up the echoes" talk, and at what point do they realize that three games aren't going to turn around a program's fortunes? There are so many factors in reviving a program (recruiting, implementation of coaching schemes) that it's impossible to say that said program is "back" after they string together a winning streak. Let's have some patience people. That said, the prospect of a Saban-led resurgence at 'Bama is a terrifying prospect for the rest of the SEC (and for recruiting coordinators nationwide).

-It's a real shame that some people missed the Louisville-Kentucky game because it was on ESPN Classic. What an unbelievable see-saw battle, with two of the best QBs in the country doing their best to win a shootout. I can't believe that the Cardinal defense allowed Wildcat wideout Steve Johnson to slip behind them with less than a minute to play, but what a dramatic way to end it. Andre Woodson, who most knowledgeable college football fans knew about, made himself known to the rest of the general public with that game, and announced himself as a legitimate Heisman contender with a 275 yard, 4 touchdown performance. That said, Louisville was obviously overrated coming into this season. Their defense is struggling as badly as the Huskers', if not worse: NU hasn't given up 42 to a nobody like Louisville did to Middle Tennessee state a couple weeks ago.

-You know, aside from the Huskers' loss, I had a great weekend football-wise. And the reason? The continued struggles of the Big 10. It as been nothing but fun watching this sorry excuse for a conference stumble through the non-conference portion of the 2007 schedule. Now obviously the Big 12 hasn't done a bang-up job either thus far, but it pales in comparison to the black eyes that the Big 10 has dealt with. First off, Iowa gets beat by the hapless Cyclones. Then Minnesota gets beat by FLORIDA ATLANTIC. And to top it off, Northwestern falls to Duke, a team whose previous win came in 2005. Combine those struggles with Michigan's 0-2 opening and Wisconsin's early struggles with the Citadel, and whatever street cred the Big 10 had is gone. Basically, they have Penn State at the top, and then Ohio State and Wisconsin fighting for 2nd. What makes it hard for fans is that there is no way to determine who the good teams are when all they do is beat the crap out of the other crappy conference opponents. If you want to watch some really horrible football, flip over to the Big 10 network, it's all they carry. Oh wait, you don't have the Big Ten network? It's ok, nobody else does either.

-Speaking of the Big 10 and other things I hate, how hard was it to watch the Notre Dame-Michigan game on Saturday? I felt like I was watching two teams of 7th-graders. And not the 7th grade A-team, the B-team. What a sloppy, ugly game. The only thing that kept me tuned in was the enjoyment I had watching Jimmy Clausen getting sacked. The good thing for me is that with that offensive line, him getting hit should become a regular occurrence the rest of the year. Can you go to a BCS game with 3-9 or 2-10 record? I'm sure for ND there is some loophole.

Should be an interesting game tonight between Miami and Texas A&M. Some people still aren't sold on the Aggies, and nobody probably will be until the conference schedule kicks in. Still, this should be a better indicator of A&M's abilities than their previous games against teams like Louisiana Monroe. Hopefully they become the 2nd Big XII team to kick Miami's ass this season.

I'll look around the Big XII and forward to the weekend tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Same Deficit, Far Different Feeling

One year ago, I walked away from the Coliseum disappointed in Nebraska's 28-10 loss to USC. We had been conservative, and for the most part seemed to be playing to avoid a blowout. As disappointed as I was though, I already had a sense of excitement and optimism about the rematch in Lincoln. Maybe by then, I surmised, we would be capable of beating a team like USC. One year later, that optimism has proven to be false hope. We lost by 18 points last year. We lost by 18 points this year. But the way those losses played out have NU fans feeling far different than they did a year ago.

Saturday was not only highly embarrassing and disappointing, it was in a word, crushing. While many just hoped we could keep it close (we didn't), I was one of the fools who for some reason thought we were capable of knocking off the juggernaut. How stupid I was. After watching the Trojan offense run roughshod over what looked like a middle-school defensive unit moonlighting as the Blackskirts, the terrible truth is now known: we are nowhere near where we thought we were. Not in terms of talent, and certainly not in terms of coaching ability.

In a loss reminiscent of the 62-36 CU loss back in 2001, the Nebraska defense was unmasked as an under-coached and over-manned squad that didn't belong on the same field as USC. Are the Trojans talented? Absolutely. Everybody knows about the the Parade All Americans, the stocked backfield, the Hiesman-candidate QB. But it really doesn't matter who you have playing for you when your playing against a defense that has no linebackers (which is the alignment the Huskers were apparently running). I could have run for 100 yards against that defense, and I think a lot of people could have in light of the fact most USC ballcarriers didn't meet any opposition until 8 or 9 yards downfield on most plays. Not since that loss to Colorado have I seen so many players routinely out of position on defense. Even when Husker defenders were in position to make a tackle, they rarely succeeded on the first try. Arm-tackles, bad angles of pursuit, and bad positioning can sometimes be credited to a player just screwing up. However, when it happens on nearly every play to almost every player, the attention has to turn to someone else than just the players.

Like many in Husker Nation, my eyes turn to Kevin Cosgrove. His units were sub-par in Wisconsin. His results at Nebraska have been no different. After the USC debacle, the "Blackshirts" are currently ranked 45th in the country in total defense. In his three years at NU, the Huskers have finished 56th, 26th, and 56th. Despite upgrading in talent every year, his units continue to underachieve. What is most baffling is how often Husker defenders find themselves completely out of plays, particularly traps. This has been a problem for years, and we routinely get our ass handed to us against teams who utilize this play well. I know this Husker defense is replacing it's entire defensive line, but that doesn't explain why McKeon and Co. were missing in action Saturday night. At times, it felt like we were running a 4-0-4, with no linebackers on the field. We knew we were in trouble when it took a mere four plays for the Trojans to go 96 yards on their first drive. It was a recurring theme throughout the night to see USC players running free in open space, each play with the potential to go the distance. It was, in a word, nauseating. How do you feel if your a former Husker defender? To see a unit that carries the Blackshirt name to be so thoroughly embarrassed in front of the entire nation? Grant Wistrom and all the others had to have been sick to their stomaches after watching that performance.

As far as the offense goes, there were highs and lows. Keller played well despite a pair of interceptions (one was tipped, the other the result of a well-called zone blitz by SC), and the receivers rebounded to have a great performance after dropping some balls the previous week against Wake Forest. Obviously, the running game is nowhere near where it needs to be to compete against national powers. Say what you want about the talent on USC's defense, that doesn't excuse the paltry 31 yards rushing that NU finished with. If you want to be elite competition, you have to be able to put together some kind of a running game, even if it sucks. Sucking would have been 50 yards rushing. Our running game didn't suck Saturday, it didn't even exist.

Despite playing a quarter-and-a-half of great football, NU now finds themselves in a familiar position: downtrodden, picking up the pieces after yet another loss to a top-10 team. This one, however, was far worse than any of last year's stumbles. Last year, the spotlight wasn't on us. Sure, we were expected to be decent, but there was still a tiny bit of leeway when we lost because of how close we came. We ALMOST beat Texas, we ALMOST beat Auburn. Our loss to OU wasn't as bad as the score indicated, because a few big plays were the difference in the game. This loss, however, was especially damning. The #1 team, GameDay in town, a primetime national telecast. And we were bitchslapped up and down the field.

Friday, September 14, 2007

We are Nebraska

You know, I really wanted to do a great breakdown of this game. I wanted to analyze every angle and every player to see what advantages we had over the Trojans, to explain why I think that we are going to knock off the juggernaut this Saturday. But that's been done. Everything that could be broken down has. Every position has been scrutinized, no stone left unturned in the investigation as to whether the Huskers can beat USC. So I'm not going to go into analysis. Instead, let me say the following:

We were meant for more.

We were meant for more than Big 12 North titles and 5 loss seasons. We were meant for more than middle-of-the-pack status, more than an afterthought on the evening sports recap. We aren't Oklahoma State or Rutgers. We are NEBRASKA.

We are the Huskers, the program of Frazier and Frost, of Crouch and Craig, of Rozier and Rodgers. We are 43 conference titles, 5 national championships, and 800+ wins. We are 283 consecutive sellouts, 7 Outland Trophies and 3 Heismans. We are the Greatest Fans in College Football. We are 11 undefeated seasons and Hail Varsity. From the Bugeaters to the Blackshirts, our history is as deep and rich as any program in the land. We aren't Louisville or Texas Tech, we are NEBRASKA.

Some might like to tell you that our time has passed, that the halcyon days of our program have have come and gone and that we are just another program on the crowded college football landscape. I beg to differ. What was once great can become great again. The luster that the N once carried is still there, hidden under 5 years worth of uncharacteristic losing and a sloppily-handled regime change. This weekend, the Huskers have the opportunity to show that the rest of the college football world better have enjoyed their reprieve from Nebraska, because we are far from resigning ourself to the second tier. We are NEBRASKA, and our place is in the upper reaches of the college football hierarchy, with the other kings of the sport. This weekend, we take our place at the table. It's been nearly two years since those "Restore the Order" shirts came out after a victory at Colorado. This weekend, we make people take notice that it is finally restored.

Huskers 24, USC 21

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Difference Between Hoping and Believing (and some Big XII thoughts)

As this weekend's Trojan war creeps closer and closer, a troubling thought keeps popping up in the back of my head. It's the sneaking suspicion that the majority of Husker Nation is going into this game hoping with everything they have for a win, or at least, a respectable loss. And if your one of those fans, then let me say this: if our team possesses that same mindset, the Huskers will get their asses handed to them this Saturday night.

Why? Because great teams, teams that rise to the occasion their backs are against the wall, do not HOPE for victory. They don't go into a game with a shadow of doubt in their mind. They go into it with an air of confidence that the outcome is already a formality, that in those 60 minutes they will assert their will on their opposition. Do you think the great mid-90s Nebraska teams went into games against highly-ranked teams like Colorado and Washington HOPING that they would beat them? HOPING that they would do what is necessary and maybe come out on top? No, they didn't.

When they walked onto that field, I guarantee you that NU already knew that the end result would be, because they were that confident in their abilities and those of their teammates that there would be no stopping them. HOPING is what gets you 9-5 records and 28-10 losses. You can see it on the sideline, the stink of desperation and the dropping of heads whenever the ball bounces against you. Great teams don't HOPE for breaks to go their way, they MAKE them go their way. Some people claim that cockiness and swagger aren't the hallmarks of a champion, that there is no place for them in sports. And while I agree with that sentiment to a point (I don't believe in self-promotion and individual celebrations), I do think that every great team, no matter what the sport, goes onto the playing field with the belief that by the end of the game, they will have left no doubt as to which team is superior. There HAS to be that mentality, that belief that NOBODY will stop you. It applies to every individual player on the team, from the QB down to the punter. You have to KNOW that you are better than the guy across from you, otherwise he has already beaten you. So when we line up against USC this weekend, don't hope. Don't have any doubt about the capabilities of the Huskers. KNOW that we have the ability to beat any team, otherwise our quest for a return to prominence is already doomed.

Anyways, that rant out of the way, here's to my thoughts on last week's Big XII games and my predictions for this week's slate.

-Oklahoma's shellacking of Miami was one of the big stories of last weekend, probably second in terms of media coverage behind LSU's dominance of Va Tech. I had predicted that Sam Bradford would have more trouble against Miami's defense than he had against his week 1 foe, North Texas. Bradford proceeded to make that prediction look stupid by tossing 5 touchdowns against the Hurricanes, whose secondary I thought would take advantage of Bradford's inexperience. While it is hard to determine after just two weeks, it appears as of right now that the Big XII has another Colt McCoy story on their hands, a redshirt freshmen coming in and playing spectacularly. The Miami game is hard to read. We all know that it has been a rough couple of years in Coral Gables, and that new head coach Randy Shannon has a tough job in restoring the luster to the Hurricane program. So the question remains, are the Sooners really that good, or have they merely played a D-1 never-was (North Texas) and an ACC has-been? Considering their next three games are Utah State, Tulsa, and Colorado, the answer likely won't come until the Red River Shootout on October 6th. And while we're on the Sooners, does anybody else feel a bit of nausea every time Reggie Smith makes a great play? The stud safety should be in a different shade of red, policing our secondary against USC this week. I still am haunted by his decision to go to OU over the Big Red.

-Texas A&M nearly blew their game against Fresno State, watching a 19-point lead evaporate before closing out the Bulldogs in triple overtime. Considering the expectations upon Dennis Franchione this fall, it wouldn't have been good to see the Aggies lose to an unranked (but still respectable) team at College Station. Neither the coaching staff, nor the Big XII as a whole, would have looked very good had the end result gone the other way. Stephen McGee continues to show that he is an all-tool player who does what is needed to win. While some still bemoan his lack of passing statistics, he is a proven leader and capable of winning games with either his arm or his legs. I enjoy watching the Aggies because they still run the option extremely well, and it at times make me long for the days of Frazier and Frost. All the more reason I'm excited for our October 20th matchup with them in Lincoln, one that I'll be attending in person (albeit from basically the worst seats in the house, thanks Texas A&M ticket office!).

-As Nebraska's top competition for the Big XII North, Mizzou was expected to play much better this past week than they did in a near-loss against downtrodden Illinois. While their defense is still showing signs of weakness, the Tiger offense played extremely well, with resident booger-eater Chase Daniel going for 300-plus yards and 5 touchdowns in a 38-25 win over Ole Miss. But offensive fireworks aside, the defense showed the tenacity and ability of a eighth-grade B team while giving up 534 yards of offense to the Rebels, a team that last year was dead-last in the SEC in total offense. What is troublesome (and potentially cool at the same time) is that the Tigers won't face a true test of their abilities until they play the Huskers on October 6th. Their next two games are against Western Michigan and Illinois State, respectively, and while they are both decent programs for their level, they don't figure to knock off Missouri. Then again, if the Tiger defense keeps playing like it has been (giving up nearly 500 yards of offense a week), they might not make it to the NU game unscathed.

-The UT Longhorns rebounded from their opening-week squeaker to post a nice win over a very strong TCU team this past week. I think one thing that hurt TCU's chances was that the media jumped on this game as a potential upset following UT's week 1 struggles. While the Longhorns started slowly (they were down 10-0 at half), they came out and thoroughly dominated the second half, winning 34-13 behind Jammal Charles' 134 yards rushing. Playing against one of the top defenses in the country, Colt McCoy continued to struggle, throwing 2 interceptions. If Texas is to live up to it's preseason hype, McCoy has to start playing like he did in the middle of last season. Another thing that stands out to me is the quiet performances being turned in thus far by Limas Sweed (just 4 catches for 26 yards against the Horned Frogs). While some of that may be tied to McCoy's struggles, one would think that the talented Sweed would be bailing out his QB in some of those situations.

-Kansas beat the hell out of Southeastern Louisiana 62-0, marking the only time that SE Louisiana will ever be mentioned in this blog. While I'd like to make some analysis of the game, it's tough to put much into an ass-kicking of a team whose nickname nobody even knows without doing some research (it's the Lions!).

-Baylor beat up Rice (whose lone brightspot, Jarrett Dillard, isn't meeting expectations thus far), rolling up over 500 yards of offense in a 42-14 win. I'd get excited, but it's Baylor. And Rice. Which means that this game's relevance rating was about a .7 on a scale of 1-10.

-Kansas State beat San Jose State 34-14 behind a solid performance by Josh Freeman (25-36, 272 yards, 1 TD/2 INT). I don't put much into this victory by the Wildcats, but one thing that stood out to me was the efficiency of SJSU's QB, Adam Tafralis. The Spartan QB went 16 for 20 with 134 yards and 1 TD, something that bodes well for an attack like NU's.

-To wrap it up, Oklahoma State rolled over Florida Atlantic 42-6, Texas Tech beat a decent UTEP team 45-31 (although it's not near as good as it was last year, when it was led by Carson Palmer's little brother, Jordan). Colorado played decently against Arizona State, but still managed to get beat by a comfortable 33-14 margin. I can see that strides are being made by the Buffs, but I still think they'll be hard pressed to get to the necessary 6 wins for a bowl game. Still, the fact that they don't completely suck ass is encouraging for Big XII fans. And finally, the biggest embarrassment was Iowa State following up their loss to Kent State with another L to Northern Iowa. While I figured they'd have troubles with UNI, I really didn't think the Cyclones had fallen that far that they'd belly-up for the second week in a row. Chizik has a long way to go in Ames, and right now I'd put ISU as this year's Colorado, a team that will go something like 2-10 or 3-9. Was it just five years ago that Seneca Wallace was leading them to a 5-1 start and in contention for the Heisman Trophy?

My predictions for this week's Big XII games, which with the exception of the Husker's game against USC, looks like a slate of middle school teams:

-Oklahoma over Utah State by at least 35 points

-Texas A&M over Louisiana Monroe by 28

-Mizzou over Western Michigan by roughly 2 scores. This one will be closer than it should due to Missouri's D.

-Texas over Central Florida in a game that I expect McCoy to break through and play well in.

-Kansas over Toledo in a riveting matchup worthy of whatever local public access channel is covering it.

-Iowa State will get pistol-whipped (or whatever the football equivalent of it is) by Iowa.

-Baylor over Texas State, Texas Tech over Rice, K-State over Missouri State (who?), and Okie State over Troy.

-The real interesting game is Colorado going against a Florida State Seminoles team that is searching for answers right now. While the Buffs shouldn't win this game, the fact that it is in Boulder bodes well for them, where the mix of 6 dollar vodka and Duracell batteries can have a big effect on opposing teams. Does CU have the talent? I dont think so. But I still think this will be a very close game, albeit a victory for FSU. I'm thinking FSU 20, Colorado 17.

NU's preview to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Can you feel it?

The tension? The apprehension, the hope, the hype? All of it is palpable as we approach Saturday's matchup with USC. This doesn't feel like non-conference game in mid-September. Husker Nation wants a win like this is a late November matchup against OU back in the 70's, or some balmy January night in the Orange Bowl in the late 80's and early 90's. While this may be just another game in the standings, the implications go much deeper than can be properly articulated. There is no way to truly understand the feelings every Husker fan has right now unless you are one. It's only Tuesday, and the hype machine is churning out story lines like there is no tomorrow. The revitalization of a program, a nomad quarterback's potential redemption, a nation rooting for the defeat of a media-made juggernaut. All of it comes to a head Saturday night among the cornfields and small towns of eastern Nebraska. In Lincoln, a city whose population is smaller than many Los Angeles suburbs, there lays the field where all these sagas will played out before a curious country's eyes. Can Nebraska do it? Can the once-proud Cornhusker team solve it's maddening inconsistencies and rise above and beyond their abilities to beat the media darling whose roster is chock-full of All-American talent destined for the NFL?

While I will touch on that and more in my Friday preview, right now I just want to take a brief look around the country and discuss some of last week's games.

- Lost in the hectic first couple of weeks of the season is the continuing struggle taking place in Tallahassee thus far. Despite the hiring of Jimbo Fisher as offensive coordinator (a move that many thought would revitalize a stagnant offense), Florida State continues to struggle. A preseason top 25 ranking was proven unwarranted after getting beat easily by Clemson in week 1 and then struggling against UAB for the first half last week. While Drew Weatherford's performance against Alabama-Birmingham provides a little bit of optimism, the fact of the matter is that this program no longer pulls in the recruits like they did in their stellar run of the 1990's. Those kids are going to Gainesville and USC now, and it is showing in the product on the field. What remains to be seen is what Bobby Bowden does if there isn't significant improvement throughout this season. I don't think he has any intention of stepping down, but does he continue to shake up the staff? Does he hit the recruiting circuit like he's 45 again? Only time will tell.
What is obvious is that with the rise of USF and the resurgence of the Gators, along with Randy Shannon attempting to rebuild down in Coral Gables, there is only so much talent to go around, and the Seminoles had better right the ship quickly, or they will find themselves stranded in the middle of the pack and facing an uphill fight back to the sport's elite. Ask Bill Callahan, he'll tell you it's not an easy climb.

- Speaking of USF, what a great win for them AT Auburn. It's one thing to beat a program like that at home, but to go into a hostile environment and take home a W is a testament to the strides that program has made since it's inception just 11 years ago. The Bulls have been on everyone's radar for some time now as a program on the rise, and the administration there is going to have to ensure that coach Jim Leavitt, who has built the program from it's infancy, doesn't take off if a higher bidder comes calling. I don't think he'd leave a team he has labored so hard to make successful, but you never know. If Nick Saban is any indicator, money is a big enticement.

- I'm thinking that LSU has a legitimate claim to #1 over USC. The Tigers dismantled the #9 Va Tech Hokies this past Saturday, dominating them on both sides of the ball en route to a 48-7 victory. What the Trojans do on Saturday against NU will go a long way in determining who is in position for the Sears Trophy in January. LSU, known for it's Bo Pelini-coordinated defense, is showing it has the offensive firepower to play with anyone. The Hokies pride themselves on their defense, yet were shredded for nearly 600 yards of total offense. The interesting thing will be whether or not the Tigers can make it through the SEC unscathed. It's the right year to go for a national title in that conference, with Florida undermanned on D and Georgia still struggling somewhat on offense.

-The Pac-10 just keeps looking better while the Big 10 continues it's downward spiral. Michigan was spanked by Oregon, putting UM in a 0-2 hole. Good thing they play in their conference, if they were anywhere else they'd be in real trouble. In the Big 10, they'll still probably manage to get 9 wins and maybe a conference title. Wisconsin and Ohio State have both played uninspired ball thus far, leaving Penn State as the team many will emerge from the mediocrity and claim the conference crown. Personally, I don't even care, it's been a blast for me just watching how terrible all the teams are playing thus far. On the other side of the spectrum, the Pac-10 can do no wrong in the opening weeks of the season. Cal beats Tennessee handily, Oregon whips Michigan, and Washington ends Boise State's unbeaten streak, all the while USC is the #1 ranked team in the land. This makes Saturday's little game in Lincoln all the more important for conference supremacy.

I'll look around the Big 12 tomorrow, then take Thursday and Friday to write the preview for Saturday's game.

While I'm at it, I want to remind anyone who reads this to look at the calendar today and remember what happened six years ago. Don't ever forget that day and those who lost their lives to an act of cowardice and terrorism. And remember to pray for those who continue to fight the wars that resulted from it. God Bless America.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nebraska 20, Wake Forest 17

First off, everybody take a deep breath. Seriously, go ahead, breathe deep in and let it out. It's important that Husker nation takes a collective sigh of relief after the unexpected nail-biter that we had to sweat through on Saturday. Husker fans, believing they would win comfortably (not a blowout, but a nice two or three touchdown win), instead were treated to a mistake-prone Big Red squad that sputtered throughout the game with untimely miscues and defensive lapses that were maddening to watch. Still, it's important to remember something: WE WON. Yea, it wasn't as good of a performance as we had all hoped. Every unit struggled in some form this week, so as much as the naysayers want to look at the faults right away, let's keep what's important in mind, and that is that the Huskers are 2-0 heading into their much-ballyhooed matchup against the USC Condoms this Saturday in Lincoln.

That said, here are my thoughts on Saturday's victory:

- Keller's inability to hit simple out routes and end-zone fades. While he has arm strength that NFL scouts salivate over, one couldn't help but notice the struggles he had on Saturday, where he sailed several throws over the heads of open receivers. Whereas Taylor was proficient with the end-zone fade, Keller was throwing some uncatchable stuff where we needed it the most. Also, there were several out routes where he overthrew wide-open receivers. I don't know if Keller simply had a tough time getting into a rhythm (could be, considering the drops he had to deal with), but either way, this is something that needs to be fixed ASAP if the Huskers are to pull off the upset this weekend. With Purify back, it is imperative that they work on the fades this week. When we have a the 6'4" Mo on a 5'9" corner in the red zone (like we did against Wake), the Huskers have to be able to make that play, and half the battle is Keller throwing a catchable ball, not one that ends up in the first row of the stands. Also, that "interception" that was really a fumble where Keller didn't get rid of the ball but didn't pull it down and protect it either? By far one of the more boneheaded plays I've seen from a QB in a while. Any QB at the college level is supposed to know that you don't flail the ball around like that when the pocket is collapsing around you. For the record, I am NOT one of those people who thinks we should throw Ganz in already. I think that would be a colossal mistake on so many fronts. Keller is the guy. Let him play and prove himself, it'd be stupid to give up on him 2 games in, and I know that Callahan would never do that anyways. I'm just saying to all the fans who think a change is in order, give it time.

- What was with the drops? Swift, Mo, Phillips, and others had timely drops this week, several of which stalled drives when we needed to kill more clock. We might have gotten away with it against Wake (barely), but we will have no such luck against USC. Every play that is there to be made, the Huskers have to make it to pull off the win. I don't know if the staff needs to keep the wideouts after practice with a couple JUGS machines or what, but whatever is causing the stonehands, it needs to be remedied this week. This was one of the main reasons that NU managed to convert just 3 out of 15 third downs, a stat that needs to vastly improve if the Huskers are going to be in contention for any kind of championships. I have to say, the play of Swift through spring and fall has been one of the more disappointing things to follow personally. After his freshmen season, I thought Swifty would become an All-Conference performer, but until he fixes these drops, that's obviously not going to happen. To his credit, he did rebound nicely and finish with 5 catches for 45 yards, which should help boost his confidence.

- I don't care if he got Cosgrove's blessing, Cally's decision to go for it on fourth may have been ballsy, it was also incredibly stupid. It's great to have faith in the defense (which paid off), but I still think the smart play is to punt it and play the field position game in a situation like that. Your defense has been tougher the longer their drives are, so why not make them go 90 yards in that situation? But if there is one thing that Callahan has showed during his tenure here in Lincoln, it's that he hates punting when he is within 40 yards of the end zone. While I didn't agree with it, I can't say I was surprised at all.

- In the pre-game buildup last week, the Husker defense made it a point to say that they were prepared for all of Wake's trickeration and end-arounds. Obviously, that was not the case. The Huskers were burned repeatedly on runs by Deacon WR Kenneth Moore, who finished with 116 yards on the strength of several long jaunts: 18 yards, 34 yards, 39 yards, and some shorter scampers to complete his day. For a guy who never once lined up in the backfield, that's a pretty good day running the ball. What is most troublesome is the fact that NU prepared for this during the week. They KNEW what was coming, and for 3/4ths of the game were powerless to stop it. Said linebacker Bo Ruud: "We were prepared for that play, but they executed it well."
Really? You were well prepared for that? Because it sure didn't look like it. Plays like that are stopped by one thing: discipline and sticking to assignments. I have no doubt that you prepared for those plays Bo, but where the hell were the people assigned to slow-play the ball and stay home? Where were the d-ends and outside backers? It was troublesome to see, especially when one takes into account that Pete Carroll and his staff were most likely watching the game. If a guy like Moore can burn us, what is USC and it's thoroughbreds going to do to us? I have my doubts, but hopefully Cosgrove can cook up something that will slow the Trojan offense.

While it was hard to watch the defense struggle on some aspects, it was equally uplifting to see them step up when the team needed them most. Several red-zone and goal line stops took place Saturday, and while a fan never even wants to see his team in that position, it was nice to see the front seven respond like they did. Hopefully USC never even gets those opportunities, it'd be nice to limit their red zone chances and force them to beat us with the big play (although they can probably do that too).

-What a great moment for Zach Bowman when he intercepted Hodges's pass in the corner of the end zone on a key series. For a guy who has been through so much trying to get back onto the field, it was great to see him make a play like that. Here's to hoping for a repeat performance this week.

- The secondary did little to assuage the fears that still persist from last year. The Husker defensive backs were fooled twice by the same play-action bootleg pass. Luckily the Demon Deacons missed on one of the wide-open opportunities, but NU was still burned by the other, a 61 yard completion on Murillo. I've tried to talk myself into believing that this year will be different, but thus far I remain unconvinced. Our safety play is still shaky, and until Bowman is 100%, I don't know if our corners are capable of stopping good (or even solid) receivers. And speaking of safeties, why was Eisenhart in instead of Thenarse or Wilson? I'm sure Cosgrove has his reasons, but I just thought we'd be seeing more of Ricky and Brian than we have.

-While it's nice to see a couple of field goals from Henery, I'd feel better about the whole thing if Nebraska has simply finished the drives with touchdowns. We can't get 3's against USC and Texas and expect to win, we need 7's in those situations. Hopefully Keller and Mo can fix this with some fade route work during practice.

While my prediction for the final score may have been off (I predicted an 18 point NU victory), I wasn't wrong in thinking that NU wouldn't be able to run the ball as effectively against Wake, which would allow Keller to throw the ball more (and he did, 41 times). And while he sailed a few balls, the drops didn't help his cause, and on a few occasions, he seemed to get into a rhythm before the drive stalled thanks to receivers. Sure he had two picks, but one of them was basically a fumble. If he gets two or three of those drops back, he finishes with 275+ yards and maybe another touchdown if the drives had kept going. He wasn't as great as we all had hoped, but I think he is developing and will be more efficient as the season goes on.

Let's look at this past week's game and hope that it was simply an aberration, a one-time slew of mistakes from a team that was looking ahead to a matchup with the #1 team in the country. Yea, we had some breakdowns in discipline. We were inconsistent, sloppy, and failed to finish in certain situations. But we won. We won, and that's the important thing. And aside from a few mental mistakes, the Huskers didn't do too bad. The Deacons only had two or three plays that were really working for them, and once corrected, they were sufficiently shut down. So let's tuck this tough win away, and move on to the Trojans. Bring it on.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Nebraska vs. Wake Forest Preview

Going into this game, the overall feel coming from pretty much every angle is that nobody has any idea what to expect. This is a game that Nebraska is favored to win by nearly every media member, yet nobody would be completely shocked to see the Huskers have a letdown game. I for one, do not expect that, but I'm just saying that's the vibe I'm getting.

First off, everyone is focusing on the fact that they threw the ball so well against Boston College last week. The two quarterbacks (Skinner and Hodges) combined to go 45 for 60, accounting for over 360 yards and two touchdowns along with 4 interceptions. And aside from the turnovers, that might seem like a pretty impressive stat line. But one has to take into account that Boston College was ranked in the middle of the country last year in pass defense, giving up an average of just over 200 yards per game. It's not like Wake was playing the Baltimore Ravens or anything like that, they were playing a halfway decent pass defense. Now, despite our struggles last year (and a few gaffes last week), I really do believe that our secondary has improved a great deal from last year. The addition of Asante, the return of Bowman, the maturation of our other guys, it all adds up to improved play (I don't sound too desperate, do I? I'm still trying to talk myself into this, its tough when they haven't faced legitimate threats yet). I think we will hold them to under 200 yards passing, with maybe one big play that results in a score.

I would comment on their rush offense against our run D, but considering they rushed for all of 2 yards net rushing. So for the sake of saving time, I'm just gonna go out and say I'm not too concerned about it.

The area where I think the Huskers have a great opportunity to beat Wake is in the passing game. The Demon Deacons allowed over 400 yards passing to oft-overrated BC quarterback Matt Ryan. If he and his group of receivers can do that, what are Keller and Co. capable of? While I believe Callahan will continue to try to establish the running game and give nothing away to USC's scouts, I also think if the opportunity to throw the ball well presents itself, Callahan will allow Keller to fire away, as this will help prepare Keller for next week's game against the Trojans.

This isn't out of the question, considering the Deacons had a pretty good rush defense last year (21st in the country, giving up 105 yards a game). Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind seeing Carl Nicks and the rest of the hogs bulldozing them for 7 yards a pop again, but I don't think I'm along in wanting to see Keller open it up a bit.

My prediction: Nebraska 35, Wake Forest 17

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Around the Big XII and some random thoughts...

You know, I always wondered how people could find time to write an entry every day. Now I realize it's because they likely have internet access at all times, whereas I only have it from 8 to 4, and I have to do other stuff (like my job) during that time. I've wanted to write about a ton of stuff this week, but unfortunately it's been pretty hectic. I wish the bastards at Qwest would get my internet working at home.

Anyways, looking around the Big XII this week, a few things came to mind:

- First off, what an embarrassing opening loss to Kent State for ISU. With all the optimism coming out of Ames after the hiring of Chizik, that had to be a sobering dose of reality for this downtrodden program. They obviously have some talented players there in guys like Meyer, Blythe, and LB Alvin Bowen, but that might not matter this season. That new staff has a daunting rebuilding project, and the level of difficulty may have been revealed to them this past Saturday.

- While on paper it may not seem like a big win, Colorado's victory over decent rival Colorado State was a nice way to open the season for the Buffs. For the Big XII north to gain any legitimacy, we need CU to have a good season, otherwise we will continue to be ridiculed. Cody Hawkins had a solid debut, completing 58% of his passes with a 2-to-1 TD/INT ratio. While this wasn't a huge game, it was an important step to rebuilding in Boulder.

- Mizzou's opening win wasn't near as convincing as many Big XII fans had hoped for. It'd be one thing if Illinois had had their gamebreakers (Juice Williams, Benn at WR), but Williams was out a large portion of the game and the Tigers still had a lot of trouble stopping the perennial Big 10 doormat. Hopefully Mizzou shores up it's defense, or they won't be living up to any of the preseason hype that has been given to them.

- Baylor still sucks. No, really, they do. I don't care if it was against a really good TCU team, they suck.

- Apparently God wanted to play some NCAA Football 2008 and decided to control the OU/North Texas game. People aren't supposed to run up those kind of stats in real life, not with an inexperienced QB. The previously unheralded Sam Bradford threw for 363 yards on 20 of 22 passing, and new tailback sensation DeMarco Murray didn't fail to live up to they hype he generated in spring, rushing for 5 TDs in an a**-raping of Biblical proportions. The Sooners just keep on rolling, no matter who they have in the backfield. We'll see how they play against Miami's ballhawking defense this weekend. If Oklahoma were to lose this game (which they shouldn't), it would continue the downward spiral the Big XII has been on the past couple years. It's key that the Sooners win this game.

- In one of the conference's bigger games this past weekend, OSU was defeated by a strong Georgia team, 35-14. I was really hoping the Cowboys would step up and win some respect for the Big XII, but it wasn't to be, particularly when the time of possession was stacked so far in favor of the Bulldogs. Oklahoma State's strength isn't on defense, its the offensive unit that rushed AND passed for 200 yards each per game last year, and Georgia managed to keep Ried, Bowman & Company on the sidelines for nearly 2/3rds of the game. I still think OSU can be a really good team, but if there's anything to keep in mind, it's that this Cowboy team was inconsistent last year and had a gift when it came to blowing close games.

-Texas played uninspired and Colt McCoy struggled as the Longhorns squeaked by Arkansas State, 21-13. Texas should be glad they weren't playing a marquee team the first week, such an effort would not have sufficed against a more talented team. I'm hoping Texas continues to play well only because it makes NU's game with them that much more important.

-In a very important game for the conference, K-State nearly beat a sloppy Auburn team before the Tigers escaped with a pair of late touchdowns. It's almost embarrassing how poorly the Big 12 has played other conferences the past couple of years, which is why it is so important that we win games like this. It may have been sloppy, but a win over a highly ranked SEC team is not an opportunity you want to see slip through your fingers. Despite outgaining Auburn, KSU managed to shoot themselves in the foot with 16 penalties for 141 yards and three turnovers. You might be able to get away with that against the creampuffs you used to schedule in the Snyder era, but not against Auburn.

-Texas A&M and Kansas both rolled in their openers, and nothing of any real significance happened which is why I'm not going to write a whole paragraph about it.

As far as this weekend goes, I see every Big 12 team winning with these exceptions: -Colorado, who will struggle against a decent Arizona State team. If the Buffs were to win, that'd be a big step toward having a good season

-Iowa State, if last week is any indication, will struggle against Northern Iowa (which wouldn't be the first time)

While a few other teams will have interesting games on their hands, I think all the other Big 12 teams will win. One thing to watch for though: Miami has a tough defense and could take advantage of Sam Bradford's inexperience, and Texas has to play better this week against TCU than they did last week, or they are in trouble.

My random thoughts from last weeks games:

It absolutely made my weekend that both Michigan and ND lost last week. I reserve a special hatred for both teams, and to see the Wolverines choke against Appalachian State was high drama. That App State guy that blocked the game-winning kick will be getting so much ass for the rest of the season, it's not even fair. As far as ND goes, its going to be a blast watching them limp to 5 or 6 wins this season (if that). Unfortunately, douchebag of the century (Jimmy Clausen) is taking the reins this weekend. What sucks is that the media is going to devote waaaaaay too much time to a rebuilding program that nobody wants to hear about.

Anyways, I'll write my Husker/Wake preview later today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Let's party like its 1995

What a weekend. I spent mine on the Lake of the Ozarks in Mizzou, consuming way too much beer and getting way too little sleep. But that didn't prevent me from watching the Huskers' dominating performance against Nevada, thanks to my cousin having a 30 inch flat screen with satellite on his dock. For a complete statistical analysis, I suggest heading over to Double Extra Point, where they continue to amaze with their gift of breaking down the numbers.

My thoughts from Nebraska's opening win:

-We don't know how much to put into Marlon Lucky's dominating performance just yet. Any time someone rolls up 230-plus yards at a 7.75 per-carry clip, you have to take notice. Showing great field vision and speed, Lucky was particularly effective on the stretch plays and other runs of the off-tackle variety. What stood out is how despite having backups that were also playing well, Callahan stuck with Lucky long after the outcome had been determined, as if to show everyone that he can handle a large amount of carries without hurting something. Now, the real question we have to wait to have answered is whether he can do it against the likes of USC's Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing in two weeks. Still, all concerns aside, it was satisfying to watch the Huskers feature a back and have him perform well, especially a guy like Marlon who has been through so much during his tenure in Lincoln.

-70 RUSHING ATTEMPTS!!! Sometimes a team is fortunate to get 70 plays total, but for Nebraska to run the ball 70 times is an amazing accomplishment and a testament to the depth and quality of the offensive line. With 413 yards on the ground (and a couple of options thrown in), one couldn't help but feel nostalgic on Saturday. It was thrilling to watch the Huskers run at will, essentially saying "Here's what we're gonna do, it's your job to stop it." That was a lot of fun.

-Sam Keller's solid performance of managing the game was maybe not what most Husker fans were expecting to see, but it is exactly what this offense calls for. There will come times this season where Keller will have to carry the Huskers on his back, but Saturday was not one of them. He played efficiently, completing some nice intermediate throws and avoiding mistakes, his lone gaff being a tipped ball that resulted in a pick-6 for the Wolfpack. One of his throws stood out in particular to me: a deep drag to McNiel (which some say was intended for Hardy) was very impressive, a frozen rope that Zac Taylor never had the arm strength to pull off. When a QB can sling it like that, it makes it tough for defenses to stop him. That said, while I look forward to Sam having the opportunity to air it out, it really isn't necessary when your getting 6 yards a pop on the ground.

-I know I wasn't the only one pleasantly surprised by Nebraska's special teams performance. Grixby had a nice 46-yard kickoff return to stifle Nevada's momentum after their interception TD, and Kunilac nailed a 46 yard field goal as well. While that may not be cause for celebration at other schools, after last year's shortcomings in the kicking game it was one of the highlights of the game.

-The secondary played fairly well Saturday, although there were a couple plays where Grixby was exposed and turned around, but considering the talk about the "Pistol" offense and it's intricacies, one can't be too disappointed, especially considering it was the first game of the season. Asante dropped a sure touchdown, but other than that there wasn't too much to complain about.

-Welcome to Lincoln, Mr. Castille. I have a feeling that this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Am I the only one who is absolutely giddy that this guy is only a freshmen? He's gonna be a great inside compliment to Lucky's outside bursts.

-I was encouraged by the Huskers' offensive explosion in the third quarter. Last year's struggles in that stanza have been well documented, and it was refreshing to see the Big Red come out and slam the door in Nevada's face instead of giving them any glimmer of hope. 4 scoring drives, one of them capped by the aforementioned Kunilac field goal.

-The pound-the-rock playcalling allowed Callahan to keep his tricks up his sleeve and avoid tipping off the next couple of week's opponents as to what other stuff the Huskers have in their playbook. This, in my opinion, was a big plus of this weekend's win.

-What was with the tunnel walk? Could it have been cheesier or nauseating? Maybe I'm in the minority, but I thought it did little to induce goosebumps like last year's Contender montage did. Between the plane thing and the computer graphics, it was nearly embarrassing. The only good thing was the music, which incorporated Sirius with a new beat. But aside from that, a piss-poor effort on many fronts.

It was fun to see an old-fashioned Big Red ass-kicking, but we'll see if that happens when we face stiffer competition. While Nevada is no slouch, they aren't USC either. As far as the schedule goes, I'm going to look around the nation tommorow, the Big 12 on Thursday, and then Friday I'll write my preview for Wake Forest, who is coming off a loss to an overrated Boston College team. Here's to hoping that this was the first of many wins to come this season.