Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blogging the game

So once I realized that we were going to have problems with Baylor, I figured, why not just blog the game? We are currently down 14-7, and the whole punt-that-supposedly-wasn't-touched fiasco where we were screwed out of not only possession but field position. Our offense is having problems sustaining drives and our defense is tackling as poor as ever, though much of that can be contributed to them playing a world-class sprinter.

12:38--Nice sack by Prince, and one we desperately needed for momentum's sake

12:43-- Finally have something going here on offense again with consecutive first downs, down to the 29. Good no call on the deep pass to Petersen there, which the two terrible announcers also point out.

12:44--Just dodged a huge bullet with that Young fumble. And I know that it just got us 5 yards, but can we please find some faster guys if we are going to run the little quick pass to Swift where he trys to make like Terrell Owens and just out-quick two guys?

12:48-- At least we got 3 points out of the drive, but that didn't do much to dull their momentum. The botched kick was nice for the momentum, but then Griffin burns us for a quick 11 yards. This guy is going to kick our ass throughout the day. 7 carries for 100 yards in the first half for Griffin. Where is the team we saw last week against Iowa State? I know Griffin is amazing, but you still have to come up with a way to stop him.

12:55--Of course, right after I say this, Allen comes in and drops Griffin for a big loss. I can't believe that Griffin didn't see him coming. Top it off with a botched Baylor punt and we might go into half with a lead here if our offense can take advantage of the short field.

12:57-- Oh, so Colt McCoy is your Heisman leader, announcer guy? Wow, what a shocking announcement!

12:58-- Touchdown, Marlon Lucky! What a great little drive he just had, a great catch followed by a nice run in traffic to finish the job. Everyone in red is breathing a little easier right now. I'll be honest though, I may retire my "Blackshirts" shirt I'm wearing, it seems like every time I wear it we play poorly out of the gate.

1:03-- Glad to see Thenarse is in there, if I had to watch O'Hanlon get burned over and over again, I was going to throw up. Of course, right after I say this nearly beat us deep only to have the receiver drop the ball. Then Glenn manages to give them a first down with another personal foul, followed promptly by Griffin hitting a guy wide open at the 17. Down to the one on a slant route. What the f*ck is going on?

1:07-- How do you let a team drive down on you in the last minutes of the half to regain the lead. It was a painful flashback to last year, where we looked absolutely helpless and kind of had a deer-in-the-headlights look.

1:09-- Touchdown, Baylor. Great block by Suh, would have been nice if we could have taken that the distance, but it wouldn't have mattered because we had yet another personal foul on Nebraska. How many is that in the first half for the team? At least 3 if you count Glenn's two, though I still think we have more than that. Pretty embarrassing half of football for Nebraska, especially with Griffin making it look like the Blackskirts '07 edition. Why aren't we putting a spy on Griffin? Or are we doing that and he's so fast that it doesn't matter?

1:19-- What is going on down in Manhattan? OU is up 41-28 in the first half on K-State. Tech is up big on KU, which will even their conference record at 2-2. If NU and MU win today, it's three teams with that record who will be tied on top with MU and KU still to play. Should be an interesting couple of weeks if we can regain the form we saw against Tech and Iowa State.

1:35-- According to Bo, we didn't tackle well in the first half. That's kind of like saying Paris Hilton is a smelly pirate hooker. Pretty obvious to anyone who was watching.

12:37-- Great break on the ball by Dillard to force the punt.

Okay, I'm way too far away from my TV to type this and watch at the same time. No, I don't have a laptop, and yes, that sucks. So I'm going to go watch the game then finish this up afterwards.

Post Game Thoughts

- Nate Swift is having a bigger season than even I expected, and I predicted 2nd-team All Big 12, which he should easily do if he keeps it up. Of course, I don't think he'll be putting up 11 catches for 120 and two TDs every week, but still, even grabbing five or six catches a game through the rest of the season would put him in in 60+ catch territory. But after 8 catches in the first half last week and the 11 from today, he's obviously on fire right now. Living in Minnesota, it's fun to hassle our friends and remind them that if Swift had stayed here to play for the Gophers, they'd have the best white receiver combo in college football if he was teamed with Eric Decker. Let's just say I'm glad he defected to Lincoln.

-Still too many personal fouls, it's inexcusable and needs to be fixed. I said the exact thing last weekend.

- I ragged on the defense in the first half, but they did a great job in the 2nd half to shut Baylor out, though the hobbling of Griffin was a huge help in that area.

- Larry Asante continues to baffle me. What is so frustrating is that he can seem like a playmaker one minute and then look like a 3rd-grader attempting a tackle. The safety play is an on-going issue, as Baylor had several guys open downfield today that Griffin luckily missed. OU won't make the same mistakes.

- We still need to fix tackling problems throughout the defense. If Baylor can gash us for long runs, what is a healthy Demarco Murray going to do?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The W that We Needed

So I wanted to let the Iowa State win soak in a few days and kind of gauge where Husker fans are at with their feelings on the program before I wrote anything. A couple of days later, it's become apparent that almost everyone sees the past two weeks as a potential turning point in the season. While I'm not going to go that far, I will say that ISU this past week was the most fun I've had watching Husker football since the Taylor-to-Purify Texas A&M game of 2006. That is both incredibly sad and encouraging at the same time, sad because of how awful we were last year and encouraging because for the first time in forever, we saw a dominant Husker team. And I'm not saying they are an overall dominant team, I'm just saying they dominated Iowa State, which might not mean much considering the Cyclones aren't that good, but at this point I would have taken any kind of win, and to have it be an ass-kicking was all the more fun for me.

Some more ISU/NU thoughts:

- Shawn Watson is en fuego. That's two consecutive games that he has called pretty much perfectly, at least in my opinion. Against ISU, the Huskers had 41 rushing attempts and 37 passing attempts, a near perfect balance that enabled them to efficiently rack up over 500 yards of offense and once again possess the ball for basically 2/3rds of the game. Any time you can keep the opposing offense off the field for 40 out of 60 minutes, you're doing a damn good job of piecing drives together.

- Does anyone else wonder if we might have made a bowl game or even better last year if Joe Ganz had been starting the entire time? I never really wanted to be part of the what-if-Ganz started crowd, but every time he comes out and completes over 70% of his passes I can't help but wonder. I know Keller completed 63% last year, but take into account that a good portion of his 205 completions last year went to Marlon Lucky, who had 75 catches. Ganz has been lethal in terms of ball distribution this season, and it's gotten to the point that you really don't know which way he's going to go with it. I'll be honest, watching the offense has been thrilling the past few weeks, and hopefully this execution continues. The amazing thing is that despite the gaudy completion percentage, Joe still only ranks 5th among Big-12 quarterbacks.

- Marlon Lucky: 15 carries for 74 yards. Roy Helu: 6 for 66. Quentin Castille: 11 for 70. Makes it hard to defend a running game when you have 3 backs with significantly different styles who all can carry the load if asked. Part of the credit goes to Watson, who is doing a good job of not making any back a "situational" guy. Whenever this happens, all you're really doing is tipping off the defense as to what might be coming. By not pigeon-holing any guy into one role, Watson is keeping a lot of options open for the offense, and as a result, every guy is producing.

- Through the first few games, I was concerned that my pre-season Nate Swift prediction was going to turn out like a lot of other famous declarations by me and be proven false. Luckily, the offense has kicked it up a couple of gears and you're seeing the results I thought would be regular occurence. Not that I thought Swift was going to put up 8 catches and 112 yards and a touchdown every game, but I figured he'd be getting more production than he had. Against ISU, he contributed the previously mentioned stat line in the first half, including a highlight catch-and-run for the games first touchdown (though it may have as much to do with Iowa State's inability to properly tackle him). Swifty currently sits just 7 catches behind Johnny Rodgers for the school record, and it could come as early as this week if Ganz gets going.

- Yardage total aside, no excuse can be made for fumbling the ball 5 times. You can get away with it against ISU, but we're going to need to protect the ball better the rest of the way if we're going to beat teams like OU and Kansas.

- Wasn't it refreshing to see the defense flying around and making plays for the first time in forever? Holding any team to 218 yards of offense is a job well done, especially when one third of them comes on one play (the 67-yard TD by Robinson in the 3rd).

- Nice hit, Ricky. Good to have you back, and I think I speak for us all when I say we'd love to see that become a regular occurrence.

-How fun was it to watch the D-line on Saturday? Suh was living in the ISU backfield, and all four of the starters were making their presence felt throughout the game. Seeing Potter come off the edge for a blindside sack was especially exciting, I love it when the QB can't see you coming, it's like teeing up with your might not look pretty, but no matter what, it's going to be hit hard. That said, it'll be a much bigger test for them this week as the opposing QB is a stud sprinter, and we all know the struggles the Big Red have had containing mobile quarterbacks.

- Is Armando Murillo emerging as a lock-down corner? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But he made several nice plays on Saturday, including a very athletic pass break-up as well as a fumble recovery in the 3rd, and I never really saw him get beat at all. He's starting to get it just in time for the stretch run.

-The punting situation needs to be fixed, and sooner rather than later. Like, this week.

- Came out pretty lethargic in the 3rd quarter, something I hate to see after Callahan became an expert on how to lose games in that portion of the game. It's important to come out and re-establish your will on a team after you have a first half like that, and I think the whole team knows that they need to work on slamming the door shut when they find themselves in that position.

- This was an important win for us, as it helped establish some momentum for the rest of the season, something we need after going 3-3 in the first half. If the team plays like that the rest of the way, every game looks winnable save for the OU game in Norman. I'm not going to get ahead of myself and predict that's what's going to happen, because this team is still definitely a work in progress. But thankfully, last Saturday was definitely a sign of that progress, and it judging from the glowing press tidbits we've been seeing this week, this is a team that believes the ship has been righted and is in position to have some fun the rest of the year. Believe it or not, the Big 12 North is still up for grabs, as Kansas is the only team in the division with a 2-1 record right now, whereas the rest of the members are sitting at 1-2. KU, by the way, still has to play Texas Tech, Texas, and the Huskers. Anything is possible (though I'd hate to see us go to the Big 12 title game only to get embarassed by Texas, like Colorado in 2004).

Some other Big 12 thoughts:

- How good are Colt McCoy and Texas? I don't complete 80% of my passes on NCAA '09, and McCoy has that completion percentage halfway through the season. It's just mind blowing how efficient he's become, and his ability to run the ball if need be is going to help him win the Heisman when it's all said and done.

- What happened to Mizzou the past two weeks? After they demolished the Huskers, I thought I was looking at the eventual Big 12 Champion. Two losses later (the second one an ass-kicking by the Longhorns), they are in a dogfight to win the Big 12 North. It'll be interesting to see how Daniel and his team respond to the adversity they now face. If they continue to struggle, could we see something along the lines of the Huskers last year? I don't think they'll get shut out of a bowl or anything, but I could see them losing to Kansas and missing the conference title game altogether.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Big Red Roundtable

Now we're at the halfway point of the season, it's time for the Husker blogosphere to come together to discuss what we've seen so far and where we think the Big Red is going to go from here.

How do you see the Huskers finishing the 2008 season? Final win loss/record?

While I don't think it's likely, NU has the ability to go 5-1 in the second half of the season. Realistically though, I see the Huskers finishing this part of the schedule 4-2, with an obvious loss to Oklahoma and then losing to Kansas or Colorado in a close game where we don't force any turnovers and have 12 penalties for 100 yards, which would be par for the course when it comes to this season. I think that we'll finish the regular season 7-5 and beat a Big 10 team in the Insight Bowl. It's what I predicted before the season, and I'm sticking to it here.

What is the most disappointing aspect of NU's performance in the first half of the season?

The lack of a running game, particularly after all the sunshine we had pumped up our ass during the preseason, is my choice for this question. I just can't believe that with the "stable" of stud backs we have and supposed bull-dozing offensive line, that we can't get more yardage on the ground. The penchant for penalties is my 2nd place finisher here, those flags have legitimately cost us 2 games, whether it be dumb personal foul calls or drive-killing holding/false start penalties.

Through 6 games, what do you think of the defense coming off of last year's debacle? Have they improved more or less than you thought they would?

The effort has no doubt improved, and you can't argue that the numbers are better. I think a lot of people expected them to take a quantum leap, but Pelini has gone to great lengths to describe it as a work in progress, which he was smart to do because the defense has been terrible at creating turnovers and pass coverage. I don't know whether the schemes are that complicated or our safeties are that bad, but either way it has to be addressed fast. Hopefully the return of Cody Glenn and Ricky Thenarse will help. I'll be honest, I was one of those people who expected a big leap. And compared to last year's showing, we really can't complain. Sure, the Huskers have struggled to create turnovers and have given up a fair amount of big plays. The difference is that this year you can see that they actually care that they are giving them up, and they definitely turn it up a notch in the red zone, whereas last year they might have folded. Overall, with the exception of a few busted coverages, I can't complain too much, though that might be because after last year I would take any sign of improvement as a reason to rejoice.

With the reality that the Big 12 may now be as tough as the SEC, how does that bode for Nebraska's attempt to regain it's former status? How long of an uphill climb do we have to re-join the leaders of the conference?

It's going to be more difficult than it would have been 5 years ago, there's no doubt about it. Mizzou is going to be tough for years to come, Colorado will continue to improve, and Kansas will be a solid team. I still think that the Big 12 isn't yet to the point of being in SEC territory yet, and my reason is this: in the Big 12, there's no doubt that UT and OU still hold sway and will always be the prohibitive favorites. This is in contrast to the SEC, where every year it's a brawl with one bloodied team emerging from the scrum at the end of the year, and you're never entirely sure who is going to be the last team standing. The Big 12 has come a long ways, but we are still top-heavy in my opinion.

That said, I think Nebraska is still going to need all of NEXT season to work through the kinks and get some new players into Pelini's system before they are going to challenge anyone for a conference title. I think that 2010 would be the most realistic year where we could make a run at something, if only because I don't think that there is enough talent in place right now to win next year. Unless we get a freakish recruiting class along the lines of Alabama's last year (and that's not going to happen), we are still a ways out. I'd say 9 or 10 wins next year is possible, then make a run after that.

Most disappointing/surprising players for NU thus far?

Surprising: Cody Glenn. Who would have thought that a converted running back would be our best defensive player? He's the heart and soul of the defense, and a pleasant surprise at a position we desperately needed help at.

Disappointing: Marlon Lucky/ Larry Asante. Marlon still has the skills to be a good back, but you can only get away with showing flashes of it when you're a freshmen or sophomore. When you're a senior, it's time to turn it on every game. He showed how dangerous he was last week as a receiver out of the backfield, but I still think he has to show more in the running game, though that may be a product of poor line play.

Asante still can't cover or properly fill gaps in the run game. I would go into greater detail, but I don't like beating dead horses.

Make sure to check out all the other Husker blog responses. I'll be adding more of their responses as they roll in.

Big Red Network
Husker Faithful
Husker Mike
Corn Nation

Monday, October 13, 2008

Everything but the W

When I sat down to watch the Huskers against Texas Tech this past Saturday, I did it with the expectation that I would be leaving at halftime, believing that by then the outcome would surely be all but decided. After all, we were going against two Heisman trophy candidates, an offense that suddenly had a running game that complemented their lethal passing attack, and a solid defense, and that's not even mentioning how awful we had played just a week earlier against Missouri. To top it off, we were in Lubbock, where 4 years earlier there was a massacre of biblical proportions. 4 hours later, my brother and I sat, in shock, after watching a thrilling game that was well within our grasp but was taken from us in heartbreaking fashion.

It was a stomach punch game, one that undoubtedly doubled over many players as well as Husker fans. We HAD IT. Everything that NU had to do to steal a win was there, but unfortunately for anyone with an "N" on their apparell, the Huskers also brought the gun to Lubbock. You know, the gun that they've shot themselves in the foot with for countless games over the past few years? It's the one that LeKevin Smith used against the same Red Raiders when he fumbled away a win in 2005. It's the same gun that Terrence Nunn used against Texas in the 2006 snow game. Yet again, we found a way to lose a winnable game. Two consecutive holding penalties pushed us out of field goal range before half, taking away an opportunity for 3 points that would have eventually won us the game. Joe Ganz, playing lights-out, gets sacked trying to get rid of the ball, but because of the man wrapped around his legs, the ball goes directly to a defender. For 10 years, we got the breaks. Now, it seems that they are dead-set against us.

During the 3rd quarter, I mentioned to my brother, "You know, you'd think that after the past 5 years, especially our games against Tech, that maybe football karma will go our way this time." I could not have been more wrong. The interception was especially painful, but you shake it off because without Joe Ganz, we aren't even in position to win this game. But the real ammunition for the shoot-our-foot gun was once again penalties. I can't remember seeing a less-disciplined Nebraska offensive unit in my lifetime, it's simply astounding how many drive-killing penalties one team can have. Really, you take those away, I think we win this game, and I know I'm not the only one.

The one thing that all of us know though is that wouldas, shouldas, and couldas don't count for a damn thing in the standings. All that matters is the W or the L, and no matter how much hope NU may take out of this game, the bitterness all of Husker Nation is tasting today will not reside for some time. I had a coach once who told me that at the end of the day, winners make plays, plain and simple. We were one play short, and that's all that people will see when they look at our record at the end of the season, not two "shoulda" games against Va Tech and the Red Raiders.

Some more quick-hit thoughts on NU/Texas Tech:

- Attn: Nebraska Safeties

RE: Coverage Responsibilities

Guys, that guy running free behind you? Yeah, you should cover him instead of letting him jet by unimpeded. Thanks.

- The spot was questionable, but my real question about Castille's carry on 4th down at the TT 30 was this: how does a massive man like Q get literally stopped on a dime? Once he was hit by that guy, he went straight down. I figured that a guy that big would take at least two or three feet to stop, but apparently even the biggest of trees can be taken down in one fell swoop.

- Todd Peterson was BOC in the 4th quarter. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, he was Balling Outta about some clutch catches, my hat's off to you Petey.

- For a guy whose defenses were known for creating turnovers, we haven't seen much from Pelini's unit this year. Tech was the 3rd consecutive game without one (and we REALLY needed one this time). That aside, it's hard to get interceptions when nobody is covering the opposing team's receivers.

-The lack of depth was never more apparent when we realized that a true freshmen walk-on was our starting inside linebacker. If you're a recruit looking for immediate playing time at a tradition-rich and desperate school, look no further than the University of Nebraska.

I don't even want to discuss this game further, let's just get to ISU on Saturday.

Some assorted non-Husker thoughts from the weekend:

-Star Tribune's main headline on the sports page Sunday morning: "The Toast of Champaign". It went on to say that Minnesota's win over a 3-3 Illinois team was a "defining" victory for Brewster's crew, which is hilarious because despite the win, the supposedly "much-improved" defense still gave up 500 yards of offense to Juice Williams alone. The Gophers newfound success, coupled with NU's struggles, is making this season just as hard to stomach as last year. And yes, this is just a bitter man trying to nitpick a team's rapid improvement over a season ago. Congrats to the Gophs for your success. Next year, if Nebraska is smart, they'll make sure ALL of their non-conference games are complete patsies, and then go into the hapless Big 10 to continue their success. Seriously, the Gophers have played one decent team thus far (Ohio State) and have one decent team left to beat (Wisconsin). One of the weakest schedules in the country in my opinion, thanks to the garbage Big 10 (Penn State excluded, of course).

- Was Okie State's win over Mizzou an abberation, or Zac Robinson and Co. that good? All of a sudden, the North isn't looking as strong as it did before the season. Colorado (like I predicted in the preseason) is still a year away, NU obviously has issues, Iowa State and K-State are nothing special, and Kansas is not near as good as they were last year on the defensive side of the ball. I still think the Big 12 is barely below the SEC, but I'll be shocked if we have anyone left standing at the end of the season, because this conference is a meatgrinder. I think that with rare exceptions (meaning teams from weaker conferences like the Pac 10/Big 10), we won't see many undefeated national champs anymore. One loss will be far more common in the current college football climate.

- The Red River Shootout was quite a game to watch, and it was crazy to see Gunslinger 2.0 out there. Colt McCoy, rebounding off last year's disappointing campaign, is bigger and stronger than he was a year ago and has mastered the offense. I really hate when people go to college and somehow keep growing another two or three inches. Why is it that I stopped growing at 6'1" in the 8th grade? McCoy has grown 2 inches since he arrived in Austin, and his game is rising in turn.

Friday, October 10, 2008

And I thought Va Tech hurt....

You know, I thought having better internet access at home would enable me to write on here more often. I had every intention of following through on that, but I've realized that my writing (and the frequency of it) rises and (especially) falls with the Huskers. When it's spring, or when the Huskers are doing well, I write more. It's hard to say much about the latter part of that, because I've only written about NU since the spring of '07. We all know that since that time that the Huskers have been anything but good. When we lose, and especially when we lose big, it's tough to write about. It's like finding out your girlfriend is cheating on you: you still love her, but you don't want to talk about how the bitch tore your heart out. The disappointment is always palpable, but this last week was just brutal. It's not that I expected us to beat Mizzou. I knew that Chase Daniel would be lethal. I knew Maclin would run wild. But still, I held on to the false hope that with proper coaching and Memorial Stadium behind them, that the Huskers would at least slow down the Tiger attack and keep it respectable.

No such luck.

For the second year in a row, we got our asses beat by Mizzou on national television. Adding insult to injury, Daniel accused a still-unnamed Husker player of spitting on him, also calling our entire team "dirty". While the spitting is inexcusable, at least we were punishing their QB consistently, even if it was after he had already thrown the ball. The question is, how do you get to the QB if he throws the ball in less than 2 seconds?

It's a problem that Pelini is no doubt addressing this week in preparations for Texas Tech. I don't even want to think about what's going to happen in Lubbock. Obviously, the same crap we were preaching about last week (ball control, keeping the opposing offense off the field, running the ball, etc) applies to this week as well....the question is, will it actually happen this time? I'm not getting my hopes up. Our run game is, in a word, awful. I don't care how many quotes I have to read from people saying "It was really close, we're one missed assignment away" and s*it like that. You know why? Because those are excuses, and to quote a wise man, they're like assholes because everyone has one. If it was really one missed assignment, how does it seem to happen on every damn play? We seem to be amazingly consistent at just missing a big play.

For a few weeks now, a lot of people (myself included) have bitched and moaned that maybe if Helu had more of Lucky's reps that we would start being more effective. Well it's become blatantly apparent that the running backs are the least of our problems. Whether it's the gameplan, the mindset of an offensive line that has been accustomed to dropping into pass blocking for the past four years, or whatever, something has to be done to fix the running game or we will continue to get our asses kicked by the high-octane offenses of the Big 12.

So where do we go from here? I was one of those people who thought 8 or 9 wins was realistic this year, but anyone who has seen the Huskers the past couple of weeks knows that bowl eligibility is really what we should be shooting for at this point. I'm not sure whether Iowa State has improved that much or Kansas just had a rough week, but all of a sudden the match-up in Ames doesn't look like a sure thing anymore. At least we still have Baylor on the schedule.....though it seems that they are steadily improving as well. I really don't know what to think anymore. But when fans are half-joking about selling their fandom, which my brother did (though he quickly brushed it off) after the Mizzou loss, it's become apparent that this is going to be another rough fall. The bright side tomorrow? At least with the Red River Shootout and LSU-Florida going on tomorrow, the attention should be off of us for the most part.

Like Andy Dufrense, I am clinging to hope like it's all I have, because we are going to need it to get through this season and the cold winter ahead. I still believe we have the right guy, I still believe that the football Gods will again smile upon us, but it won't be this year. That said, if there was ever time to steal a game, tomorrow would be it. Well, that or in Norman in a couple of weeks......


Wednesday, October 1, 2008


So Bo has apparently seen the light and is considering starting Helu on Saturday against the Tigers, which is both exciting (because we may actually gain more than 3 yards when we run it) and sad, because if it does indeed happen, the Marlon Lucky era will essentially be over. Sure, he'll still get plenty of touches, he may even have another couple of 100-yard games in him, and he'll still be a threat out of the backfield. But ever since he was brought in, he was THE guy, the signature recruit of Callahan's tenure, and one that Cally always looked to establish despite his penchant for running into the back of his linemen. Let me make it clear: I'm not ripping on Marlon. He's a decent back, and he's spectacular coming out of the backfield in the passing game.

But his inability to live up to the hype may be what he is remembered for than anything else. And it's not fair, because any guy who rushes for over 1000 yards and has over 75 catches as a running back doesn't have to prove himself to anyone. Of course, this whole paragraph may be pointless, because he could still be the starter come Saturday. But the odds are that Helu will start to get more and more touches, with Marlon relegated to the 8 carries/3 catches a game role that we expected Helu to be in this season.

Some other thoughts:

- Hope everyone enjoyed the Big 12's rise to power in the non-conference season. Now that we are getting into the real part of the schedule, it'll turn into an SEC-type bloodbath where we just beat up on each other, only to have maybe one team still in contention for a national title. Remember last year, where all Mizzou had to do was win the title game to secure a NC game appearance, only to lose to OU? It's going to happen again folks.

- I'm torn on all the "We want to shut them out" talk coming from NU this week. Don't get me wrong, I believe confidence, bordering on cockiness, is healthy for a defensive unit, maybe even necessary. You want them to have that swagger. My problem is, we haven't earned that confidence yet, and must I remind everyone of Andre Jones promising to restore the order, only to have it restored all over his face against USC a couple years back? Be confident. Have that swagger. But wait till Saturday to unleash it, because it's going to look real dumb when Maclin puts up 300 all-purpose yards on us.

- This isn't about football, but how unbelievably dumb is the commercial where a bunch of guy are sitting in a recording studio and all of a sudden they spontaneously start playing "Viva Viagra" and laughing together? Really, guy with E.D. find it funny that they can't get it up? And how embarrassing would it be if the producer was recording at the time and put it on their next album?

- The "insert-color-here-out" has officially passed the point where it's cool. It passed the novelty point long ago, but now that they are bringing it to baseball (White Sox did it against the Twins last night), can we move on past this and have fans start wearing whatever they want again? I mean, if teams really wanted to be original, they would have a "30's Day" where everyone would wear suits and fedora hats like it was back in the day. Is it just me, or was that one of the cooler times in sports? I always see that old footage and think it's pretty bad ass that every guy in the stadium was dressed like Frank Sinatra.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reality's a Bitch.....

So now we know why Bo has been preaching patience and been sticking to his "lot of work to do" mantra. The optimism in all of us took a big hit this past weekend, mine especially. Sure, the final score didn't look too bad, and we battled back numerous times from two-score deficits, but the fact of the matter is, when we needed it the most, we were unable to stop the Hokies, especially Tyrod Taylor. My thoughts from Saturday's game:

-FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE TEACH LARRY ASANTE TO TACKLE OR GET HIM THE F#@* OUT OF THERE! I think his inability to tackle has nearly driven me to the point of getting gray hairs. How someone can be a senior in college and still be unable to properly execute a tackle is dumbfounding. Furthermore, why is it that no one has taken his job yet? I know our defensive recruiting wasn't stellar under Callahan, but you're telling me that nobody can play safety? Nobody can cover a deep third or half and still tackle? I remember when he came in as a ballyhooed JUCO transfer, I was absolutely giddy. Now he's driving me toward alcoholism. Seriously, he is garbage personified, at least on the football field. In fact, here's an acronym for his last name: Absolutely Spectacular At Not Tackling Everytime. I don't care if the last word isn't supposed to be a compound word, the situation warrants it.

- Not only do I have to stick my foot in my mouth over the pre-game prediction, I also have to apologize to Nate Swift, who proved me wrong by taking a punt to the house when we desperately needed it. For a long time on here, I've bitched and moaned about us having him back there, mainly because I always was under the impression that it was akin to having Steve Largent return punts. When you're a receiver, crisp route running and sure hands make up for a lot of shortcomings. But punt returns? You gotta have speed, and I underestimated him. Is he going to have anyone bringing up Tim Dwight comparisons anytime soon? No. But I give him credit that was one hell of a play when his team needed it dearly. Though I do blame him for convincing me to stay at the bar and spend 30 more dollars only to watch us blow it anyway. But you know what? It was worth it seeing him take it the distance.

- I'm just going to keep it going with my "I-suck-at-predictions" theme, and point out that once again our running game cost us a victory. I really thought that our line had gelled and that we'd come out and run it at least somewhat effectively against the Hokies. 25 carries and 55 yards later, I'm beginning to wonder what the hell everyone was fawning over during fall camp. Lucky, a guy I thought would make a statement this season, once again looked hesitant and indecisive. If I have to watch one more carry where he runs into the back of one of his lineman and rides him for 3 yards before falling down, I'm going to vomit. Castille, someone who could have been used to beat their linebackers into submission, had 3 carries for 8 yards. It has become apparent to most Husker fans that the most dangerous weapon in our backfield is Roy Helu, and the staff has to find a way to get him into the game more.

- Where was a spy on Taylor? He broke contain at will, and then there was nobody attempting to tackle him until he was a good 5 or 6 yards past the line of scrimmage every time. What made it even worse is that we usually missed that first tackle.

-Nice work by the defense holding them to field goals on 4 consecutive possessions, but why is it that we only start toughening up when the opposing team gets inside the 30? I would love to see a couple 3-and-outs, if only to prove that it can be done by this unit. Seeing any opposing player in the open field is one of the most terrifying things I deal with on a weekly basis. Every time there's a punt or a pass completed in space, it's almost as if you can feel Memorial Stadium collectively gasp with fear, like they know that a big play is imminent. That'll happen when you watch your team whiff on tackles like a damn 7th-grade B team on a regular basis.

- The late-hit call on Suh that changed the game was correct but a reach in that situation. That ref took the game out of the players hands and decided it himself, and I don't think that should happen in a potentially game-changing scenario like that. If it was a blatantly obvious call, then sure. But Suh was a heartbeat late, and I think to a certain extent you let them play there. Maybe it's just me stubbornly holding onto the thought that we would have stopped them and won the game instead of giving up the game winning TD a few plays later, but I still say you let them play there unless it's flagrant (though I'll admit it's much easier to say that then call it in a split second like refs actually have to).

- The Hokies re-affirmed my belief that they are a bunch of showboating prima-donnas. The constant jawing, the celebrating, it all was there. Not as bad as years past, but still present nonetheless.

-The really scary thought: If this is what happen against Virginia Tech, what is going to happen against Mizzou and Tech? Absolutely terrifying to think about. We are most likely looking at a three game losing streak here (and yes, I'm hoping that by predicting it, I'll be proven wrong and the Huskers will win at least one of the next two).

Picture taken by William Lauer/Lincoln Journal Star

Friday, September 26, 2008

Va Tech isn't USC, But Still Important

Finally, in a week I've heard the phrase "measuring stick" way more than I care to, the game is almost here so we can see where the Huskers are really at before conference play begins. I was bullish on NU when I wrote on them a couple days ago, and I still believe we will win, but there are a few causes for concern heading into today's game.

The first area of concern is, will Ganz force any balls into what has always been an aggressive secondary and turn it over? Joe is the ultimate game manager when it comes to this offense, but he's also thrown some W-T-F was-he-thinking balls, which can cause concern when Macho Harris and company are lining up on the other side. I don't think this will be as big of an issue as some have made it out to be, mainly because I suspect our running game to continue the improvement it showed against New Mexico State. Will we get 300+? No, I wouldn't expect that against a team as well-coached as the Hokies. But I do think we will get around 200, which would enable us to open up some play-action and sprint-out for Joe.

I'm thinking Huskers win this one somewhere in the neighborhood of 31-17. Sure, the game will be overshadowed by Georgia/Alabama, but there's still a large portion of the country that will be able to watch this game, and I'm hoping we put on a show and make our first real step back towards relevance.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Step In the Right Direction

Well, I'm back online at home, which means that I can procrastinate and write sparingly from the comfort of my basement, whereas before I was doing it on company time. For those of you who have been aching for an update, at ease. What's that? Nobody has been aching.....Oh.......Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I've been less than active on here, as I usually am slower when the Huskers are off. However, with the bye week gone and three consecutive big games coming up, those days are over. Tonight I'm going to take a look at Virginia Tech and break down why I believe NU will win this week's game, as well as why despite my admiration for Frank Beamer as a coach, I've always kinda hated the Hokies.

First off, let's look at the basics. The thing that the Huskers have struggled with the past few years (meaning: the Cosgrove era) is spread offenses who take our run support out of the box, allowing running lanes the size of a truck to develop. Anyone care to remember this? I didn't think so. The Hokies, however, run a more traditional two-back offense, meaning that Pelini can finally get a break from trotting out 5 to 6 defensive backs this weekend. This, along with Ricky Thenarse coming back, hopefully will give us Husker fans a few breaks from having to watch Larry Asante attempt to tackle people.

The question is, with the lack of depth we have at linebacker and now defensive line, can we hold up against the Hokie rushing attack, one bolstered by Tyrod Taylor's abilities? Will Beamer, having scouted our limitations, implement a few wrinkles that get Taylor in open space, perhaps some zone-read packages? I wouldn't be surprised in the least bit. Particularly with them starting kids a year removed from high school at wide receiver, one would think that the running game is going to be their sticking point. However, my concern is that they'll beat the run into the ground, counting on our safeties to creep up, and that's when they'll get us with a gadget play or play-action. I think they'll get one touchdown because they're lucky, one because they're good, and then a field goal because our defense always seem to be extremely flat at least one drive before pulling their heads out of their ass inside the 20 yard line.

I think the offensive line is starting to mesh at the right time here. Will we get over 300 for the second game in a row? No, but I expect us to get a solid rushing game going against the 72nd-ranked rushing defense, one that thus far hasn't been as effective as units of seasons past. I think Watson will call this game and nail it, and with the Sea of Red in night-game mode, it's going to turn out pretty good for us.

Now, the thing I don't like about Tech is that for the past five or six years (and maybe longer), it's seemed that the Va Tech defense were among the least classy players I have seen in some time. Every seemingly ordinary play was celebrated, it got to the point that I changed the channel during a couple of their games, I was getting so irritated with it. Now, to be honest, I haven't seen much of Tech's games this year, so I can't say if there has been any of it thus far this season. But I'm not too worried about it in our game, I don't think they'll have much to celebrate against our offense.

Random Thoughts

-Does anyone else who plays NCAA '09 get pissed off with how many plays somehow end at the one yard line or closer? How is it that I've had dozens of long plays go 60+ yards yet they can't go the last 12 inches? Is it a glitch? Some cruel joke by the programmers? This happens multiple times a game......I'm not saying that some plays don't end at the one yard line, but I can't believe the frequency with which it happens. I haven't gotten this frustrated at a video game since my dad discovered the Bills had a secret audible on Madden '92 that was a direct snap to Jim Kelly 25 yards down field.

- So last week in fantasy, I lost by 5 points. You know who was on my bench? Ronnie Brown, who accounted for 5 TD's and 117 yards rushing in the Dolphin's shredding of the Patriots. I'm now 1-2 in the league, but I'm confident that my lineup of AP and Matt Forte will help my rushing game pick up the slack.

- Va Tech and NU play in a split telecast, with Illinois and Penn State being the other game. Naturally, being in Minnesota, I'll be stuck with the Big 10 game, even if it is a mildly decent one. At least the Gophers will finally lose so I can stop hearing about them from my friends. No state has as many bandwagon jumpers as Minnesota.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm Still Here

For those of you wondering why my Pulitzer-caliber writing has been absent here, the reason is that I recently started a new job where my computer use isn't as free as it was at my old position. As a result, I can't really get on here to write at all. However, the good news is that my family is moving out of 1996 and is actually getting decent internet, so when that finally happens, you can count on more frequent, and more important, more lengthy posts. Hopefully it'll be up and running by next week in time for Va Tech. Hope everyone enjoys the off week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We're Going to Miami (in 7 years)

I can't wait to bust out my old Will Smith CD when the time comes to head to Coral Gables. For those of you who don't know, the Huskers agreed to a home-and-home with the Hurricanes set for 2014 and 2015, meaning that we finally get to revisit one of the better rivalries of the 80's and 90's. I know I am as thrilled as every other Husker fan about this news, mainly because it's hard to get too enthused for Husker games when we're playing MAC and I-AA retreads. No disrespect to them, but I'm sick of watching us beat up on the little guys, which is something we can thank Steve and Bill for, as they often needed the non-conference schedule to try to make a bowl game during their tenure. It's not that I want a bunch of landmines in our first few games, but there is somethign to be said about playing some tough competition before heading into the conference slate.

This year our big one was Virginia Tech, though they are not as good as many hoped they would be before the season. However, with Pelini and Osborne making a renewed commitment to finding exciting non-conference games, it shouldn't be long before we are getting College Game Day stopping by campus more regularly. Look at the hype created by games pitting teams like OSU and USC against each other (I would talk about our games versus USC, but I hate to bring on flashbacks for all of us). Big time games mean big time ratings, which bring in more recruits and get more publicity for the program. Plus there's the added benefit that by 2014 we hopefully will be back to competing regularly for national titles (I'm saying we'll be a juggernaut or anything, but hopefully at least back to 10 wins regularly and then make a run every 3 or 4 years at a title).

See, I know we have a game this weekend. But am I really getting that pumped for it? Sure, I'll go to a watch site, and I'll cheer like I always do. But what I really want is some electricity, the anticipation of a huge game, and I'd like to not have to wait a month into every season to get it. My ideal scenario would be to schedule a patsy (La-Lafayette or something like that), one decent non-BCS opponent (Southern Miss, Fresno State), then get the big-time game against a good program (Miami, UCLA, Tennessee, etc), and then finish off with another mid-level opponent to beat up on heading into conference play. Looking at the future schedules, this seems to be what Pelini and T.O. are gunning for, so I'm excited for the next decade of Husker football.......not that I wouldn't have been anyway....

Some other quick thoughts heading into the weekend:

-Just a reminder, Kansas plays South Florida tonight on ESPN2 tonight at 7:00 central, in case anyone is looking for something to watch while pre-drinking for evening festivities.

- Anyone else see Rutgers get annihilated by North Carolina last night? I know UNC and Butch Davis are supposed to be on the rise, so I want to give them some credit, but the real reason I mention this is to point out how bad Rutgers is struggling right now. Anyone remember a couple years ago when ESPN and the eastern media were ready to anoint the Scarlet Knights as the next big thing? It just goes to show that while there might be some upstarts now and then with all the parity that is present in college football, there will always be the traditional powers to keep things in balance for the most part. USC, Ohio State, Texas, and hopefully Nebraska, to go with a handful of others, will always be the top dogs, no matter how many challengers step up to try to fill the gap when a few of the big boys struggle.

-Did ESPN really have to give the OSU/USC clash a monkier as stupid as "The Coliseum Collision"? I mean, doesn't a game between two top-5 teams market itself? I can't stand how the media feels the need to give every weekend a nickname.

- Can the Huskers please, PLEASE establish the run this week? I'm thinking the Huskers win by 24, despite having little idea as to what the Aggies are going to throw at them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hot Routes

So I know this is a college football blog, but I couldn't help but sit in delight on Monday as I watched Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson struggle in his first start of the season against the Packers. All year, delusional Vikings fans and sportswriters have been touting that this was the year that T-Jax (which is what some were calling him) was going to break through and take the Vikings to the playoffs. Well then they watched him complete 16 of 35 passes and throw the game-sealing interception on what could have been a winning drive.

Now that the realization has begun to set in that he's actually awful, it's been an especially fun week for me to read the morning papers, nothing beats seeing homer sports writers have to eat crow. Still, they are stressing patience, that it's only one game, that he'll rebound and be fine. Which is hysterical, because they still haven't fully accepted the fact that they wasted a 2nd round pick on an erratic passer who does better running the ball than he does throwing it. I hope Vikings fans are ready for a year of Adrian Peterson getting 30 carries a game and watching a terrifying 2-headed QB monster of Gus Frerotte and Jackson cost them the division.

And speaking of Jackson's nickname, shouldn't there be some official rule that you can't have a nickname if you're just downright terrible? The same thing happened a couple of years ago when Michael Olowokandi played for the Wolves and everyone was calling him the Candyman, even though the guy played like a 7-foot tall cardboard cutout. Which is why we called him Candi-puke. Creative? No, not really. But fitting nonetheless, considering a cardboard cutout probably could have outplayed him.

Anyways, with that round of Viking-bashing out of the way, on to some college football thoughts from this week.

- I was glad to see Frank Solich's Bobcat team play the vaunted Buckeyes of OSU so tough last Saturday. In my hungover fog I cheered along with other Big Red backers as Ohio played tough only to lose the upset bid. With USC looming, the question is this: Did Ohio State just sleepwalk through the game, or is the Big 10's most vaunted team destined to blow it again this year? Obviously the loss of Beanie Wells hurt the Buckeyes, but even without their stud tailback, one would think that there is enough talent in Columbus to put away a solid MAC team. If the Trojans were coming to Ohio Stadium, I would give the Buckeyes a slight edge. But having to travel across the entire country to face USC in the Coliseum doesn't bode well for Jim Tressel.

There will be 92,000 salivating (and mostly fair-weather) fans in attendance, though 20,000 or so of them might be Buckeyes. I'm sure USC is pumped for their 25th or 30th consecutive home sellout (such passionate fans down in Troy!), so it should be a fun game to watch. I'm still betting on the Trojans, mainly because I think that Ray Maualuga and Brian Cushing will neutralize Wells and make the Buckeyes' passing game beat them. Since that won't happen, I'm going with the Trojans by two scores. The opinion of many is that the loser of this game will still be able to play it's way into a national title game bid, but as Pat Forde of ESPN points out, that's probably wishful thinking:

"Look at the top nine teams in the USA Today coaches' poll. You'll see USC at No. 1 and Ohio State at No. 5. The other seven? They're all from the SEC and Big 12, which are considered the nation's two best leagues (by a mile).

If, come December, voters are choosing between a one-loss champion of either the SEC or the Big 12 and the once-beaten Buckeyes or Trojans, you know where the nod will probably go. (Especially if the choice is between an SEC team and its pinata from Columbus.) So the loser of this game will need a bloodbath in those conferences to clear its comeback path to the BCS National Championship Game."

Forde also points out something that made this game even more watchable to me: two of the nation's best middle linebackers, Maualuga and James Laurinitis of OSU will both be showcasing their abilities. Should be fun to watch.

- Congrats to Skip Holtz and ECU for beating West Virginia. I hope the Pirates enjoy the ride this season, because I've got 20 bucks that says Holtz will be elsewhere by the time camp starts next year.

- You know, I wanted to talk some s*it about the Big 10 winning all it's games last weekend, because the media up here touted it as some indicator that maybe the conference isn't so terrible after all. Then I read that the Big 12 did the same thing for the first time in conference history last yea, I guess I can't say much there except congrats to both conferences on the feat. Though I did find the opening sentence of Gophers coverage Sunday morning to be downright hysterical. The Gophers ran away from Bowling Green last Saturday, though at one point it was close, with the Gophers needing to convert a key 4th down to keep a drive going. They converted, went on to score and obviously win.

So I sit down the next morning, expecting the media to fawn over Brewster and his 2-0 team. They didn't disappoint: "You can call Tim Brewster a gambler. You can also call him 2-0." The article, by the Star Tribune's Jack Youngblood, is the standard homer crap that I am subjected to every time a Gophers or Vikings team does something remotely impressive. I know, we have the same thing down in Lincoln. The difference is that at one time the Huskers were actually good, whereas the Gophers haven't been nationally relevant since the 50's and the Vikings haven't been to a Superbowl since the Carter administration.

- I was intrigued when I read that the Huskers have scheduled 3 games with Fresno State, known for Bulldogs coach Pat Hill's insistence that they will play anyone, anywhere, anytime. The thing is, I think the time for him to be saying that has passed. I've never viewed the Bulldogs the same since Reggie Bush single-handedly won the Heisman by running roughshod over them in 2003. Anyone else remember that? The Bulldogs had the lead, but Bush put up 513 all-purpose yards and led the Trojans back. I think that was Fresno State's best chance to get over the hump and trumpet their arrival, and it was squandered when Bush went into human highlight mode. Besides, these games against the Huskers are scheduled for 2011, 2014, and 2016. Who knows if Hill is still going to be there that far down the road?

- I know nobody cares, but my fantasy team, Boats & Ho's, is now 1-0. My genius was on prominent display as two of my sleeper picks, rookies Matt Forte of the Bears and Chris Johnson of the Titans, both had over 100 total yards and a touchdown. It also helps that I have Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson. My only weakness is wide receiver, where I have Steve Smith (out because he punched a teammate) and Roy Williams as starters with a crap-tastic tandem of Devin Hester and Issac Bruce to back them up. Hester's QB is Kyle Orton and Bruce is like 55 years here's to hoping that my starters don't get hurt. (One more thing about my fantasy team: if you don't understand my team name, you have to go see the movie Step Brothers. Ferrell's best effort since Talledega Nights, by far. )

- Did anyone else realize that Notre Dame and Michigan play each other this weekend? It's comical how far this rivalry has fallen. I know that Husker fans aren't in a position to tout supremacy right now, but still, it's especially satisfying to me to see two of my least-favorite programs struggling so mightily.


Seven years ago today, I was sitting in my Wars in American History class when someone came in, interrupted our class, and turned on the TV. I've never forgotten that moment, and it forever changed the history of both our country and the world at large. We saw both the terrible depths and soaring peaks of humanity that day, a cowardly act of terrorism followed by incredible displays of courage. Seven years later, none of that unity remains. In a time when yesterday is old news, September 11th recedes farther from people's memory each day. We'll see the usual tributes, the presidential nominees will stop their ridiculous sniping and bickering and put on their patriotic face to honor those who were lost. But tomorrow, the world will go on, and we'll go back to the grind until next year's ceremonies. It's a shame that something so tragic can so easily be pushed to the outer reaches of our consciousness, but I guess that's the time we live in. I still remember watching highlights from the first NFL games after the tragedy, stadiums full of people chanting U-S-A! U-S-A!, and swelling with pride and emotion that the terrorists had only strengthened our nation's resolve and that we were more unified than ever. We no longer are, and that pains me. You can blame it on time, a war some say we shouldn't be fighting, or a laundry list of other causes. No matter who is to blame though, I wish that we still stood in defiance as we did in the weeks following the attacks. My longing for national unity aside though, let us still honor those who were lost that sunny Tuesday morning seven years ago. God Bless them, they will always be missed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Despite the Score, an Uneasy Feeling

Maybe it was because I was extremely hungover....maybe it was the live band they always have at Joe Sensers that insists on playing a little fight tune for every play that results in a Husker first down. No matter what it was, there was a sense of foreboding when Nebraska came out and executed like a 4th-grade Pop Warner team through the first 3 quarters of Saturday's game against San Jose State. For the second straight game, the Huskers failed to establish the run, getting a paltry 99 yards on 30 carries, causing Big Red faithful to question why we had all that sunshine pumped up our ass by the coaching staff in camp.

The running game was supposed to be a strength this year, something that would enable us to keep all those lethal Big 12 offenses off the field and allow our thin defense to get some rest. Now, we're not so sure. If it wasn't for Niles Paul going untouched for 85 yards in the 4th quarter, we might be looking at a loss right now. Sure, we ended up winning going away, but I doubt anybody was very optimistic when the score was narrowed to 14 to 12 on a SJSU field goal with just over 12 minutes to play. When Niles split the sea of red blockers, it's as if the team collectively reached back and pulled their heads out of their asses and decided to play. The thing is, we won't have that luxury against better teams. If we play like this against Mizzou, Kansas, OU, or any of the other landmine games we have on this schedule, it's going to get ugly pretty quickly. Some other thoughts from Saturday:

- Did anyone ever teach Larry Asante to tackle? When he arrived on campus as a JUCO, he was supposed to be this head-hunting freak who would be a difference maker. Now he just looks like a matador who apparently doesn't know that it's perfectly legal to use your arms when tackling. If I was an opposing ball carrier, I'd be looking for him every time I got to the second level of the Husker defense. We need Ricky T back, and sooner rather than later.

-I'll say it again, it peeves me that much: 99 yards on 30 carries. Not acceptable by any means, and the whole team knows it.

- Great job by the defensive line. Sure, in the first quarter opposing ball carriers were getting to the second level way too easily. But Potter and company kept fighting, and came away with some big plays. Suh's nifty interception, along with Potter's, helped the morale of the team tremendously, and Pierre Allen's stat line helped ease the pain (not much, but a little)of losing Barry Turner for the year.

- Back when I played in college, the goals were to give up less than 200 passing yards and less than 100 rushing yards. The Huskers gave up 216 passing and 137 rushing, which means in comparison to last year, they are making progress. But if we don't do something quick to fix the missed tackles, we are going to be in for another long season (and my preseason prediction of 9 wins is going to qualify me for learning-disability status). The first San Jose drive was excruciatingly painful to watch, though it warrants mentioning that NU held them to just 30 rushing yards in the second half. Hopefully whatever adjustment the defensive staff made carries over the rest of the season.

- 12 penalties is asinine. I'm thoroughly convinced the three consecutive false starts are responsible for making my hangover worse than it already was at that point.

More on NU and other assorted thoughts tomorrow, I just wanted to vent a little bit of my frustration about Saturday's lethargic start. But all criticism aside, we improved the one stat that matters, and that's the W column.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Long Way to Go

Good opener for the Huskers, though 24 points surrendered is a bit more than most of us hoped for. Still, one can't complain coming off the worst defensive season in school history, and maybe now we (and I say that because I was way too optimistic too) will listen to Pelini when he says that there is still much work to be done on defense.

Due to some issues regarding time constraints and internet access, Husker Guy might not be updated daily like I had hoped. Look for more quick entries and less lengthy stories, but I am still going to make an effort to include some of those as well. I am hoping to have all issues resolved before we get into conference play, but time will tell. My quick thoughts from last week's game:

- Turns out all those rave reviews Cody Glenn was getting weren't just lip service. That guy can flat-out play.

-Glad to see Mason Wald will not be redshirted this year. Kickoffs and punts just became a lot more interesting with "Stone" Mason on coverage.

- Nate Swift: 5 catches, 121 yards and 2 TD's......Just the beginning of what I already predicted to be a breakout year.

- I, like every other Husker fan, am wondering where this supposedly unstoppable running game was. Sure, Western Michigan was giving us the pass to a certain extent, but aren't these the games where we are supposed to just physically wear them down as the game goes on? As Tom Osborne used to say, those 2 or 3 yard runs in the first quarter turn into 7 or 8 yard carries in the 4th. We have to beat the hell out of opposing teams, it's the best way to extend drives and keep the opposing offenses off of the field, something that is going to become even more important once we enter conference play.

- There was only one place in all of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area that had the game showing on Saturday....and not surprisingly, there was a 3 hour wait for seating. Some devoted Husker fans up here. Also, having the Gophers playing at the same time didn't help matters. For what it's worth, it was thouroughly entertaining watching last-in-the-MAC Northern Illinois take them down to the final plays, and even more hilarious when Gopher fans celebrated the victory as if they had just won the Big 10.....I always wonder, now that it's obvious just how tough it is to win at Minnesota, do the Gopher fans ever long for Glen Mason and his 8-9 win seasons? They bitched about him not getting over the hump, but maybe they should have been kissing his ass for the job he did, because in my opinion, that's what Minnesota realistically should shoot for: 3rd or 4th in the Big 10 and a good bowl game. That is their ceiling, not the Rose Bowl.

-Speaking of teams I hate losing, I was ecstatic that Pittsburgh, the annual media darling who never lives up to expectations, once again stumbled out of the gate, losing 27-17 to Bowling Green. Kirk Herbstriet called this upset on Gameday, and it turned out to be a very wise pick. There are some media obsessions that are understandable. USC is good every year, they have history, etc. But for some reason, they fawn over Pittsburgh regularly, and every year it blows up in their face when the Panthers underachieve. We were subjected to this crap through Fitzgerald's time there, we had to deal with constant media BJ's for crap QB Tyler Palko, and then this year they were supposed to break out because they had some decent recruiting classes under Magnum P.I. So can we please not hear about these guys until they show they're worthy of a ranking?

- I wanted to predict East Carolina over Va Tech. But then it became a trendy upset pick, which of course scared me away, because whenever a pick is so trendy that it becomes the expected outcome, then all of a sudden you have to question your upset pick. This makes it twice as frustrating when the trendy upset pick that you shied away from comes true. Whether it be football or March Madness, the lesson as always is, go with your gut. I wish Va Tech had done well in this game, if only to keep the redshirt on Tyrod Taylor, I'd rather not have him under center when the Hokies come to Lincoln.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bank on It

OK, so maybe banking on anything I write isn't the best idea. I've been proven wrong before, and I have no doubt that it will happen again. However, like most Husker fans, I can't help but think that somehow, we've found our guy, and that we will manage to exceed expectations and win one or two games that we shouldn't this year. It's probably not smart to do that, considering the efforts Bo has made to temper the enthusiasm surrounding this year's NU squad. The thing is, I've never been accused of being smart. Which is why I predict the following outcome for this year's team (with apologies for lack of detail, as I have to leave work at 12:00 today, so I have to keep it brief):

2 0 0 8 S C H E D U L E

08/30 Western Mich. (WIN)
09/06 San Jose St. (WIN
09/13 New Mexico St (WIN)
09/27 Virginia Tech (WIN)
10/04 Missouri (LOSS)
10/11 @ Texas Tech (LOSS)
10/18 @ Iowa State (WIN)
10/25 Baylor (WIN)
11/01 @ Oklahoma (LOSS)
11/08 Kansas (LOSS)
11/15 @ Kansas St. (WIN)
11/28 Colorado (WIN)

That's right, I'm predicting 8 wins in the regular season. Ballsy.....stupid, but ballsy, to quote Tom Arnold in True Lies....but I really think that Va Tech has suffered too many off-season injuries and suspensions to win in Lincoln, and I think that K-State is beatable at home (they have a penchant for late-season collapses), and the Buffs are still a year away (of course, we're not awesome either, I'm just saying they're beatable in Lincoln). I think that if the season played out this way (a big if, given my ability to predict entire seasons before they happen), we'd most likely be sent to the Insight Bowl to play against the Big 10's #6 team, which if I were a betting man is going to be either the Iowa Hawkeyes (which would be f***ing sweet) or Michigan State. If this does indeed happen, and we play a Big 10 team in our bowl game, I forecast a win based off of how terrible the Big 10 is and the fact that by then our defense will have gelled.

And you know what that gives us folks? 9 wins. We used to take that number for granted, thinking it was the birthright of all Nebraska fans. Funny how right now 9 wins and some stability would be pretty damn sweet, huh? Everybody have a fantastic Labor Day weekend, and let's start the Pelini era the right way...


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The North Rises Again

I always thought that the Big 12 North would return to relevance, unfortunately none of the teams that contributed to that wore Scarlet and Cream. Missouri, a long-middling program under Gary Pinkel, exploded onto the national stage thanks to Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin. Then Kansas went out and won the Orange Bowl, leap-frogging a MU squad they lost to and into the BCS. Colorado showed signs of improvement, even shocking Oklahoma, and Iowa State actually played decent football the last month of the season. Now the North has to prove that last season wasn't a fluke, and they are in good position to do so, as both Missouri and Kansas return a large percentage of their starters and CU brings in the top-rated running back recruit in the country to help out Cody Hawkins. Here's how I see the division (and the conference title game) shaking out.

1) Missouri

The offense, with the exception of TE Martin Rucker and RB Tony Temple, returns essentially intact. Chase Daniel is a returning Heisman finalist and a front-runner this year. And why wouldn't he be? He has a bevy of weapons at his disposal, the chief one being Maclin, an all-purpose guy who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Also coming back is TE Chase Coffman and receivers Danario Alexander and Tommy Saunders, all reliable targets who work well within the offense. The big question is how they replace Temple, who fit into the MU's spread attack perfectly. They will most likely work several backs in and out, starting with senior Jimmy Jackson and sophomore Derrick Washington. I don't see much stopping this unit, unless there are adverse affects from eating boogers, in which case all bets are off, given Daniels' appetite for snot.

The Mizzou defense suffered a few injuries this spring, something that could hurt them given their lack of depth at linebacker after starter Van Alexander tore his ACL in spring ball. William Moore and Justing Garrett are one of the better safety combinations in the conference, and Ziggy Hood is a pretty good player up front. If the defense holds up and stays healthy, the Tigers could challenge for a national title....that is, if they can get by OU.

Player to Watch: Maclin, a Reggie Bush-type player who is fun to watch as long as it's not against your team. A sure-fire first rounder in the draft if he stays healthy.


Will they be as successful as last year? No, I really don't think so. Their schedule gets significantly tougher, with Oklahoma, Texas Tech and UT replacing Okie State, Baylor, and Texas A&M (and South Florida on the non-conference slate). With Reesing still leading the offense, they should do well, but they still have to find a back to partner with Jake Sharp in the backfield, something that very well could fall to JUCO transfer Jocques Crawford. The defense returns 9 starters last year's strong squad, led by LB Joe Mortensen. They do have a new coordinator in Clint Bowen, and if this unit slips, the blame will fall on him. Replacing stud (except against Maurice Purify) CB Aqib Talib is a priority, but the Jayhawks think they have their guy for that in Kendrick Harper.

Player to Watch: Reesing. There's a lot of pressure to prove that last year wasn't a fluke, and this team's success depends on the right arm of their diminutive QB. If he goes down, it could be a long season in Lawrence.

3) Nebraska

I'll explain my rationale for this choice on Friday in my season prediction. Yes, I know that we aren't expected to finish this high. But I have faith.

4) Colorado

I knew that when the Buffs hired Dan Hawkins that it spelled trouble for the rest of the conference, particularly the Big Red. Kids like his type of football, and their recruiting success as of late has reflected that, landing RB Darrell Scott over every other program in the country was one of the biggest surprises of the recruiting season. He won't start right away, as that job will go to Demetrius Sumler. Cody Hawkins will continue to progress in the offense, though he doesn't have any real game breakers at receiver, something that will definitely hurt his development. Also, depth on the 0-line is a legitimate concern. The offense definitely has some holes to fill, but the defense is in the same boat. Stud LB Jordan Dizon is gone, as is CB Terrence Wheatley. The tackles and safeties are good, but the lack of an outside pass rush is going to really hurt this team, a problem exacerbated by the slew of good quarterbacks in the Big 12 this season. A tough non-conference slate, with both West Virginia and Florida State, will keep CU from getting the hot start they need going into conference play. The Buffs are still a year away from making a move in the Big 12 in my opinion.

Player to watch: Darrell Scott, RB. Could be the starter by mid-season, but he needs his line to develop along with him if he's going to be as productive as the Buffs need him to be. Still, a special talent, which blows, because we gotta deal with this kid for at least the next 3 years.

5)Kansas State

Josh Freeman returns, but stud WR Jordy Nelson and RB James Johnson are gone. Everyone knows that Prince brought in 20 JUCOs to bolster his team for a run while Freeman is still there, so it's tough to call how it'll play out when a solid chunk of the team is thrown into the Big 12. The switch to a 3-4 last year didn't pay off for the defense, which was a mess by the end of the season (remember that 73 point outburst by NU?). Switching back to a 4-3, along with putting Ian Campbell back at D-end from linebacker, should go a long ways in making improvements. Also, getting CB Joshua Moore back at corner after academic issues last year should be a big help with the pass defense. Really, the success of this team this year depends on how good all those transfers really are.

Player to Watch: Freeman. It's weird to think about what it would be like if he had stayed a Husker, but having him in Purple makes it that much easier to hate the Wildcats.

6) Iowa State

The Chizik era didn't start like many Cyclones had hoped, but hey, at least he did better than Tim Brewster, am I right? All Gopher bashing aside, this team made strides at the end of last season, though it's tough to guage how that will affect this year's team, now that Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe, who both seemed to be 28 last year, are gone. The QB job will be manned by Austen Arnaud and former Husker recruit Phillip Bates, who was a wide receiver. They have a strong running back trio in Alexander Robinson, Jason Scales, and J.J. Bass, but the real question is whether they can find some people to catch the ball, as there is a lack of proven receivers. On defense, they have to replace both outside backers, but their D-line looks decent. Still, the Cyclones have a long way to go.

Player to watch: Arnaud/ Bates. Who wins the QB battle? It seemed like Bret Meyer played in Ames for a decade, but it's a new era for the 'Clones, and one of these two is going to have to step up and lead a very green offensive unit if ISU is going to top last year's win total.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big 12 Looks to challenge SEC

Last year, despite NU looking like Ed Norton in the prison shower scene from American History X, the Big 12 managed to pull itself from the doldrums and raise it's national image significantly. For the past few years, with the exception of a couple of 11 win seasons by Kansas State and the Husker's 10-win season in 2003, the North division had been pulling down the conference, the starting point being Miami's beatdown of NU in the Rose Bowl to cap of the 2001 season. The South (OK, basically Texas and Oklahoma) made it seem that the scales had permanently shifted away from what had once been dominant KSU and NU squads. However, with the unexpected rise of Kansas and Mizzou (I know, I still have to look at articles from last year to remind myself that it actually happened), the North finally began to establish some parity in the conference and let the nation know that the SEC wasn't the only powerhouse on the block anymore. Today I'm going to look at the South division and predict what the standings will show at the end of the year, along with naming one player to watch for each team. Tomorrow I'll finish up with the North.

1) Oklahoma

A real shocker here. The Sooners, loaded with a bevy of talent at tailback and a proven QB, will do their usual stomping of the Big 12, as they simply reload when they lose key players. DeMarco Murray will deliver on the promise he showed as a freshmen (which sounds dumb to say, considering he scored 15 touchdowns last year), and Sam Bradford has another year in the system. Granted, word is OU will try to implement more no-huddle offense this year, but I don't think that'll affect Bradford's accuracy and decision-making at all. If anything, that'll only give him more plays, which translates to more potential stats. What gives many pause about OU's national title hopes is the defense, where it will be hard to replace playmakers like Reggie Smith and Curtis Lofton (both in the NFL this season). Ryan Reynolds will be a stud at linebacker, but the defensive line looks to be the real strength of the unit. Of course, with Bob Stoops in charge, I'm sure they'll do just fine.

Player to watch: DeMarco Murray. When Stoops said that he has a chance to be BETTER than Adrian Petersen, defensive coordinators league-wide pooped their pants. Better? How the hell is that possible? Also look for frosh Jermie Calhoun, an especially talented recruit who has been getting a lot of buzz through fall camp.

2) Texas Tech

This is THE year for Tech football, at least if you believe everything you read. They have the best system QB in the history of Tech system QBs, and a jaw-dropping collection of receivers led by Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree, who is simply put, a f***ing freak. You know what, he's so good, I'm just going to retype that sentence without censorship. He's a fucking freak. But it's never been a shortage of offense that has held back the perennial 7/8/9-win Raiders. The Tech defense, long the blame of Tech's shortcomings during Mike Leach's tenure, returns 8 starters, and the buzz is that this is the year they make a run at the South division title. It's not that I think they can't handle OU, they proved that the Sooners are vulnerable last year (as did CU, obviously). The question is, can TT get up for the games that it's SUPPOSED to win? I could see someone catching them sleeping in conference play, and that's what will prevent them from getting over the hump.

Player to watch: Michael Crabtree. Playstation stats, only it's actually happening.

3) Texas

We all know about Colt McCoy's struggles last year (shocking, since he's such a gunslinger), but what really gives me pause about UT is their defense. The burnt orange was burnt last year to the tune of nearly 24 points per game, and the bad news is that they only return 4 starters on that side of the ball. Also, they have to replace stud Jamaal Charles, no easy task. UT had a good run there for a while, but I think this year they'll really struggle and settle in the 8-win range.

Player to watch: McCoy. How he rebounds from a sophomore slump will determine how far the Longhorns go this year.

4) Oklahoma State

Zac Robinson returns to quarterback what was the #7 offense in the country, but unfortunately for him, there are some holes to fill if that kind of success is going to continue. RB Dantrell Savage and WR Adarius Bowman are both gone, as is O-coordinator Larry Fedora. The Cowboys have to hope that sophomore WR Dez Bryant can build on his big bowl game (117 yards, 2 TDs) and replace Bowman. Robinson gives them a chance to compete in every game, as he was one of two (Tim Tebow being the other) QBs to run for over 800 yards and pass for over 2,800. While OSU may talk up it's defense, it's going to be hard to just replace half of it with JUCO players, which is apparently a big part of the plan. Three starters must be replaced on the line, two more in the linebacking corps. If this D is going to gel and keep them competitive, it'll be on the secondary, which returns intact. And don't forget, Mike Gundy is a man. And he's 41. So if they suck, make sure to go after him.

Player to watch: It may seem lame to keep stating the obvious players (and believe me, I tried to find more compelling choices), but anytime a QB puts up the numbers Robinson did, you have to take notice. The question is, can he do it with a new group of skill players?

5) Baylor

Poor Bears. The team parity seems to have forgotten, Baylor once again faces a daunting league schedule with little hope for a bowl berth (OK, no hope). There is reason for some optimism though. 17 starters return, 9 of them from an offense that gained over 350 yards a game. That might not be a good indicator of things to come, however, as new coach Art Briles brings a new system to Waco. They have to find a new tailback now that Brandon Whitaker graduated and took his.......40 rushing yards per game? with have to wonder if having someone else carry the rock will make a difference or not. The defense might be improved. I know, that's a really strong endorsement. They return their two top tacklers from last year in safety Jordan Lake and LB Joe Pawelek, though it might not matter, because they have a new d-coordinator who is switching them from a 4-2-5 to a standard 4-3.........anyways, I'm not sure why I'm working so hard on the Baylor entry......they've got some speed, but that can't do it all for them.

Player to watch: Whichever QB emerges from a 3 man battle to lead the Bad News Bears. Kirby Freeman, a former Miami player, should come out on top.

6) Texas A&M

Sure, Stephen McGee and Fat, Javorskie Lane return, but that might not matter as the Aggies transition to a pro-style offense under Mike Sherman. And to make it worse, those two make up 1/5th of their returning starters.....that's right, only 10 of them return to College Station, making the rebuilding all that more of a daunting task. Their best returning receiver, Pierre Brown, caught only 19 balls last year.......Looking at their schedule, not one game can be inked in as a win right now. The state of this team makes last year's manhandling of NU (which I saw in person) all the harder to stomach. But at least under Sherman the Aggies won't go for two when they're up 3 touchdowns......of course, they might not ever be up by 3 touchdowns this season, so that may be a moot point.

Player to watch: Lane, if only because I'm wondering if he'll fit in his jersey this season.

Back tomorrow for the North preview.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Words: Game Week

It seems like just yesterday we were slogging through spring ball, perusing over roughly 7,000 articles about Cody Glenn's position switch, and counting the days until fall camp. Well, fall camp is over now. No more beating up on each other, no more scrimmages. It's time to put another team in the crosshairs and to quote Tom Green in Road Trip, "Unleash the Fury". After 4 years of relative mediocrity, a state and it's team stand on the precipice of perhaps the most important season in school history. Will it be the best season? No, not even close. But what we search for isn't only additional victories, but the hope that somehow, someway, a return to prominence is realistic. We long not only for wins, but for relevance, to regain our alpha-dog status after being kicked to the bottom of the pile.

I have friends who are Gopher fans who give me crap, despite the fact that their team only won a single game last year. Things like this are unacceptable, and it's our also-ran standing that hurts more than anything. Which is why we find ourself hoping just to reach the old 9-win threshold this year. Will it happen? Tough to say, some things will definitely have to bounce our way. But either way, this year's attempt at a Big Red revival promises to be an exciting journey no matter what the outcome. We have the legend in the AD's office, the coach we hoped for, and a team hell-bent on redeeming themselves.

Today I'm going to look at 5 players to watch this season for the Huskers. When I say watch, I mean that these players are either essential to a successful season or are players who are looking at a breakout year.

1) Marlon Lucky, RB

What hasn't been written about Marlon? He was the signature recruit of Callahan's tenure here, a 5-star tailback from Hollywood who many thought would be our Reggie Bush, expectations that were stupid, unrealistic, and unfair for the reserved Lucky. For so long, we waited for him to break out and deliver on the promise, and even through portions of last year, we wondered if he would finally just lower his shoulder and start hitting the holes with authority. And even after the opener against Nevada when he ran wild, I still had my doubts. Sure, he was racking up catches at an astounding rate (thanks partially to Sam Keller's insistence on waiting for every receiver to be covered before checking down), but when would he become a complete tailback?

Then we played Texas. His total from that game wasn't astounding if you simply looked at the stats. 24 carries, 111 yards. But for any Husker fan who watched that game, you saw something else: a lowering of the shoulder, a determination and maybe anger that we hadn't seen to that extent. He was breaking tackles, punishing defenders, no longer looking to bounce outside when he knew that 4 or 5 yards would do. This year, Marlon enters the season as the Big 12's leading returning rusher. Yes, he has two good players behind him in Helu and Q that will take some touches away, but I doubt that will affect his stats all that much, as Pelini will look to establish a strong running game and control the clock to keep all those spread offenses off the field. I can see Marlon getting 1,100 rushing yards with 13 or 14 scores, and another 30 or so catches (which would give him a good chance at getting the school record, depending on how things shake out).

2) Nate Swift, WR

I've always followed Swift's progress with more interest than most, mainly because of my affinity for slow white receivers and also because of the Minnesota connection. After he posted 45 catches for 641 yards and 7 touchdowns his redshirt freshmen year, I thought we had a guy who had the chance to be something truly special, a potential 1st team All Conference-caliber guy. But when he followed up that campaign with a 22-catch season in his sophomore year, I began to wonder if his frosh season was merely an aberration or if he simply had received more attention from defenders. I don't even want to count last year's totals, mainly because it's hard to tell how it might have shaken out with someone else than Sam Keller throwing the balls for the bulk of the season. Swift has sometimes had issues with drops, something the Huskers can ill-afford from someone who is a starter this year and is going to have to lead a young position group. That said, I think this is the year that Swift finally delivers on the promise he showed those years ago as a 19-year old. I don't want to predict stats, because now that NU is looking to re-establish the run, it'd be foolish to forecast a statistical breakthrough for the Hutchinson, Minnesota product. But I think you'll see him make a lot of clutch 3rd-down receptions and make a run at Johnny the Jet's school record for receptions. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have a year of working with Joey Ganz under his belt either. I'm predicting 2nd-team Big 12 honors for Swifty, which might seem unrealistic, but at this point, it's all about blindly optimistic predictions.

3) Ricky Thenarse, S

Is Ricky T really a junior already? Seems like not that long ago we were all breathlessly predicting great things from the kid who had playmaker written all over him. Two consecutive Special Teams POY awards later, and we finally are going to see him trotting out with the starting defense this week. Does he stray looking for the play sometimes? Yes, much to the chagrin of the coaches. Of course, last year it wouldn't have mattered who strayed where, I would have thrown Ricky out there just for the hell of it, because at least he would hit people, something last year's defense failed to do. But with Pelini in charge now, I'm looking for Ricky to establish himself as the playmaker we have long envisioned him being. There might be a few mental gaffes now and then, but I think that if he can stay disciplined he can get 6 or 7 interceptions. Along with Thenarse, fellow safety Larry Asante will have to rebound from a disappointing campaign last year if the NU defense is going to return to form. (Yes, I know Asante had a lot of tackles last year. But he missed quite a few too.

4) Cody Glenn, LB

When Glenn arrived on campus as a freshmen, people immediately assumed that he would be the Thunder to Marlon's lightning for the duration of their time on campus. Which shows just how dumb we are to look 4 years into the future and predict stardom for kids before they even have played a snap. Over the past couple of years, we've watched his playing time fluctuate like the weather in Minnesota. I was at the ISU game in 2006 where he bowled over Cyclones to the tune of 148 yards on just 19 carries, and his bull-dozing style endeared him to NU fans who still have a penchant for a dominating ground game. But after he injured his foot on his "Let's go motherf***ers!" run against Texas A&M, he was never quite the same. The coaching staff seemed to give up on him after that as well. So when news filtered out of spring practice that he had not only switched positions but to the other side of the ball entirely, he became the talk of camp. I was skeptical, I really didn't think he'd be able to make the switch in so little time and be a big contributor. Which shows how big of a dumbass I am, as he went on to become a starter. But now camp is over, and the real experiment begins. Glenn, along with Phillip Dillard (another player we hope to see deliver on his initial potential) are the two seniors on the most important position group of the defense. They are the elder statesmen who have to make the supposed weakest link (and maybe the most important one in Pelini's defense) strong enough to combat the lethal offenses in the Big 12. How fast Glenn comes along will go a long way in determining how successful the defense is.

5) Joe Ganz, QB

There's a reason I put Joe at the bottom of this list. It's not because I think the previous 4 guys are more integral to the success of this year's Huskers. Everyone knows that quarterback is the most important position on the team. Rather, I was just sick of so many articles leading off with him, so I decided to flip the script a bit and write about him last. At this point, most Husker fans know by heart that Ganz passed for 1,399 yards and 15 touchdowns in just 3 starts last year. But what can he do with a stronger running game and a defense that hopefully doesn't force him into throwing 40 or 50 times a game? And who is he going to look to in the redzone now that Mo Purify is gone? Make no mistake, Ganz is the heart and soul of this team, the unquestioned leader and heavy is the burden on his shoulders to make his one season in the spotlight count. He can take solace in the fact that he has a line and backs who should significantly lighten that load. While it's hard to imagine Ganz being on par statistically with the likes of Chase Daniel or Todd Reesing this year, the potential is there for him to do the only thing we really want to see: Win. And if that were to happen, Ganz will find himself in the company of other tough-as-nails QBs who endeared themselves to the Husker faithful, guys like Zac Taylor and Brook Berringer.

Tomorrow: Big 12 predictions

Friday, August 22, 2008

One More Week......

You know, I've tried to temper my enthusiasm and excitement for this season. To be honest, it's been difficult, what with Bo returning and all. But after last year's implosion, I try to keep the pre-season optimism down, especially because last year was when we were supposed to make the great leap forward. Now that we are in the single digits in the "days till game" category, I find my mind already drifting to that crisp autumn air and a 10:00 AM Bud Light. I just bought a Husker hat for the season yesterday, and will probably have to add a new shirt as well at some point, though I'm trying to pace myself in that category, considering I already have more than enough NU shirts.

Just a couple links/thoughts for today, because it's Friday and I'm feeling particularly lethargic. Next week I plan on doing my full season prediction, as well as the national prediction.

- Wanted to link to this article about the Huskers on EA's NCAA 2009 game. I found this particularly interesting, because I'm beginning to wonder if the programmers at EA are Husker fans. This is the third or fourth edition in the row that I've heard of this phenomenon of Nebraska kicking ass whenever you simulate. Last year, just for shits and gigs, I simmed a whole season, and sure enough, we were Big 12 champs and nearly won the whole thing. According to this article, the author had similar results with this year's edition. Hopefully life imitates games in this case.

- Anyone else find it odd that K-State and ISU agreed to play in Arrowhead in 2009 and 2010? I mean, it's one thing to throw Kansas and Mizzou in there, that rivalry has historical implications going back to the Civil War. And holding the Big 12 title game there is a no-brainer due to it's central location that isn't too far from any Big 12 school. But is anyone really going to drive all the way to Kansas City to watch a JUCO-laden pussycat squad take on a perennially rebuilding Cyclone team? I may be wrong, maybe Chizik is going to turn it around and Kansas State will recruit some good kids this year. But I still don't see this as anything more than 2 teams playing in front of a stadium filled to 2/3rds capacity.

-To no surprise but to my disappointment, the NCAA announced that horse-collar tackles, made famous by OU alum Roy Williams, are now banned. Look, I know it's not the right way to tackle. Hell, every football player knows it's not the right way to tackle. Sometimes though, there is just no other way to bring down the ballcarrier. Let's say that it's a footrace down the sidelines to the endzone, and the defender takes the wrong angle by one step. He's now faced with a choice: dive from behind at their legs and hope they can somehow grab on to the offensive player's churning feet, or he can make sure that the guy doesn't go any farther and grab him by the neckline of the shoulder pads. Having had to do this, let me tell you: I've saved a couple of long runs by doing the horse-collar tackle. Am I advocating that it be used for every tackle? No, of course not, it's not fundamental and it risks injury. But football isn't for the meek, and sometimes, when you have to make the play, you do it any way you can.

-Came across this article via Blue-Gray Sky, a Notre Dame blog (don't worry, I only found it because I wanted to find a way to trash Jimmy Clausen). But instead I found an interview with DE Pat Kuntz (pronounced Koo-NTZ), which was pretty damn funny thanks to stuff like this:

II: Your last name, obviously, what's the worst mispronunciation you've had?

PK: "(Laughs uncontrollably) Let's just say people call the house, the telemarketers, and they pronounce it, I don't know if I should say it but people can probably think about it. They are always like 'Mr. Blank.' I'm like 'Nope, none of that here.' And I hang up the phone."

So it turns out I don't dislike every guy on ND's roster. Just 104 of them or so. Speaking of the Irish, do they really think it's smart to honor their legendary coaches (one per home game) coming off a 3-9 season? Is Jimmy Clausen flat on his back really what these guys and their families want to see on the night their national titles are celebrated? Also, I thought it was cute that one of the tickets featured the graphic "200th consecutive sellout" on it. I would say good effort, but they'll never catch us (nor will anyone else, for that matter).

Just a reminder, Double Extra Point is starting up their pick 'em again this year, as is Corn Nation, so pick one (or both, if you really like pick 'ems) and get into the spirit of competition with some fellow Huskers.