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.
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