Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is Nebraska A Good Job for a Football Coach?

Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald had a nice article yesterday about whether Nebraska's soon-to-be-vacant head coaching job is a desirable and attractive job. And in short...yes. Pretty good facilities. (Steve Pederson's positive legacy.) A rabid fan base, where the stadium has been sold out for 45 years and 85,000 fans still showed up after watching their team lose 86-20 the previous two weeks. Bill Callahan has successfully lowered expectations. And while Tom Osborne will make the hiring decision, we're enough removed from his legendary 60-3 finish that the shadow shouldn't overwhelm the next head coach.

But wait a minute... Bill Callahan is still the head coach, correct? Yes... for now. Barfknecht noted in an interview on KOZN radio (podcast) that when Osborne was introduced as athletic director two weeks ago, the first things he mentioned was restoring the walk-on program and restoring the culture. That can't be a good sign for the man who changed both.

Also today on the radio was a report that CozBohl said that "we were lucky" to get away with blitzing so much against Texas. I'm sure it was a difficult decision for Coz to put aside his patented "bend and break" defense, but what he apparantly is oblivious to is the fact this blitzing scheme gave Nebraska it's best chance to win a game the entire month of October. Granted, he recognized that much-maligned Texas' offensive coordinator Greg Davis' scheme was vulnerable to an attacking style, but the fact that he doesn't realize that the attacking style put life into the Husker defense that hasn't been seen all season.

Those type of comments are just more of an indication that this coaching staff is not long for Nebraska. Everybody knows it. Bill Callahan knows it, as he left his official Addias coaches shirts in the closet for the third straight week. Fans know it, as talk this season doesn't focus on the games at hand, but rather as to who is going to take over once the inevitable firing takes place.

Heck...right now, I think Missouri fans are more excited about this Saturday's Husker/Kansas game than most Husker fans.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Night Beer: Fear the Ganz's waaaay too late for coffee...

Well, it's official... Sam Keller's college career is over, thanks to a broken collarbone. So now Joe Ganz takes over at quarterback. Whether I'm numb from a four game losing streak or it's just the beer talking, but I'm not sure this hurts the Huskers that much. I'm curious to see what Ganz brings to the team. The team might just rally around Ganz, and he showed great poise coming in cold to finish off a scoring drive.

Kansas is a 19 point favorite OVER Nebraska? In football?

ESPN's Todd McShay's pick of Kansas to win the Big XII North isn't looking quite as outrageous as it did in August. Did Kansas schedule 4 patsies in the non-conference schedule? Yep...but they pasted each and every one of them. Did Kansas catch a break in conference scheduling as well? Yep. But the fact remains... Kansas is undefeated going into November. Sagarin's computer has the Jayhawks as the #1 football team in the country.

Nebraska, Ohio, and Buffalo each have 4-5 records. Go figure. At Nebraska, it's a disaster. At Ohio, it's a disappointment after going 9-5 last year. At Buffalo, they are getting excited.

Nebraska-Omaha hockey fans are disappointed after getting swept by now #1 Miami to open the CCHA season. Some feel that it's more of the same for a program that hasn't been able to take things to the next level. But this one feels a little different. UNO's inexperience hurt them all weekend as they started eight freshmen. Saturday night's game could signal a shift in the program's direction as the Mavs got whistled for 13 penalties for 56 minutes. In recent years, UNO has been known as an undersized, finesse, speed team that could score but sometimes got manhandled by more physical teams. Especially eye-opening was Mike Kemp's quote to US College Hockey:
"I wish (the game) had been rougher; I didn’t think it was all that rough to be honest. Take a look at the calls.”
That's definitely NOT the same UNO team we've seen in recent years. UNO will have another chance to make a statement as the #3 Michigoon Weasels come to Omaha this next weekend.

Oh, I suppose I should update my Power Poll as well...
1. LSU
2. Ohio State (Nice win against Penn State...not nearly enough to bump LSU though...)
3. Boston College (Only because of the final five minutes of the VT game...)
4. Oklahoma
5. Arizona State
6. Oregon
7. Missouri
8. Kansas (Jayhawk haters... who would you rate above an undefeated KU?)
9. West Virginia
10. Georgia

Big XII Standings
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Kansas
4. Kansas State
5. Texas
6. Colorado
7. Oklahoma State
8. Texas Tech
9. Texas A&M (Fran treading water ahead of Billy C)
10. Nebraska
11. Iowa State (Gets a bump for hanging tough against Oklahoma and Missouri in back to back games)
12. Baylor

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is It Fair to Pull the Plug on Bill Callahan?

With Nebraska's losing streak now at four games (and counting), the writing appears to be on the wall for Bill Callahan's career at Nebraska. Two weeks ago, most fans were calling for immediate changes, but Tom Osborne has dismissed that talk, pointing out that you can't replace coaches mid-season in football, as there just aren't many replacements sitting around waiting. (And let's face it, there's usually a reason those replacements are sitting around without a job...) So the uproar for "fire 'em all" has subsided somewhat, though you get the impression that everybody assumes that when Osborne "assesses" the program at the end of the season, Callahan's head coaching career will be over. Jeffie over at DoubleExtraPoint notes a Freudian slip by Osborne in an interview with KETV-Channel 7 last week, where he tells Jon Schuetz that the future of the walk-on program will depend "on the new coaching staff."

But is it fair to pull the plug on Callahan after four years? Let's look at the common arguments for keeping Callahan.

You need five or six years to turn around a program. Osborne himself once said that if the rest of the Big Eight wanted to become competitive in football, they need to give some of these coaches more than four years. Osborne had a point. Dan McCarney took five years to post a winning record at Iowa State, though he never was able to take the Cyclones much further than that. Bill Snyder took five years to get Kansas State to a bowl game. But let's be honest; Kansas State was one of the worst football programs in America when Snyder was hired, and Iowa State wasn't much better when McCarney was hired. Callahan took over a team that finished 10-3 the season before...a record Callahan hasn't been able to match. And let's be honest... NOBODY gets 5 years to change things. The going rate seems to be three years now for national programs, if you judge the actions of Notre Dame and Florida.

The problem this season was defense; Callahan was hired to fix the offense and that's been great. That's revisionist thinking; Callahan was hired because Steve Pederson wanted to recreate Husker football in a new image. We've been told that Nebraska was "gravitating to mediocrity" and that "we would not surrender the Big XII to Oklahoma and Texas". We were told to expect championships and asked for money for the "Championship Drive" for "Championship Facilities" to impress recruits. Four years later, Nebraska sits at 4-5 going into November. Missouri and Kansas are in the top 10 of the BCS standings. As for whether the offense is "great", Nebraska is 36th in the country in total offense and 63rd in scoring offense.

Frank Solich got six years, and got a final chance to update his staff. Bill Callahan deserves the same. Oh no, please, let's not bring Solich up again. Technically, yes, Solich got to remake his staff, but did he really have a chance to keep his job long term? Steve Pederson was going to fire Solich anyway. Let's not go through that charade again. Besides, Bill Callahan has known his staff was dysfunctional from the start. They argued in 2004, and Callahan can look at Kevin Cosgrove's records to know that he's sub-par as a defensive coordinator. Heck, just look at Wisconsin who's defense improved dramatically once Callahan took him off their hands.

This system just takes time and experience to work. Former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor wrote the Lincoln Journal-Star last week to point this out. Problem is, I think that Taylor probably doesn't do his former coach any favors in his defense. He confesses that it took him a full year to comprehend the offense, and says that's also affecting Sam Keller. But guess what, we're going to get another new quarterback in 2008, meaning that it will be at least 2009 before we possibly can have a 2nd year starter at quarterback. And that's assuming that Patrick Witt or Zac Lee starts in 2008... In addition, Callahan's system is proving to be extremely poor in developing players. Callahan devotes most practice time for the starters, meaning there is very little opportunity for the backups to progress in this system except in the spring. That simply doesn't bode well for the next few years.

Changing coaching staffs is simply going to kill recruiting. Is anybody still buying this recruiting service bull$--t anymore? A few weeks, the World-Herald pointed out that recruiting ratings is mostly hype. 1620 the Zone pointed out that in the blowout losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State, the Husker defense had the most Rivals "stars" of any other unit on the field. In one of his first talks to fans after taking over as athletic director, Tom Osborne told fans that recruiting hype has not "been the best for college football." Last week, Bill Callahan bemoaned the effects of the turmoil on recruiting, pointing out how tough it was to get to #7 in the Rivals ratings. A few of the remaining recruitniks bemoan the loss of this "special" class, the likes of which we haven't seen at Nebraska. I guess they've forgotten 2005 and that "top five" class featuring names such as Harrison Beck (currently warming the bench at North Carolina State), Leon Jackson (now at Hawaii), Chris Brooks (finally made his first career catch in mop-up duty against Nevada), and Justin Tomerlin (no longer with the program). The fact remains that in college football, it has less to do with the talent that you bring in than what you do with that talent once it gets there. That's why Nebraska is now near the bottom of the Big XII North.

Bottom line: I really can't come up with any reasons to retain Bill Callahan. My opinion doesn't count though; it's going to be Tom Osborne's decision.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A "Moral Victory" Against Texas?

I was saying it. The Lincoln Journal-Star asked it. Every Husker fan asked it in the early going. "Where has this been all season?" The Husker defense opened up with an attacking scheme that frankly, hasn't been seen by a team with a red "N" on their helmet in nearly four years. It was almost bizarre seeing an attacking defense from Nebraska instead of Kevin Cosgrove's usual "bend and break/prevent" scheme. It made me wonder if new athletic director Tom Osborne had secretly replaced our usual defensive coordinator with Folger's Crystals.

The Huskers were flying around the Texas backfield much of the day. Colt McCoy was running for his life, and the Huskers led most of the way. But Texas made the necessary adjustments in the fourth quarter and suddenly Jamaal Charles was scorching the Husker "D" for over 200 yards in the quarter. (We'll find out Monday if Charles will become the fourth Big XII "Offensive Player of the Week" in a row for his efforts against the Huskers.)

Offensively, we saw a much improved performance out of the offensive line, creating some nice holes for Marlon Lucky to scamper through. Lucky had a great day reading his blocks and sprinting through the holes for some big gains. Nate Swift is my offensive player of the game with several great catches, two for touchdowns.

But the offense disappeared after scoring on the first drive of the second half, punting six times in a row before Sam Keller fumbled. I must admit that I jinxed Keller in that situation, as ABC had just flashed his statistics and I thought to myself "Wow! Keller hasn't turned the ball over today!"

So now the Huskers are 4-5, and likely need to win all three remaining games against Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado to become bowl eligible. (It looks unlikely a 6-6 Nebraska can get a bowl bid...) We can be pleased by the improved effort today and by the opportunity to win late in the game, which is something that hasn't been possible at all this month. My initial take is that this was Nebraska's second best game of the season. Is this a moral victory? Only if you want to accept one as the fact remains that Nebraska has now lost four games in a row.

Adding injury to that insult is the status of Sam Keller, as it appears that his Husker career ended this afternoon with a shoulder injury that is speculated to be a broken collarbone. Which raises the question...who's next? Joe Ganz is likely to get the start next Saturday against the undefeated Kansas Jayhawks. (Yes, that's right... Mangino's bunch is 8-0. Go figure.) But the speculation is that the best quarterback in Lincoln this fall is Patrick Witt, the freshman who up to now appeared to be redshirting. Witt apparently is now the backup, and now one hit away from burning his redshirt. But does it make sense to risk burning a redshirt in 2007? In 2005, it made sense to bring in Harrison Beck late against Kansas State. But with the way 2007 is unfolding, it would seem to be foolish to waste a year of Witt's eligibility at this point.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UNO Hockey Gets Blasted by #2 Miami

Well, I figured that the schedule would get a LITTLE tougher after opening with an exhibition against Manitoba and a win against Alabama-Huntsville. But tonight, UNO's freshmen defensive corps got a painful introduction to the CCHA, losing 7-2 to #2 Miami. Listened to much of the game on the radio, and there were a few positives to take away. UNO outshot Miami (for what it's worth) 35-24, and were still within reach at 4-2 with five minutes left in the game before Miami exploded at the end. And eight freshmen got a baptism by fire in their first conference game on the road.

But by that same token, giving up two shorthanded goals tonight continues an ugly trend we saw last season, not to mention an end-of-game meltdown that turned the game into a rout. It's a long season, so you don't want to read too much into a single game. The schedule makers didn't do UNO any favors to open the season: #2 Miami on the road, #6 Michigoon next week in Omaha, followed by a road trip to #19 Ohio State. (Of course, Ohio State got blasted by Miami 5-1 both nights last weekend, so UNO and the Buckeyes might be a good matchup...) UNO needs to regroup and learn from their mistakes quickly, as UNO can't afford a slow start this season.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Big 12 Roundtable--Huskers and Jayhawks Heading in Opposite Directions

This week's Big 12 Roundtable is being hosted by our friends over at the Big Red Network.

1. Will firing Steve Pederson help Nebraska's program long term or will they be as bad or worse off without him?
First of all, some disclosure: I called for Pederson's termination after the Missouri game. So you can guess my position on this. Since then, we've learned more about Pederson's management issues that Harvey Perlman cited in his dismissal. The football program continues it's freefall. So not only did Pederson alienate many boosters, fans, and former players, he also alienated most of the staff. In that light, it's very unlikely that Pederson's termination could make things much worse long term. Tom Osborne immediately calms the furor and gives just about everyone hope that things will turn around long term. Of course, that's making the assumption that (a) Osborne is going to fire Bill Callahan and (b) Osborne can find a qualified, quality head coach.

2. Can Kansas keep winning conference games, not just this year but on into the future?
Missouri fans will disagree, but I think Kansas is definitely improved this season. I've felt that the big guy was the best coach in the Big XII North, and this season does nothing to change my opinion. It seems that Mangino is now upping the talent level down in Lawrence as well, which bodes well for the future for Kansas football. That being said, we're seeing EVERYBODY (except Nebraska, of course) improving in the North, so questions about the long term viability of the Jayhawks will remain. Mangino could improve the Jayhawks, yet have them remain near the middle of the pack.

3. Is Sam Bradford at OU good enough to lead the Sooners to victories in all of their remaining games or will he meltdown again like he did late against CU?
Bradford's a freshman, remember. Ok, so he's struggled when he's played outside the state of Oklahoma, but he's been generally solid for the most part. We'll see how he finishes the last two games (against Tech and Oklahoma State), but I wouldn't bet against him. If I had to put my money on anything, I'd rather bet on Bradford and the Sooners than against him in any of these games.

4. Do the routs of ISU and Baylor mean Texas is firing on all cylinders or will this be another disappointing season in Austin?
Ummm....Texas only led Baylor 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter last Saturday before pulling away late. That's not a rout in my book. Looking at Texas, they seem to alternate between "Good Texas" and "Bad Texas". "Good" played TCU, Rice, Oklahoma, and Iowa State. "Bad" played Arkansas State, Central Florida, Kansas State, and Baylor. Bad news for the Huskers...that means "Good Texas" is scheduled to appear this Saturday. But this schizophrenic habit has to be disappointing for Texas fans this season.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nebraska Football: Just What is The Problem?

The lady who sits by me frequently at the games asked me towards the end of the game what I thought the problem with the Huskers were. The very short answer ("Everything") isn't accurate. The most accurate short answer ("Coaching") isn't complete. It's really a systematic failure of the program. So let's look across the program and get an idea of where this program is.

Ah, the old strawman of talent. We've been beaten over the head with the idea that only talent matters and that Bill Callahan and company have been bringing an unprecendented level of talent to Lincoln. Now that strawman is being ripped apart by the reality that the talent argument has been taken to absurd levels. Talent is important, but it's only part of the equation. Furthermore, we've seen recruiting prioritize on recruiting offensive skill players, many of whom don't see the field (Chris Brooks, Menolik Holt, Niles Paul, etc.) but not enough defensive linemen and linebackers. And many of the defensive recruits have been junior college players with only a couple of years to play before their time is up. While the defensive line should be back next year, only Phillip Dillard returns among the top five linebackers. That means Nebraska's next coaching staff has their work cut out for them to fill this hole.

Strength and Conditioning
Dave Kennedy was supposed to be the guy who was supposed to bring "Husker Power" back, but so far, the evidence isn't terribly convincing. He certainly didn't make much of a difference at Pitt, and it appears that he's not doing it at Nebraska either. For what it's worth, Travis Justice said on KXSP-AM last week that he had been told by someone "in the business" that Kennedy was the "worst strength coach in the nation." (Of course, you have to take the source with a grain of salt.) That being said, you certainly don't hear any rave reviews of Kennedy's work, and in fact, you hear many former players suggesting that Kennedy's program isn't working.

The photo of wide receiver Will Henry's playbook has been posted all over the internet. Let's be honest here... most college textbooks are smaller than this. We've also seen Sam Keller and Joe Dailey have to run to the sidelines to get the playcall right. So we know the offense is too complex. Players who aren't sure of what they are doing are hesitant, and hesitant players play slow. Football is supposed to be instinctive, and this playbook doesn't allow that.

Adding to the problem is Callahan's practice routine of focusing the majority of repetitions on the starters, leaving the reserves to watch on the sideline and not get much work. Player development is essentially limited to spring and preseason practice, which doesn't bode well for the future. No practice means no chance to master the playbook, thus creating a vicious cycle of mediocrity.

This one's been beaten to the ground. Whether it's Kevin Cosgrove's love of playing "prevent" defenses all game long or Bill Callahan's rather predicable personnel/formation groupings, it's become almost a laughingstock that opposing teams can master them in one week, while our players never seem to master them.

Reports of disfunction are nothing new to this coaching staff. In 2004, people outside the Nebraska locker room heard the coaching staff doing battle with each other at Iowa State. Callahan took off the headphones late against Missouri this year. Jay Norvell, John Blake, and Scott Downing all apparantly left Lincoln privately unhappy as well. If the coaches aren't all on the same page, then the players are getting conflicting instructions as well, leading to more dissent. No wonder the players seem to be merely going through the motions. That makes three lost teams for Bill Callahan in the last five years: 2003 Raiders, 2004 Huskers, and now 2007.

The good news is that none of this is necessarily fatal. In fact, good personnel decisions by Tom Osborne can address four of the five issues for future seasons. That doesn't help things for 2007, however.

Power Poll - Week 8

1. LSU (They keep dodging bullets...)
2. Ohio State (Dodged a bullet from Sparty)
3. Boston College
4. Oklahoma (Trailing the Cyclones? That's going to leave a mark...)
5. Florida (Would be higher if they could play "D"...)
6. Arizona State
7. Oregon
8. Missouri
9. Kansas
10. USC (As long as Sanchez continues to play quarterback...)

1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri (Throttling a hot Tech team gives you Tiger fans the bump you've been whining for...)
3. Kansas (Tiger fans need to check out Sagarin...#2 in the country!)
4. Texas
5. Texas Tech
6. Kansas State
7. Oklahoma State
8. Colorado
9. Texas A&M
10-t. Baylor
10-t. Nebraska
12. Iowa State

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Husker Football 14, Maverick Hockey 13

Today, I got a rare Husker Football/Maverick Hockey doubleheader, and believe me it was a tale of two programs heading in opposite directions. When UNO hockey nearly outscores the Huskers in football this weekend, that pretty much says it all.

Three weeks ago, I told JJ from CornNation after the Iowa State game that the Huskers had to significantly improve or they'd go 0-for-4 in October. Since then, the Huskers have been blown out three weeks in a row and now have to head to Austin to face the Longhorns. Followed by a road trip to Lawrence to take on the undefeated (yep...that's right...) Kansas Jayhawks. Nebraska still needs to find two more wins after getting blown out in two of the more winnable games down the stretch.

A lot is being made of Shawn Watson taking over the playcalling in the early part of the game...a definite sign that this staff hasn't completely given up on this season. If the coaching staff reviews the results, you'd have to argue that Watson should get the job permanently. Callahan's play calls in the two minute drill featured short throw after short throw to Marlon Lucky which weren't going to get the Huskers anywhere near scoring range. And the goose egg on the scoreboard in the second half with Callahan back in charge speaks volumes. Do I really expect Watson to take over play calling next week? Of course not. Remember, Bill Callahan is doing an excellent job, remember?

Meanwhile, we watched that old obsolete option offense run through the Husker defense like a hot knife through butter. You'd think that after watching A&M struggle to throw the ball last week, you'd see the Huskers try to stack the line and try to stop the Aggie run game and dare them to throw. Of course not. Stephen McGee ran for 167 yards, but could have easily run for well over 200 if he would have turned several runs upfield instead of being satisfied to dart out of bounds after a moderate gain.

Now the rumor mill is alive with talk that Callahan and Cosgrove are close to accepting a buyout to resign. Is it believable? Hard to say. The same rumor mill says that Nebraska is already talking to Bo Pelini at LSU (very unlikely in the middle of the Tigers' season) and would bring Turner Gill back as offensive coordinator (yeah, he'd give up a head coaching job to become a coordinator) Heck, why not suggest that Charlie McBride was going to take over. (Oh wait, we heard that one too...)

Bottom line... such talk is more wishful thinking than anything else. Tom Osborne told us yesterday that there are no easy fixes. Repairing the damage that Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan inflicted to this program is going to take time. The question much more damage can be done? We already see that the players are disenfranchised. But what if Bill Callahan starts pulling the redshirts of guys like Marcus Mendoza or Patrick Witt? Would the minimal playing time and contributions that newcomers seem to make under Callahan be worth the loss of a season of eligibility in the future? Frankly...I see more downside than upside to desperation moves.

Hold your breath Husker fans... 4-8 is looking more and more like the Huskers final destination this season. Who saw this coming? Nobody. Even AJ the Huskerh8er predicted a 6-6. How we now hope that AJ was right?

I did make it back to Omaha in time to catch most of UNO's 5-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsville in the season opening Stampede. Considering the number of players out this weekend due to injuries and other issues, a very impressive debut for a freshmen dominated team. Yes, Manitoba and Alabama-Huntsville is not tough competition, so you can't gauge much from it. But it was a nice start. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about UNO... next weekend is a road trip to #2 Miami, followed by the #6 Weasels of Michigoon.

Right now, I'd rather put my money behind the Mavs than the Huskers the next couple of weeks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Case Anybody Didn't Realize It... There's A Game Tomorrow

As Nebraska fell behind Colorado quickly in 2004, an older Husker fan and I could only shake our heads and yell towards the athletic director's skybox "You can't get rid of us this easily!" I made a vow that while I was going to continue to criticize Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan, I never was going to give up on the Huskers. And I haven't... I've continued to attend the games even when nobody else wanted to. I ate tickets in 2004 and 2005 as the Huskers stumbled and bumbled, but I was there.

But it almost ended last week. It had very little to do with Missouri's 41-6 pasting of the Huskers the week before, though it starts that day. I was on top of a ladder, helping my parents out, when suddenly the ladder fell over, sending me to the ground. Fortunately, nothing was broken...but I've been on crutches since. The doc in the emergency room told me I'd be on crutches for 3-5 days and gave me some great pain-killers that sadly, didn't dull the pain of watching the Tigers manhandle the Huskers. I figured, 3-5 days, I should be ready for Oklahoma State.

By Wednesday last week, I knew that while my hip was better, it was looking doubtful to be able to make it to the game. I put the ticket up for sale; I hated to do it, but I was having enough trouble getting around the house, let alone get to the game.

But nobody bit. Saturday morning came around, the ticket was still unsold. And finally I said, like the "Little Engine That Could", I might as well give it a try. I was getting around better, and it might take me a while, but I'm not giving up this easily. So off to Lincoln I went. It took nearly a half hour to crutch my way from my parking spot at Haymarket Park to Memorial Stadium. The crutches almost slipped me up on the wet floor of the restroom (ewww!), but I managed to keep some balance. I worked my way up the ramp, and all the way to my seat in row 86.

Was it worth it? Well, as the Huskers fell behind 38-0 at halftime, I could have questioned it. I went down at halftime to grab something to eat, seeing quite a few fans leaving early, but I returned to my seat. The players may have given up on their coaches, but no way was I giving up on the team. A lot has been said about the fans who left in the 1st and 2nd quarter, but I assure you, they were in the minority. I was surprised when the second half kicked off that the stadium was still remarkably full. There were noticable open seats in the club seating and student sections, but probably 65-70 thousand stuck around. A few left in the third quarter, and quite a few left in the fourth quarter. But let's face it, the number of fans who stayed was extremely impressive.

AJ the Huskerh8er loves to ridicule the arrogant Husker fan, and it's hard to disagree with him most of the time. Husker fans, coaches, and athletic directors frequently say and do dumb things, and he takes great delight in taking us down a few pegs. And he's usually spot on.

But the fans that stayed last Saturday deserve special kudos. We had every reason to skip out on the team...but we didn't. The Huskers may be on their way to their worst season since before Bob Devaney arrived in Lincoln, but many fans aren't giving up on the Big Red, no matter how little they've been lately.

It's been a tumultuous week, with Steve Pederson finally being put out of our misery and Tom Osborne taking over. Osborne's arrival doesn't change the dynamics of the football team. The coaching staff is intact, and Osborne's arrival doesn't automatically give players heart or fundamentals. It gives us hope for future seasons that things will be different, but doesn't offer much optimism for the rest of this season.

So tomorrow, I'll grab my crutches and repeat my slow trek back to the upper reaches of South Stadium. The weather looks fantastic, even if the Huskers chances on the field may look anything but fantastic. (Hey, coach Fran appears to be on just as big of a hot seat!) If you have tickets, hopefully I don't get in your way as I slowly maneuver my way. If you don't have tickets, head on down to Lincoln if you can. Tickets appear to be plentiful and cheap, and even if the Huskers don't win, you can at least take some solace knowing that you are not a bandwagon fan and that you didn't give up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: Back to the Future Edition

Well, with all of the developments around Husker football this week, the Big Red Bloggers have frantically reassembled themselves to put in their two cents on everything.

1. Steve Pederson is out as athletic director. Did you see it coming? Good move or bad move?
I have to say that anybody who didn't see this coming wasn't paying much attention. Yes, Pederson got a contract extension, but since when do contracts keep people from being fired? If you are doing a horrible job, you'll get fired. Steve Pederson's job security was purely based on the progress Bill Callahan had made, going 8-4 and then 9-5 the last two years. He never recovered from the circus-like coaching search and continued to stumble with fans, boosters, and former players. With Callahan now in a six game free-fall with no end in sight, Pederson was a goner. Frankly, it was inevitable.

2. Tom Osborne has returned as Pederson's interim replacement. Good move/bad move? What should Osborne's priorities be, and what does Osborne need to do?
Frankly, who else would you choose? Fans, boosters, and former players were angry. Osborne immediately calms the sea of dissent. Heck, even the clouds parted and the sun re-emerged across Lincoln and Omaha once Perlman's press release was announced. (That might just be a coincedence, though... :-) What should Osborne's priorities be? Simple. Take a good hard look at Nebraska football, and if it's off course, plot a new course. That and get all the unhappy boosters and former players back into the program.

3. The Huskers have been blown out two straight weeks. What is happening with the football team, and what does the rest of the season look like?
Frankly, this looks like a team that has given up on their coaches. They aren't having fun and at this point, it looks like neither the coaches nor the players particularly care anymore. A lot of people don't think Tom Osborne can fire a coach, but unless he sees something I can't see (very possible since Osborne has forgotten more about football than I'll ever know), he won't have much of a choice. From what I see, this is a team that could very easily lose every game in October and November. That's a scary thought. I really, really, really hope I'm wrong.

4. and are getting lots of internet traffic. Steve Pederson is already gone. Tom Osborne says nobody will be fired during the season. What happens with this coaching staff?
Like I suggested, I think this staff has already thrown in the towel. Can it be salvaged? Highly unlikely. I think these gentlemen know that this house of cards has collapsed, and many are already moving on. Bill Callahan really stretched his reputation when he told the assembled press that "in my heart of hearts I'm doing an excellent job" while in the middle of a six game stretch of poor play that hasn't been seen in Lincoln since before Bob Devaney. Keep up that type of talk, Bill, and you'll find yourself fired for the final time as a head football coach and a major institution (BCS college football or NFL team).

So what do the rest of the Roundtable have to offer?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big 12 Roundtable--Stealing Coaches Edition

This week's roundup is hosted by Midwest Coast Bias.

1. If you could steal another coach at any level (head, assistant, etc.) from another school, who would it be and why?
Considering how Nebraska's coaching staff seems to be lost, I'd probably take anybody other than Lyle Setencich, who resigned from Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago. But right now if I could choose, I'd take LSU's Bo Pelini. A defensive mastermind and he seems to find a way to make his players play hard for him. Something that is sorely lacking with the Huskers right now.

2. What two teams will play for the Big XII Championship and why?
Right now, I'll take Oklahoma vs. Missouri. A very good argument could be made for OU vs. Kansas. I think in the end, Missouri will beat Kansas in Arrowhead, barring the Pinkel factor rearing it's ugly head. And the Sooners, well, they are the class of the conference.

3. What is the best bowl game your team has a realistic shot at and, if your team has a shot, who would you like to play in said bowl?
Right now, the Huskers are headed for the Toilet Bowl. But if they can somehow turn it around and pick up a couple of wins, they might get a chance at the Independence Bowl...woo hoo! Let's face it, if we get to a bowl game...we're not going to be picky as to who we play.

4. If given the opportunity, would you keep the Big XII status quo or kick out a team and go to a Big 10-style conference play?
Who would get kicked out? Baylor would be the easy answer, since they haven't been competitive in football in the Big XII. And it's a long distance from Lincoln. Conversely, kicking out Iowa State removes the shortest road trip for the Huskers. The idea of playing Oklahoma and Texas most years sounds attractive though. Nebraska's two "rivals" would probably be Colorado and Iowa State. So we'd probably be giving up games against Missouri, Kansas, and Kansas State for more games against the South. I wasn't a big fan of this idea at first, but looks a lot more attractive when you start thinking about it in detail. Maybe the Big 10/11 has a good idea after all!

5. Rank the Big XII Teams
Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri (narrowly behind Kansas), Kansas State, Texas Tech, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor/Nebraska, Iowa State

Power Poll - Week 7

OK, I can't do it any longer. Everybody has a wart, so undefeateds do not necessarily trump a 1-loss team. Crappy wins count for less than explainable losses now.

1. LSU (Yep...not much of a penalty for losing in triple OT on the road against a ranked team...)
2. Ohio State (Still not a big fan...)
3. Oklahoma (Again... a bad half against Colorado still looks better than some teams wins...)
4. South Florida (A 27-13 victory over Elon looks MUCH worse than LSU and Oklahoma's losses)
5. Florida
6. Boston College
7. Oregon
8. Kansas (Hey, Sagarin has them FOURTH!)
9. South Carolina
10. Arizona State

Big XII Standings
1. Oklahoma
2. Kansas
3. Missouri (You could argue that losing to the Sooners by 10 means more than Kansas non-conference wins...)
4. Kansas State
5. Texas Tech
6. Texas (Mack's boys are schizo. One week they look like the #2 team in the conference, the next, they look like the #10 team. So I'll average it out...)
7. Colorado
8. Oklahoma State
9. Texas A&M
10-t. Baylor
10-t. Nebraska (Boy, does THAT hurt...)
12. Iowa State

Tom Osborne Rides Again

Well, it didn't exactly happen the way I thought it would in June, but one thing is clear about Tom Osborne's return to the athletic department. I said then that the "road to Husker Unity goes through Steve Pederson and Tom Osborne", implying that Steve Pederson should open the doors to the athletic department to contributions from Tom Osborne.

Well, Steve is thankfully gone, and replaced by none other than Tom Osborne.

Neither Osborne's presence nor Pederson's absence will change the fact that Nebraska hasn't been able to tackle since Labor Day, nor that Nebraska has been outscored 96-20 this month. It doesn't change my opinion that this football team gave up on this coaching staff a month ago, and that despite assurances to the contrary, this coaching staff has as much unity as the Bundy family.

No, this one is for fans and boosters. This one is for the future. This one is for the alums and the former players.

But what about the current players? What happens to them? That's a good question. Although they say the right things, it's obvious they checked out on this staff a long time ago. And with Osborne's statement that he's not making staff changes during the season, the status quo prevails. Which means that the divide between coaches and players will probably get worse, not better.

Here's hoping that one of Osborne's first calls is to Jack Stark, to get the staff psychologist back on staff to help this team out. Callahan might not like it, but that's too bad. Callahan knows that he's out after the season. His brown sweater at the press conference was a non-verbal statement that he's no longer "N". Will the rest of the staff just go through the motions the rest of the season? That's a good question. And one that might affect their job prospects as they move on in their careers.

But unfortunately for fans, that makes it more likely that the Huskers aren't going to pull out of their tailspin this season. That will make the rest of the season tough on fans, but will make the decisions at the end of the season much easier to make and to accept.

Monday, October 15, 2007

End of an Error: Steve Pederson Fired

Ok, I'll admit it... I was happy when Steve Pederson's firing was confirmed this afternoon ... but mostly for the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong, I think it was a desperately needed move for Nebraska athletics.

But is it really a day to celebrate? Only for selfish reasons. I called for his firing twice, most recently last week. Should I really be taking enjoyment out of someone else's misfortune? Certainly, Pederson wonders where he'll go from here, though is $2+ million dollar severance will cushion the blow to him personally. And it's not like he's an innocent victim; he earned his title of Nebraska's Enemy of the State.

And it's not like this suddenly solves all of the Huskers problems. It's not like Pederson's firing is going to suddenly mean that the Huskers are going to suddenly be able to tackle an opponent or score a touchdown while the game is still in doubt.

What this means is that very soon we can close the whole sorry chapter of the Steve Pederson Error. Next month, Nebraska will fire most, if not all, of the football coaching staff, who have lost just about all of the players on this squad. A new athletic director will once again select a new head coach. The future of Nebraska football looks very unclear at this point.

Change does not mean things will get better, it just means they will be different. Let's look at our rivals to the south, the Oklahoma Sooners.

When their legendary coach left, they handed their program to a long-time trusted assistant, who did an OK job, but never reached the success of their legendary coach. So their athletic director made a bold decision, and hired an outsider who had taken another team to surprising heights once.

Bill Callahan is very much like Howard Schnellenberger. He came in with grandiose plans to remake the Sooner programs ... and failed miserably. Schnellenberger "restored the order" briefly, even got the Sooners into the Top 10 before collapsing down the stretch. He never accepted Sooner history, and he resigned after one tumultuous season. Callahan's time is stretched over four seasons at Nebraska, but Callahan seems to be headed for the label "Nebraska's Schnellenberger".

A lot of Nebraska fans are calling for a "Nebraska man" to be named head coach. That could be a huge mistake if he's not the right coach. Barry Switzer thought John Blake was the right man, and pushed Oklahoma to hire him. Blake stumbled and bumbled his way through three seasons before he was gone as well.

No, Nebraska needs to find the RIGHT coach... a great coach that also recognizes and accepts Nebraska history. Oklahoma found that when they hired Joe Castiglione as athletic director, who turned around and hired Bob Stoops as head coach. Stoops was not a Sooner, but he embraced Sooner history. His first spring game, they lined up in the wishbone for the opening snap.

My point is that we don't necessarily need an athletic director or head coach with Nebraska ties...but rather an athletic director or coach that truly embraces Nebraska.

Would Tom Osborne be the right man to be athletic director, at least in the interim? Right now, he would seem to be the logical choice and he's earned the right to this position. Nobody is more qualified to analyze the Nebraska football program and select the next head coach.

That being said, the next football coach doesn't need to be a former Nebraskan. If he is, that's frosting on the cake.

On one hand, today is a sad day because of the last four years of turmoil in Husker Nation. Fans have been divided about the 2003 coaching change, and it's never healed. So far, Pederson's firing has seemed to do what Pederson himself couldn't do: unite the fan base. In recent days, nearly all Pederson supporters have either changed their mind or accepted that it wasn't working. But if today's changes result in a much more unified Husker fan base, we hopefully will look back at today as a great day in Husker history.

So is today a happy day or sad day? Or is it both? We'll know for sure in a few years. Perhaps the best way to describe today is that the Pederson Error is finally over.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Odor Restored: Nebraska's Worst Home Loss since 1958

Halftime score from Lincoln, Nebraska: Oklahoma State 38, Nebraska 0.

Let me repeat. Halftime score from Lincoln, Nebraska: Oklahoma State 38, Nebraska 0.

Let's be honest here. There really isn't much more you can add here. I've already called for Steve Pederson to be terminated, and if you still support Pederson after today's 45-14 home throttling, there's nothing more I can say.

Although I've questioned Bill Callahan extensively, I've held back on the calls to terminate him. Tom Osborne used to say that you needed to give coaches at least five or six years to let them get their systems into place. So while I've criticized frequently questioned Callahan's decisions and certainly have questioned whether Bill Callahan is the right man to lead Nebraska football, I've held short of calling for his firing. Today's home loss, the worst since Missouri beat Bill Jenning's 1958 team 31-0, really raises the alarm level. Look at Bill Callahan's postgame quotes and you'll see a coach who is not only emotionally unattached to this program but also is unaware as to what the problems with his football team are:
"This is ultimately disappointing for our football team today. I really felt coming into this contest that we were going to play more competitively, but that wasn’t the case."
On losing his team (much like he did with the 2003 Raiders and 2004 Huskers):
"I don’t think so. I thought the way (we) came back in the second half was pretty indicative of their efforts. I thought (we) came back and competed."
On his response to trailing 38-0 at home:
"We just wanted to be patient in the respect that I sensed the kids were a little tense, a little nervous."
On where the team goes from here:
"There’s always hope. It starts again tomorrow, and it goes through the week in our preparation for A&M. "

There you have it... a man with no idea what the problems with this team are. And with no ideas as to what the problems are, no idea what the solutions are.

Other than hope.

Is that your final answer, Bill?

Friday, October 12, 2007

MECA & Hal Daub: Anti-Omaha

Yesterday's meeting of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority turned the whole debate over how to build a new stadium for the College World Series into a full-fledged circus. You had David Sokol, fresh off of doing battle with UNO over the mismanagement of Nancy Belck and Jim Buck, rehashing the idea of remodeling Rosenblatt instead. You had former mayor Hal Daub defiantly trying to sabotage the future of the College World Series by pandering to the opposition.

The idea of remodeling Rosenblatt is an idea that has been rejected yet gets brought back up like a stinking carcass. I don't know if today's World-Herald story about the NCAA rejecting the remodeling last spring can finally kill this or not. I don't know how to say this any clearer:

Omaha: Either build the NCAA a new stadium, probably downtown, or say goodbye to the College World-Series after 2010.

Think the NCAA is bluffing? Think again. Ask the folks in Kansas City, who lost the NCAA offices to Indianapolis. They'll tell you the NCAA means business.

Think nobody else can do the College World Series justice? Think again. Again, ask the folks in Kansas City, who lost the Big XII Basketball tournament to a rotation between Kansas City, Dallas, and now Oklahoma City.

Not sure Lot D at the Qwest Center is the right place to put the stadium? Fair question; let's look into alternatives. Threatening lawsuits between governmental entities is not a solution, however. It's grandstanding. And leading the grandstanding is former Omaha mayor Hal Daub. Still smarting after having to call off his senatorial campaign after just a couple of weeks, he's already looking to cash in on the public outcry against the plan to save the College World-Series. And obviously smarting over Mayor Mike Fahey's plan that would grant Omaha the College World-Series through 2031, Daub seems to be doing everything in his power to sabotage the future of the College World Series in Omaha.

There are still plenty of questions that need to be worked out. How do we pay for this, what do we build, how much is it going to cost? At some point, the people of Omaha need their leaders to put their own selfish self-interests aside and figure out what makes the most sense for Omaha. I see the Mayor trying to do that, though he's struggling in the public relations aspect of it.

MECA's worry about the future expansion of the convention center seems especially selfish. It's not like the convention center has performed particularly well under MECA's leadership. It's being heavily subsidized by the Qwest Center arena. Do we pick an inferior location for the stadium "just in case" MECA gets their act together with conventions? Here's an idea for MECA... rather than fight the stadium, make the convention center so profitable that nobody would want to take the risk of putting the stadium there.

In this situation, Omaha needs it's leaders to put the city first. The College World Series brings in $35 million of economic impact each year, in 2003 numbers. All these Not-In-My-Back-Yard arguments against the new stadium hold any weight with that $35 million on the other side.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bo Pelini: A Special Coach We Drove Away

One of today's featured articles at Yahoo! was a great feature on LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. It almost seems unfair to bring up the name Bo with Nebraska's defense today that only gives fans a sense of woe. Here's a few tidbits:
On the morning of the biggest game of his career, college football's top assistant coach is standing on a grass field, watching a bunch of 8-year-olds play soccer.

Across town, many of the 92,000 fans who will attend LSU's showdown against defending national champion Florida are already stirring gumbo and guzzling Miller Lite in the parking lot at Tiger Stadium.

But to Bo Pelini, that game is no more important than the one he's at now – mainly because his son, Patrick, is among the players trying to kick the ball into the net.

"It's fun watching your kids grow up," Pelini, who also has two daughters, says later. "Baseball, t-ball, gymnastics, ballet. I try not to miss anything."

LSU's defensive coordinator pauses for a moment and grins.

"But," Pelini says, "I do think a few people get freaked out when they see me standing on the soccer field the morning of such a big game."

Those people obviously underestimated Pelini, who helped LSU maintain its spot atop the Associated Press poll with a 28-24 win over Florida.

Head coach Les Miles said he knew he'd gotten a gem when he plucked Pelini away from Oklahoma following the 2004 season.

Miles was the head coach at Oklahoma State when Pelini was at Nebraska. After watching game tape, Miles thought he'd figured out a way to expose the Cornhuskers' defense.

"But when we played them," Miles said, "they ended up using a totally different scheme. They beat us, and after that I started watching more and more of their film. He was coming up with different plans every week. Each game it evolved."

Miles knew he wanted that kind of strategist on his staff, and he was also impressed by the newspaper articles he read about the way Nebraska's players got behind Pelini and urged the administration – albeit unsuccessfully – to hire him as their head coach.

"Those players wanted him to be there, and that said a lot," Miles said. "At that point I had never met him, but I knew I wanted him on my staff."

Count me as one who would much rather have the BoShirts back in Lincoln rather than Coz's WoeShirts. Pelini detractors like to bring up Missouri, Texas, and Kansas State as some sort of proof that Pelini isn't that good. Obviously, those fans weren't paying much attention to those games:

  • Missouri: Nebraska turns the ball over 3 times inside their own 10 yard line, leading to 3 touchdowns. Nebraska loses by 17.
  • Texas: Vince Young? Cedric Benson? A lot of NFL teams have problems with these guys.
  • Kansas State: Yeah, the Wildcats ran free in the 4th quarter. But not nearly as bad as they ran free over Oklahoma (that season's "greatest team ever") to win the Big XII Championship.
Yahoo's Jason King suggests that Pelini might be up for jobs at A&M (when they get tired of Fran), LSU (if Les Miles returns to Ann Arbor and the Weasels), Virginia (like Bill Callahan, Al Groh gets lots of recruits), Arizona (would he really want to take over for a fired family friend?), and Baylor (Bo can do better than that). Would he come back to Lincoln? Deep down, I'd like to think so, provided a certain athletic director is gone.

More about Bo:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Husker Nation Spits Back the Kool-Aid

It's increasingly looking like last Saturday night's 41-6 beatdown by Missouri was the last straw for most Husker fans. Pessimism and dissatisfaction seems to be the order of the day throughout HuskerNation. Even the most pro-Pederson/Callahan sites seem to be resigned to the idea that there are major problems with Husker football. Only the normally clear-headed folks still seem to like the Huskers chances for the rest of the season. Mathematically, they are correct. Nebraska could win the rest of their games and resurrect their season. However, that perspective really only applies if you look at the conference standings. It certainly denies the problems that we've seen the last five weeks.

Last year, AJ the HuskerH8er asked twice if that week's game was a "must win". I said no both times. I now think the next two games are "must wins"... mostly because if they don't win those games, they must find a way to win three of the final four games to become bowl eligible (@ Texas, @ Kansas, Kansas State, and @ Colorado). Failure to make a bowl game this season should pretty much guarantee pink slips for all, and even making a bowl game won't ensure job security.

My co-worker HuskerDave took issue with my resurrecting the "Fire Steve Pederson" cry, saying that Tom Osborne once said that teams couldn't keep firing people after four years. The difference is that Osborne was talking about coaches, not administrators. Not to mention that Pederson has been athletic director for five years. In any event, I'm not calling for Bill Callahan to be fired yet. (He certainly doesn't deserve the extension he got a month ago...) The sooner Pederson is gone, the sooner the next athletic director can evaluate Callahan and his program. Not to mention, the sooner Husker Nation can fully reunite. The longer Pederson remains, it becomes more likely the entire group (coaches and administrators alike) will be purged if this team doesn't pull out of it's tailspin fairly quickly.

Pederson continues to believe in this staff, for what it's worth. Last night on his so-called "call-in" show (where they haven't taken phone calls in 4 years), he said that he has faith in his decisions from years ago. Denial? Not really. Deep down, Pederson knows that his job depends on the success of the football program. It's too late for apologies, too late to ask for forgiveness. He knows that if this team continues to tank, he's history. So he has no choice but to stand tall and support the coaching staff he brought to Lincoln, even if his words ring hollow (hypocrite?) in light of his actions in 2003.

The heat on Kevin Cosgrove continues to intensify with a few scud missiles fired at him from Columbia, Missouri today:

Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen:
"I was a little bit surprised that they went just about the entire game getting pressure on us with a three-man rush. Obviously, it didn’t work very well. I don’t foresee Oklahoma doing that or at least making a living doing that."
Tiger quarterback Chase Daniel went even further:

"They’re very stubborn. Cosgrove’s a very stubborn guy. It’s always been that way. … That’s just how he is, that’s how they are. They’re a bunch of confident guys in what they do, and they felt they had the best chance doing that, so they stuck with it.

"You can’t just play one defense the whole entire game. That’s like high school stuff that I faced in high school, so it’s nothing new for me."

Oh, by the way, does everybody remember that Oklahoma State also runs a spread offense, as do many of the remaining teams on Nebraska's schedule. That's another reason why many Husker fans are skeptical that this five game slide is going to reverse itself anytime soon. The so-called "easy wins" (Iowa State and Ball State) are already collected, and now it's time to face the music.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Big 12 Roundtable--The Aftermath

This week's Roundtable is hosted by ...

Some teams are coming off a big win or wins (Oklahoma, Colorado, KU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Missouri), while others are dealing with the sting of a tough loss or losses (K-State, Texas, Nebraska, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State). Tell us where your team is headed in the wake of the first two weeks of conference play.

Special guest commentator Turbo provides his expert analysis of where this Nebraska football season seems to be heading:

Colorado and Texas A&M have emerged as unlikely conference leaders at 2-0 (give yourself a cookie if you predicted that), while preseason darlings Texas (0-2) and Nebraska (1-1 and not playing well) are floundering. Do the current leaders have the wherewithal to make it to San Antonio, or will somebody from elsewhere in the pack overtake them?
Not very likely. In the North, Kansas and Missouri are the class of the bunch, while Oklahoma is clearly the South leaders, even considering Oklahoma's bad performance against Colorado. Texas isn't all people thought they would be, and Nebraska is in a free-fall.

A few weeks ago we did a ranking of the six BCS conferences, with most bloggers picking the Big 12 in the middle of the pack, which would be a big improvement over the last couple years. Have the middle and bottom teams of the conference improved significantly, or have the teams at the top declined significantly? Or is it something else?
Missouri and Kansas both have improved significantly. The Tigers gave Illinois their only loss of the year, and Kansas have throttled everybody in sight. In the past, both teams would be considered mediocre. And in the South, Oklahoma is still ruling the roost. On the other hand, Nebraska's worst team in 45 years still defeated an ACC team on the road.

Getting waaaaay ahead of ourselves: What if Missouri or KU goes undefeated and wins the Big 12 Championship Game? Would they get a shot at the national championship game?
With the upsets we've seen this year? Very likely. Assuming that this victor will have defeated Oklahoma in San Antonio, they'll probably have as much cred as anybody else. Part of the problem with the current rating systems is that people ask these types of questions in September and early October. Ask this question in 6 weeks when we have a better idea of how good everybody is --- or isn't.

Rank the conference teams
As posted earlier, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Baylor, Iowa State

Power Poll - Week 6

My original "invincible" three now is down to one...and even that isn't quite so invincible.

1. LSU
2. Cal (almost by default)
3. Ohio State (also by default)
4. Oklahoma (sorry, but I can't rate those other teams this high...)
5. Florida (lead LSU most of the evening in Death Valley...)
6. South Florida
7. Boston College
8. Oregon
9. USC
10. Kansas (They'rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre baaaaaaaaaaaack!)

And in the Big XII:

1. Oklahoma
2. Kansas
3. Missouri (Tigers probably would be 11th or 12th in the overall Power Poll...)
4. Kansas State
5. Colorado
6. Texas
7. Texas A&M
8. Oklahoma State
9. Texas Tech
10. Nebraska (Now officially in a free-fall... Mayday! Mayday!)
11. Baylor
12. Iowa State

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's Time to Pull the Plug on Steve Pederson

A year ago, the Nebraska Touchdown Club sent a magazine to boosters that led off with the following message after last year's Texas game:
"So if you haven't done so already, it's time to send Steve Pederson a thank you note and let him know that you can see now that he was right all along. Thank him for keeping the faith."
That message looks even more out of line now than it did when it first came out. In fact, it now looks incredibly absurd. It's time to acknowledge where we are in year 4 of this NU regime.

Nebraska Football is a mess.

The implosion is already well underway. We've seen five weeks in a row of sub-par performances on the field. Last night we saw a Nebraska football team take the field ill-prepared to play Missouri and were dominated on both sides of the ball. Where do we begin with this?

Kevin Cosgrove? Certainly gets his share of the blame, but this is bigger than him.

Bill Callahan? Needs to accept even more of the blame, but again, this is bigger than him.

Simply put, this starts at the top. The road to recovery must begin with the departure of Steve Pederson, and as soon as possible.

Yes, I know Pederson just received a contract extension. I said at the time all this did was make the inevitable more expensive.

Yes, I know that Steve Pederson didn't miss any tackles, fail to make any blocks. But he hired the men responsible for ensuring that the Husker football program does this. In fact, he just gave them contract extensions, further raising questions about his ability to lead this program.

Last week, Nebraska's associate athletic director for fund-raising, Paul Meyers, announced his resignation, refusing to comment as to the reasons why, prefering to let Steve Pederson explain why. To Meyers' credit, he's trying to not to inflame the situation by announcing his reason for leaving, but it's obvious that he's escaping the sinking ship.

The laundry list of complaints against Steve Pederson from fans, boosters, and former players is too long to be repeated here. Yes, there are trivial things on the list like the tunnel walk. If that were the only complaint against Pederson, it would be easy to dismiss those charges.

After Nebraska's 2003 football season, Pederson fired a football coaching staff that had brought renewed enthusiasm to the team. 2004 saw Nebraska's first losing season since prior to Bob Devaney, prompting Pederson to proclaim that he was "even more excited about the future of Nebraska football." 2005 found the football program still struggling, with the low point being a 40-15 demolition by Kansas. I called for Pederson's resignation at that time as well. Last season, Nebraska talked about "resurgence", yet still wasn't able to reach the level of 2003. And now in 2007, Nebraska football (#36 in the latest Sagarin ratings) finds itself 4-2 after victories over Sagarin #92 Nevada, #46 Wake Forest, #76 Ball State, and #109 Ball State. Blowout losses against #7 USC and #15 Missouri.

Nebraska needs 2 or 3 victories to reach bowl eligibility. Here's the restof the schedule: #51 Oklahoma State, #45 Texas A&M, #26 Texas, #13 Kansas, #27 Kansas State, #29 Colorado. Is there two or three victories left, considering the level of play of the Huskers? That's really hard to say.

Furthermore, Sagarin's ratings now put Nebraska a unquestion fifth of six teams in the Big 12 North, trailing Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, and Colorado.

Four years ago, Steve Pederson claimed the would not surrender the Big XII to Oklahoma and Texas. The results of Pederson's changes? We've now surrendered to nearly the entire Big XII North.

Many folks want to make immediate changes to the coaching staff, but what does that solve? Who do you find midseason to take over? Coaching staff overhauls simply cannot be done at this time. We are simply going to have to swallow what is coming our way from the rest of the conference. Pressing the panic button won't help.

Firing Steve Pederson is first place to start. It immediately sets the message that things will not be the same. Already I've seen a few comments for Tom Osborne to return as athletic director. I'm not sure Osborne is the answer long term, but with the number of questions that will need to be solved this off-season with the Husker football program, there is nobody else more qualified to make those tough decisions. At the very least, Tom Osborne should be named interim athletic director immediately.

Replacing Pederson with Osborne starts in motion the healing process. Osborne brings credibility back to the athletic department and can soothe the hurt feelings of fans, boosters, and former players. Bringing Osborne in now gives him time to come in and be ready to make the tough decisions we are facing.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nebraska Football Exposed: HuskerNation in Mizery

Missouri's 41-6 blowout of the Cornhuskers exposes the Husker football program like it never has been exposed since 1961. For weeks, we've heard the excuses:
  • Wake Forest is a fine team and are the defending ACC champions. (Who are currently 49th in the Sagarin ratings.)
  • USC is lightyears above everybody else in college football (lost to woeful Stanford at home tonight)
  • Ball State was just a bad game, and hey, the offense looked incredible!
  • Iowa State got a few breaks and only got the yards they did because of a few turnovers and special teams penalties.
And you know what, the Kool-aid drinkers will point out Missouri is a pretty talented football team. Which is also true.

But only the most deluded kool-aid drinker can deny the truth staring HuskerNation dead in the eyes.

The 2007 Nebraska Cornhuskers are simply not a good football team.

One anonymous commenter this week suggested I was secretly working for Kansas State by ranking Nebraska fifth in the Big XII North last week. Can anybody seriously challenge that statement now?

What we saw tonight is proof that a huge fraud has been perpetrated in Lincoln.

This is bigger than Kevin Cosgrove. Yep, the Blackshirts gave up 603 yards to a pretty darn good Tiger offense. But the Husker offense only accounted for 274 yards against a Missouri defense that was 93rd (out of 119 D-1A teams) in total defense, giving up an average of 434 yards. The Huskers couldn't even score an offensive touchdown against a Missouri defense that gives up 25 points a game on average.

There is only one word to describe this: Pediocrity.

A lot is going to be said this next week. It is not going to be pretty. It is going to be ugly. But it is the truth.

New Stadium A Home Run for Omaha...Unless We Choose to Forfeit

More details were announced about the proposed downtown stadium for the College World Series, and the more I read, the more I realize what a no-brainer this is to do. Yet, I can't believe the nay-sayers who are outraged about this.

Are you f-ing kidding me? Are you really that stupid?

We have an incredible opportunity to lock in the College World Series for an unprecedented 20 years. The NCAA doesn't do deals like this. Ask the folks in Kansas City about it; they thought the NCAA would never leave. Then one day, the moving vans showed up and just like that, the NCAA was in Indianapolis. They also thought that Big 8/12 basketball would never leave; then the Texans who control the Big XII yanked it from the longtime home.

Grab the golden ring, Omaha. Don't be stupid.

It doesn't come without a cost. $95-$115 million is not chump change. But look at the rewards:

One Billion Dollars

Say it with a "Dr. Evil" twist: "One Billlllllllllllllllllllllllion Dollars!" That's the economic impact of a 20 year contract for the College World Series. Seriously, who in their right mind can say "No!" to this idea?

Don't like the proposed 2% "entertainment" tax? OK...let's find an alternative. You might say that we can't afford it...but can we afford losing the College World Series? If Omaha loses the College World Series, watch your taxes go up with the loss of out-of-town revenue. Not to mention the loss of prestige as Omaha loses it's premier event.

Nitpick the details if you wish. Some might argue the $25 million renovation of Rosenblatt makes sense. That'll buy the CWS another 5 years, maybe. Then we'll get the next bill...probably another $25 million for the next 5 years. Lather, rinse, repeat. Yes, we could hope to put together 4 singles and come out the same. Or worse... still lose the CWS after plunking a bunch of money into it. Or find out in 5 years that we need to spend $50 on top of the $25 million we need to spend now.

Don't screw this up, Omaha.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Nebraska at Missouri: A YouTube Collection

A lot of memories over the last 10 years for both teams...

2005: CozBohl forgets to defend Brad Smith

2003: Nebraska turns the ball over 4 times deep in their own territory

2001: Eric Crouch turns a safety into a touchdown with a Heisman Run

1997: Matt Davison's "Miracle at Missouri" (aka "You gotta believe!")

No matter what AJ prefers to remember... the ball never hit the ground...

Will any memories be made tomorrow night? Hard to say. Talking to JJ over at CornNation last night, we both sense a certain anxiety in Husker fans over this one. If the Huskers win, they put behind them four straight sub-par performances and reclaim momentum. No more talk about being "fifth in the North"; the Huskers are clearly in the drivers seat.

Go Big Red!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Big 12 Roundtable - The Rise of the North

Cross-Cyed at Clone Chronicles is hosting this week's Big XII Roundtable...

Were Saturday's games a sign that the Big 12 North may be on its way back?
I think it's another sign, as Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have already shown their cracks in non-conference action. Everything is cyclical, and the Big XII North has upgraded their coaching (Ron Prince, Mark Mangino, Dan Hawkins, Gene Chizek) in recent years.

How seriously do we take the hot starts at Mizzou and Kansas?
Missouri's hot start is more of a validation of some of the preseason talk than anything. Kansas, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise in how dominating they've been against mediocre competition. Kansas' schedule is EXTREMELY favorable, so if they continue to play well, they could be a surprise contender. This weekend we'll start to get an idea is Kansas is for real or not.

Pick one team from the opposite division that you truly hate, and say why; follow this up by picking another team from the opposite division that you don't mind pulling for, and say why.
Truly hate from the other division? Well, I guess it would be Texas. They found a way to upset Husker teams in 1996, 1998, and 1999. Plus, they seemed to somehow set many of the rules in the Big XII during the formation of the conference, as the rest of the Big XII seemed to be opposed to anything Nebraska supported at that time. Then there is that Texas arrogance... Don't mind pulling for? I guess that would be the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma-Nebraska is a classic rivalry, and it's sad to see it end on a regular basis, except when both make the conference title game. Some Huskers fans see Bob Stoops as an arrogant SOB, but I really haven't seen it. Personally, I like and respect what Stoops has done at Oklahoma, and think he's shown Nebraska respect as well.

The NCAA has enacted a rule allowing you to bring back one senior that graduated last year to play for your team for the rest of the season. Would you do it? And if so, who?
Without blinking, I'd beg Adam Carriker to come back, as our defensive line really, really could use the help.

Rank the conference teams
Already posted this yesterday: Oklahoma, Kansas State, Missouri, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Baylor. It's a sad state of affairs for Husker fans when many pundits are putting the Big Red fifth in their division. This weekend's game against Missouri might be Nebraska's last chance to nip this talk in the bud before it becomes a common viewpoint of many.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is October or November the Critical Month for the Huskers?

When I looked at the 2007 Husker schedule, I thought October was the critical month for the Huskers. October featured games against Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas. But then something happened:

Kansas 4-0
Troy 41, Oklahoma State 23
Miami-Florida 34, Texas A&M 17 (and it wasn't that close)
Kansas State 41, Texas 21 (in Austin, no less!)
Colorado 27, Oklahoma 24

Suddenly, the November games against the Big XII North (Kansas, Kansas State, and Colorado) look a lot more interesting. I really thought that October's matchups looked tougher in the summertime, but now November's look big as well. I thought Nebraska could go 3-1 in October and set themselves up for a trip to San Antionio. And if Texas is still struggling in October, you never know....

However, here's a couple of other things that raise concerns:

Southern Cal 42, Nebraska 10 (3rd quarter, when Pete Carroll called off the dogs)
Nebraska 41, Ball State 40
Iowa State: 400+ yards of offense against the Blackshirts

I can see this thing going either way... Nebraska could figure out their demons on defense and run the table. On the other hand, Nebraska has only brought their "B" game to the table once this season (against Nevada) as opposed to a couple of C (Wake Forest and Iowa State) and a couple of D- performances (against USC and Ball State). That won't work the rest of the way as the competition gets much tougher from here.

Here's the scary thought... if Nebraska doesn't improve significantly, Nebraska could not only go 0-for-October, but also 0-for-November. Likely? Not really. But after 4 straight sub-par performances, you can no longer dismiss it as a "bad week"'s now a trend... A trend that needs to be broken, and with the Tigers offense drooling over the Blackshirts recent performances, a trend that needs to be broken this weekend.

Both extremes are unlikely in my opinion. But more possible than Husker fans are used to. (Before anybody takes me out of context, I am not saying that the Huskers will win -- or lose -- all of their remaining games. I'm just saying it's within the realm of possibilities.)

It's going to be a wild ride over the next couple of months. I'd still like to think that 10-2 is still possible, and it is. A couple of weeks ago, I feared an 8-4. After last Saturday, I fear an even worse record.
11-1 or 10-2 means the Blackshirts have plugged the dike and can write off a few bad performances in September. The opposite extreme is something I just don't want to get into, but it's there in the back of my mind, something keeps repeating "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger"...

Power Poll - Week 5

Wow... 6 of last week's Top 10 lost...meaning this week's lineup is quite a bit different... The top 3 is easy, but then everybody else has huge faults, some of which I think are bigger than some of the 1-loss teams.
1. LSU
2. USC
3. Cal
4. Ohio State (First thought was that this is too high, but I can't put anybody else higher)
5. South Florida (Oh, what the heck...)
6. Boston College
7. Kentucky (South Florida and Kentucky in the top 10? WTF?)
8. Wisconsin
9. Oklahoma (Their "W" against Miami is better than five of the teams above them... I almost thought about rating them 5th...)
10. Oregon (Another case where the difference between #3 and #10 really isn't that big...)

Big XII Power Poll
Last week, I thought the Sooners had lapped the rest of the conference, then they go and lay an egg in Boulder. Leaving me with egg on my face as well...
1. Oklahoma (Yes, they are 0-1 in the conference, but I still think they are the best in the conference...)
2. Kansas State (Go into Austin and thrash the Bovines gets you major props in my book...)
3. Missouri (Win over Illinois looks better now than it did a few weeks ago...)
4. Colorado (OU win is the best of the contenders, but losses to Arizona State and Florida State hurt...)
5. Kansas (OK, the win over Central Michigan doesn't look nearly as good as it did a few weeks ago, especially after CMU lost to Craig Bohl's North Dakota State 44-14...)
6. Texas (OK, recruitniks, explain this. K-State Rivals Ratings: 60 (2003), 18 (2004) , 36 (2005) , 41 (2006), 38 (2007) ;Texas: 15 (2003), 10 (2004), 20 (2005), 5 (2006), 5(2007); Kansas State 41, Texas 21)
7. Nebraska
8. Oklahoma State
9. Texas A&M (I might consider hiking their rating if I could get a copy of Coach Fran's secret newsletter...)
10. Texas Tech
11. Iowa State
12. Baylor