Talk about putting the cart ahead of the horse. This afternoon, I received an e-mail from the Husker ticket office to let me know that Big XII Championship game tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Now, I got into a little bit of trouble with AJ the HuskerH8r over some preliminary thoughts on 2008, but planning on a trip to Kansas City next December is a stretch. Although AJ ridicules me about it, I think Nebraska can be significantly better in 2008 over 2007. Remember the upswing of the Huskers from 2002 to 2003? For as untalented, unmotivated, and out of position that defense appeared in 2002, they made dramatic improvement in 2003.
I'm not sure there are a bunch of first day draft picks on the 2008 defense, but I'm not sure we knew that there were a bunch of first day draft picks going into the 2003 defense. Here's my take as to why I think coaching and motivation was a key reason the defense imploded in 2007:
September: 10, 17, 49, 40, 17 (average: 26.6)
October: 41, 45, 36, 28 (average: 37.5)
November: 76, 31, 65 (average: 57.3)
Each month had a top ten opponent (USC, Missouri, and Kansas), so it's not like the opposition got significantly grew more difficult as the season progressed. But the defensive performance became more and more pathetic as the season evolved. Did the defense suddenly become less talented as the season progressed? There weren't any significant injuries to explain it either.
My only explanation? A team that couldn't wait to be rid of their coaches. Sure, they didn't say it in words, but their actions spoke volumes. And with a young, motivated new coaching staff with a record of success coming in, I'm cautiously optimistic this team will be better in 2008. Even on offense, I see a lot of opportunity for improvement. Like Corn Blight over at CornNation, I think we'll see a much more balanced offense in 2008 that will utilize a power rushing attack more than it has in recent years. A little west coast, a little spread. One thing I'd love to see is letting Quentin Castille and Roy Helu take over most of the load at I-back, and line up Marlon Lucky just about everyplace else (other than offensive line). Kick returns, receiver, wingback. Heck, maybe even quarterback for a gadget play; he's thrown 2 touchdown passes in 4 attempts.
Are the 2008 Huskers Big XII North title good? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Oklahoma is back on the schedule. Missouri should be even better next season, though the Pinkel Factor is long overdue to get them. But on the other hand, Nebraska did score 39 against Kansas last season; can Nebraska hold them under 40 in Lincoln with a renewed defense? Likewise, Kansas did knock off Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Mild improvement will get Nebraska bowl eligible, and significant improvement might get them to nine wins.
It's really too soon to prognosticate much about 2008. We don't know what this coaching staff will do with these players. Spring practice is still a month away. But I'm not sure you can say that 2008 is going to be a rerun of 2007 either.