Lincoln, NE; January 15, 2038; Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini announced his retirement today, ending his amazing thirty-year career with the Huskers undefeated. Pelini's amazing 416-0 record started with an Alamo Bowl victory as Nebraska's interim head coach in 2003, then finished with thirty straight national championships after taking control of the program again in 2008.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally ridiculous. No way Pelini goes thirty years undefeated. Somewhere along the way, he'll get jobbed by a crooked ref. He'll just go 391-27, and will win 28 out of 30 national championships.
Ok, both scenarios are just about equally absurd. But so are some of the things I've been reading this week. Heavy Soul talked to former Husker offensive lineman Matt Vrzal, who thinks that the Huskers could make a BCS bowl game this season. Over at the Big Red Network, Steve Hanaway is wondering if Bo Pelini will stick around if his alma mater comes calling, much like Bill Self. And the Husker mailing list is full of expectations of a nine win season.
It's early April. The spring game is still a week away. Bo Pelini hasn't even coached a single regular season game as a head coach. And people are already trying to lay expectations for 2008 and beyond?
Oh. My. Goodness.
We all know 2007 went badly. It left a bad taste in our mouth. And Nebraska fans are genuinely excited about Bo Pelini's return. The spring game is sold out. We're hearing lots of positive things from spring practice. But it's just that...spring practice.
I'm excited too; got my tickets today to the spring game, plus a surprise parking pass. But before we get too excited, let's remember where we left off last season. A 5-7 season where the defense gave up 57 points a game in November.
In football, not basketball.
I think there have been some really positive changes in Lincoln. But there are a lot of questions on the field. Will Nebraska be able to run the ball more effectively in 2008? Who will step forward at receiver to replace Terrence Nunn and Maurice Purify? Can Joe Ganz cut down on his turnovers? Will Zac Lee or Patrick Witt challenge Ganz at quarterback?
On defense, even more questions need to be answered. Will we find that new coaching and major weight loss make our defensive line relevant again? Is a converted running back really our best linebacker? Can the secondary start getting turnovers again?
That's some of what I want to start to learn next week... and I certainly hope that we'll see the top units facing off so we can get a better idea of who has improved and who hasn't. Until then, it's almost impossible to try and prognosticate what 2008 will be like.
Listen, I can see just about every scenario. Let's say we see a miraculous turnaround in the defense, going from one of the 20 worst to top-20. Insane? Yeah, kind of. But the Huskers had quite an impressive turnaround in 2003 in Pelini's first stint. If you see an unbelievable turnaround in the defense and the offense clicks, Matt Vrzal (who has at least seen the practices) might not be quite so crazy in predicting a BCS bowl bid.
Of course, Nebraska has to go on the road to Norman, Oklahoma. Oh, and Lubbock, Texas as well. (Remember what happened last time? Let's leave it at that.) Oh, and Missouri will be stacked as well, and we get them between Virginia Tech and Texas Tech. It's not exactly an easy schedule.
And maybe we'll find out Bo Pelini was a fraud. Just because Husker fans want Bo Pelini to succeed, doesn't mean he will. You can pray that he'll succeed. We may need Pelini to succeed. But that doesn't make it so.
We simply don't know much about this program. Last season, the team looked horribly conditioned and not very talented. Is that the truth? Or were they just completely mismanaged by the previous administration?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Recruitniks have told us that we have an unprecedented talent level in Lincoln. We haven't seen it... but just because it was mismanaged doesn't mean it might not be there. It could be like Oklahoma in 1999, a program full of talent waiting for a great coach to come in an organize the situation.
Or we might find that Kevin Cosgrove did the best that could be done with a completely overrated group of players on defense, but that's not good enough to compete in college football.
We simply don't know. Maybe we'll find something out next week. But it's still April, for pete's sake. Plenty of time this summer to prognosticate... no need to make ridiculous predictions now.
In April...it's almost as absurd as expecting Pelini to remain undefeated for very long.