Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mistake Filled Opener against Western Michigan

In our CornNation predictions this week, I admitted I wasn't sure what to expect this week. Left brain went NU 49-9, right side of the brain went NU 34-31. Turns out that prediction better matched the halves. First half, Nebraska looked fairly solid...but in the second half, we saw some mistakes like we saw last season.

So let's focus on the good:
Cody Glenn. People pooh-poohed his conversion to linebacker, but he was solid most of the day. Not perfect, by any means. But he made plays all day, and that's something we didn't see much of last season on defense.

Joe Ganz. Well, at least the first three quarters, a very solid performance running and passing. He's the first Husker quarterback to have four 300-yard passing games, which is impressive considering he's only started four games.

Nate Swift. Yeah, he's not a speed burner...but he gets open and makes the catch. A nice game.

Play calling. Offensively, I liked the varied looks on offense, especially the two back sets getting two of NU's three I-backs into the game simultaneously. More please!

Effort. We saw more effort tonight on defense than most of last season.

Alex Henery from 44 yards out. ESPN just pointed out this oddity: Four 44 yard field goals tonight. You won't see that again.

Tunnel Walk. Best tunnel walk entrance in several years; maybe one of the best ever. No flying Sears Trophies, but nice animation that recalled the images (Tommie Frazier, Terry Connealy, and Eric Crouch for starters) of years past. Also great was a video feature featuring the refrain from Paul McCartney's "Get Back (to where you once belonged)."

The not-so-good:
Offensive Line. To be sure, the Broncos tried to shut down the Husker running game, and they succeeded. A huge concern.

Mistakes. The Broncos capitalized on a bunch of Husker mistakes, especially in the 2nd half. Anthony West's two 15 yard penalties were the biggest defensive disappointments in the first half.

Missing players. Rickey Thenarse, Armando Murillo, Lydon Murtha. Murtha wasn't a surprise, but the other two were. Bo Pelini mentioned Friday that Matt O'Hanlon might start, but didn't say that Thenarse wouldn't play at all. (The World-Herald reports that Thenarse had his shoulder wrapped up on the sideline.) Internet reports (and the World-Herald) suggests that Murillo was hurt as well. Eric Hagg and Prince Amakurama both played well tonight in relief.

All in all, a win is a win. I felt a lot better at halftime than I did after the game. If they can work on the problems that emerged in the second half and prevent recurrances, Husker fans should be pleased. And let' s be honest: Husker fans are happier tonight than fans of Pitt (hee hee hee), Texas A&M, and UTEP. (The MAC looked fairly solid this weekend.)

But by that same token... last season, Nebraska throttled Nevada 52-7 to open the season, though it was all downhill from there. Hopefully this game wasn't the high point of 2008.

Husker Mike's PostGame AudioBlog: Western Michigan 2008

Gabcast! Husker Mike's PostGame AudioBlog #3

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prelude to a NU Era

Tomorrow marks the start of a new era in Nebraska football as the Bo Pelini era begins. Fans are excited, and for good reason. Last season left a bad taste in every Husker fans mouth (myself included), and we're looking for redemption.

But is redemption going to be immediate? I've predicted nine wins in 2008, but I'm not 100% sure of that. I see anything in a range from 3 to 11 wins. (Yes, I said eleven. That's an extreme upside case...and very unlikely.)

But other fans aren't quite so wishy-washy. They're convinced that under Bo, Nebraska will win nine...or ten...or eleven ... or twelve ... or more.

We all know the reasons why it won't happen. Transitions are hard. Nebraska was horrible last season. Nebraska doesn't have the talent needed to win that many games.

The critics may be right. Transitions are hard. But you know what...last season was hard too. There was something horribly wrong in the football program. Changes were made...but were those the only changes that needed to be made? Hard to say right now.

People point out that Nebraska doesn't have the talent level to win nine games in the Big XII. But that raises the question...what the hell have the so-called recruiting experts been telling us the last few years? Nebraska's recruiting rankings have been near the top of the Big XII the last few years; could it be possible that the Huskers really have a talent level near the bottom?

I'm a huge skeptic of recruiting rankings to be sure...but I'm not sure they're THAT wrong. Funny thing is that we heard much of this talk five years ago when Bo Pelini first arrived in Lincoln.

At that time, the talk was about how Nebraska didn't have the talent to compete in the Big XII. The defense got whipped badly in games at Penn State, Iowa State, and Kansas State the season previous. They looked lost on the field.

Pelini came in, and rebuilt the defense. He connected with those players, revitalized them, and got them back on track. They ended up being a top-fifteen defense. Oh, and the talent level that was supposed to be so poor? Most of them ended up playing in the NFL.

So now in 2008, we hear the story that Nebraska doesn't have 2003 talent. Isn't that ironic after all we've been told in recent years?

The truth is: we simply don't know what kind of talent exists in Lincoln. We merely know that these players have previously been poorly coached and developed. How good can this team be?

We simply don't know. But tomorrow, we begin to find out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Husker Prayer

Dear Lord, the battles we go through life,
We ask for a chance that's fair
A chance to equal our stride,
A chance to do or dare

If we should win, let it be by the code,
Faith and Honor held high

If we should lose, we'll stand by the road,
And cheer as the winners go by

Day by Day, we get better and better!
Til' we can't be beat...
Many fans weren't familiar with this prayer until they were used in the 2005 Tunnel Walk. Words of inspiration for the team, they represent well the tradition of Nebraska football.

But how well do the fans follow these words? Do we hold our honor high? When we lose, do we cheer as the winners go by?

Certainly last year we watched the winners go by quite often. Way too often. But did fans hold up their end of the bargain? Did we cheer the winners? Or did we suddenly turn to hate for those winners?

AJ the Huskerh8r certainly has fun pointing out the absurdity of Husker fans...and the sad fact is, when it comes to Husker fans, he's right. If you read the comments on his blog, it proves his point over and over and over again. (His point about the Huskers going 4-8 in 2008 is another matter entirely.) Husker fans can, and do, act like jackasses at times. Not all of them, mind you. Whether it's calling in death threats to Kevin Cosgrove or taking out our frustrations on the fans of other teams, it's not in keeping with the program's tradition. Just like it wasn't in our program's tradition to rub 60-3 into other's faces back in the day.

The 2008 season starts on Saturday. It's an opportunity to start over for the players and fans alike. Maybe one objective for fans this season would be to simply try to follow the middle part:
If we should win, let it be by the code,
Faith and Honor held high

If we should lose, we'll stand by the road,
And cheer as the winners go by

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sarpy County Needs "Creativity" to Pay for Ballpark

Today, the Omaha World-Herald provided more details about how Sarpy County might pay for a new ballpark. And still looks as shaky as it always has.

The primary tool? A tax incentive from the state that's been already rejected twice: once to build Cabelas (which ended up being built anyway) and once to build a downtown Omaha stadium for the Royals. Of course, since the downtown stadium is being built anyway, I guess that means that this stadium might still happen anyway...

But like the downtown Omaha stadium, the initial estimate ($30 million? hahahaha) is coming in a wee bit low. The World-Herald looked at three AAA other stadiums being built, and how they are being financed:

Gwinnett County, Georgia: 7500 seats, $45 million. $12 million from county reserves, $33 million from bonds to be repaid using rent, a seat tax, naming rights, rental car taxes, and parking fees.

Columbus, Ohio: 7600 seats, $55 million. Columbus is chipping in $9+ million, stadium revenues, corporate sponsorships, and suite rentals will pay off $42.5 million in bonds. The state of Ohio is also going to pay an unspecified amount.

Reno, Nevada: 6500 seats, $50 million + land costs. $27 million paid through an increased statewide tax on rental cars. ( rent a car in Vegas, you're paying for new baseball stadium in Reno.)

Anybody see a formula for paying for a $40-$50 million stadium in Sarpy County? Nope. In fact, this looks like the same deal that failed in Omaha. Car rental taxes? Google shows me 11 car rental places in Sarpy County. With no airport, that's not going to yield much. Parking fees? Bwhahahaha!

Your tax money at work? Well, if Sarpy takes their pitch for state tax dollars back to the Legislature for a third go-round... you bet. That's looking like the only way a Chalco or Gretna baseball park happens.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Big XII Roundtable: Preseason Edition

Once again, the Crimson & Cream Machine is sponsoring weekly Big XII Roundtables featuring bloggers from across the Big XII. Those of you not familiar with blog roundtables, each week the host blog will come of with a series of questions and each blog will respond. You can then scan each blog to get a viewpoint from across the entire conference blogosphere. Several Husker bloggers participate including the BigRedNetwork and CornNation.

There has been lots of talk this pre-season about scheduling. Colorado has arguably the strongest schedule but who do you think has the weakest and which cream puff on your team’s schedule do you wish wasn’t there?
Weakest? Well, I'll take my shot at Texas Tech. Most of the Big XII schools at least schedule one BCS conference foe...except the Raiders: Eastern Washington, SMU, UMass, and a road game at Nevada. Yeah, I know that Eastern Washington was a late replacement for Tulsa who bagged them, but even with the Golden Hurricane, that was a bad schedule.

Who do I wish wasn't on the Husker schedule? I'd probably throw San Jose State off of the schedule; last year, I noted that Michigan was looking to fill that week on the schedule. Imagine a road game in the Big House for week two...then having the Weasels return the game in 2009 instead of playing one of the Sun Belt teams.

As a whole the Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the country. Make a case for your quarterback being one of the conference’s top signal callers and tell us which other conference quarterback you would pick to replace him if you had to.
I can't do that. I'll be happy to argue that Joe Ganz was a better quarterback than Sam Keller last season, but there's absolutely no way I could vote Joe Ganz ahead of Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, or Zac Robinson. Who would I choose to replace Ganz? I'd probably choose Bradford; I liked his poise in winning a conference title starting as a redshirt freshman.

Going into the season which unit for your team are you most confident in, offense or defense?
Having confidence in either unit requires a leap of faith after last season. I have a little more confidence in the offense, as the offense did explode after Joe Ganz took over. (To be fair, some of the offense's numbers can be blamed on playing from behind due to the pourous defense.) I think the defense will be significantly improved...but that might be enough to make them merely mediocre.

Who is the new guy on you squad that will be a household name among your fan base before the season ends.
New guy? Well, not sure if he counts since he isn't new, just was buried beneath Billy C's playbook and depth chart, but I think Menelik Holt is going to bust out this fall. If I have to pick a guy who hasn't played, then my vote goes to Curenski Gilleylen, who caught a bomb in the spring game. He might be the best deep threat Nebraska has had at receiver in years.

Prediction time! Tell us how the north and south divisions will wind up.
I'll start with the South: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor. Texas is the big question mark in my mind; I could see them finishing second ahead of Tech...or fourth behind the Cowboys.
In the North, ordering four teams is relatively easy: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa State. But then there are two squads that you could make an argument to place them just about anywhere in that list. (That includes first AND last place.) Was Nebraska's poor performance the result of horrible coaching and being completely and utterly out of shape? If so, Nebraska could rebound quite nicely. On the other hand, if it was something more, it will be more of the same in 2008. Kansas State is bringing in 19 (count 'em, 19) junior college transfers. You recruit junior college players because you think they fill an immediate need...and by that, I'd say that Ron Prince feels he has a lot of needs. If he finds a bunch of starters in this group, they could be the shock team in the Big XII and roll into Arrowhead in December. If it's more of the same, it's "back to the 80's" in Manhattan. Here's the point...nobody knows if this Juco gamble is going to work out or not, not even the KSU faithful. So here's how I insert the Huskers and Wildcats into the North standings: Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State. Others may, of course, insert Nebraska and Kansas State elsewhere into the list.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ike's Been Blasphemed!

AJ the HuskerH8r had a little fun at my expense earlier this afternoon...and in typical Huskerh8r fashion, he's taking a few select quotes, embellishing them far beyond anything I actually said, then taking them out of context. Sometimes the guy has a point, but sometimes he also goes so far off the edge he loses his credibility. Hell, he still even believes that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 fer cripes sake.

AJ is on record as predicting 4-8 for Nebraska this year. I'm on record with 9-3, though I do admit to being rather wishy-washy on this point. I think dear 'ol Nebraska U will win 9...but I can also see 3-9 as well. It all depends on what caused Nebraska to go 5-7 last season. I firmly blame the "Great Raider Flunky"; if I'm wrong and it was much more than that, well, this season could get ugly.

But I'm not the only one predicting the Huskers to be much better in 2009. Matt Hinton (formerly the Sunday Morning Quarterback and now an editor with Yahoo! Sports) has the Huskers #22 on his preseason ballot. He says that what happened in 2007 has to be viewed as an aberration. The folks in Vegas (you know, the guys who set the lines) have Nebraska #39. Phil Steele also has NU 2nd in the North. So it's not just me and the rest of Husker Nation who's "deluded" about the Big Red.

He claims Nebraska has "zero speed". Now, let's take the absurdity of "zero speed". Certainly teams like Kansas and Oklahoma State raced past them, but the speed wasn't zero. I point out that some players have dropped 10% or more of their weight, and AJ mocks it... Fine...we'll see if that improves speed a wee bit.

He also assumes that Bo Pelini is going to be like Woody Widenhofer...a great defensive coach who was a horrible head coach. Maybe... maybe not. I think Pelini has all the intangibles, but he hasn't done it yet. Doesn't mean he will do it, but it doesn't mean he can't either.

But you know what... that's the offseason for you. We're sitting around arguing over who's prediction is going to be right and who's going to be wrong. It may make for interesting reading, but in the grand scheme of things, it's merely a loud obnoxious conversation.

But just so you know AJ's track record with predictions, here's a quote from September 12, 2007: "PS - Call me crazy, but I have this feeling your team is going to win this weekend."

That weekend's game: USC.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday Night Beer: 'Dre Better at Stealing TV's than Footballs

Former Husker cornerback Andre Jones has been charged with theft of a 50" Pioneer plasma TV from former teammate Dreu Young's house this summer. Young's father reported the TV stolen earlier this summer, and Lincoln police later found the TV at a Lincoln pawnshop, who's records indicated that the TV was listed under Jones' name, date of birth, and driver's license. In comparison, during his Husker career, the former five star recruit only managed to steal one pass.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that leaders are emerging inside the football program as the season approaches. Major Culbert says that last year, leaders didn't start to emerge until well after the season had imploded:
“It's a great experience being on a team that is really a team,” Culbert said. “It's not individual. Guys last year were playing for the name on the back of the jersey rather than the name on the helmet.”

“They're vocal on the field, and we get the message that they're trying to prove: We don't want to be like last year. This is a new year, it's 08, new coaches,” Culbert said. “We want to make the coaches proud. We're playing for the coaches. We're playing for the tradition. We're trying to restore the tradition at Nebraska.”
Just more evidence that things are changing in the football program.... and hopefully for the better.

Steve Sipple checks in on the progress of backup quarterback Patrick Witt, who might be one hard hit away from having to take over at quarterback, much like Joe Ganz had to do against Texas last year. Witt's strength is his decision making, according to Shawn Watson, which is impressive for a redshirt freshman. His main weakness?
"The thing I've talked to Pat about is his demeanor in terms of putting bad plays behind him, which he's done," Watson said. "He's been a remarkably mature person. That's why he's gotten so advanced in our offense at a young age. But then the next step for him is to handle his emotions. He's doing a good job of that."
I've been a big Patrick Witt fan since listening to his first radio interview, so it's great to see Witt continuing to progress. I'm hoping that we'll have a chance to see Witt (and Zac Lee) get some playing time in the first three games this season.

While the Journal-Star has been regularly eating the Omaha World-Herald's lunch with their blogging, today the World-Herald had a few great nuggets:
  • Is there any doubt that Marvin Sanders bleeds Husker red? Especially telling is his story of losing his mother and his job in a matter of weeks, then breaking down after hearing the halftime score of last year's NU-Okie State game.
  • Phillip Dillard has apparantly recovered from Dave Kennedy's doughnut training regimen.
  • The days of telegraphed offensive play calls should be over. My father pointed this out early in the 2004 schedule how Bill Callahan's personnel groupings telegraphed the play call. He first noticed it with Brandon Jackson, and the pattern continued to manifest itself. With Callahan, the play was called and then the best personnel to run that play were sent into the game. Problem is that the personnel groupings tipped off the defense to the play.
Finally... the pressure is really on Florida Marlins catcher Matt Treanor and pro volleyball player Casey Jennings now as their wives, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh could only talk about having babies after winning gold tonight.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playing Harder: Is That Enough for Husker Fans?

Over my lunch hour today, I happened to catch Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer being interviewed following the suspension of Zach Luckett following his DUI Sunday morning. While Beamer feels good about his freshman receivers, he told ESPN Radio's Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt that he has no expectations for this season, just that they compete hard. (For those of you who missed it, Virginia Tech lost their top four receivers to graduation as well as their top returning receiver to a torn Achilles on top of the Luckett suspension. Add in the dismissal of top running back Brandon Ore and injuries to their next two running backs, and they've got huge question marks on offense.)

That reminded me of Tom Osborne's preseason expectation of "playing harder" rather than a certain number of wins in 2008?

Is that good enough for Nebraska fans?

Except for a few flashes in the first three quarters against Texas and then against Kansas State, fans didn't see a lot of effort from their favorite team from about the second quarter of the USC game onward last season. So I've heard many fans say that they'd be happy with a team that "plays hard" all season.

Certainly playing hard would be a vast improvement over last season, to be sure. But would that be enough? Somehow, I doubt it. In 2003, Nebraska played much harder than they did in 2002, but that wasn't enough for some fans who were dismayed by fourth quarter collapses against Missouri, Texas, and Kansas State. The 2001 season isn't remembered as much for Eric Crouch's Heisman Trophy or a BCS Title Game berth, but rather for a defensive meltdown against Colorado as the Buffies gashed through the Blackshirts like a hot knife through butter.

Did giving up 38 points in one half to Oklahoma State and 76 points to Kansas lower our expectations? That's a good question. To some extend, I'd have to say yes. Prior to Bill Callahan, not winning a championship was considered a failure to some extent. Now, Husker fans are focused more on just seeing the program pull out of it's tailspin.

That being said, I don't think Husker fans are going to be perfectly happy with seven, eight, or even nine wins in 2008. Deep down, fans still want their program to compete for the biggest prize. I don't see Husker fans being happy with any losses. If it's a close loss, they'll bemoan a penalty, a missed tackle, a boneheaded play call, or some sort of error that may have made a difference between a victory and a loss. (Including yours truly.)

That being said, after last season, merely showing good effort would be a sign of progress. But will that be enough for fans? I'd doubt it, but it's more likely in 2008 than at anytime during the previous fourty years or so.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: Osborne Says Wallets Reopening

A few notes after an outstanding weekend weatherwise: (Can we order up more of the same all the way through November?)

Tom Osborne and chief fundraiser Paul Meyers told Tom Shatel today that "many" boosters have resumed donations to the athletic department following the ouster of the previous regime. Not a surprise to me at all.

Menelik Holt continues to impress the coaches in practice...which should help address concerns about depth after the departure of Terrence Nunn and Maurice Purify. Quentin Castille also has picked his game up this fall, joining the rest of the team in downsizing themselves to a more reasonable weight. Depth at I-back is always important, and having three or four backs is a great safety net in case of an injury. And if they're all healthy, it really opens up some options to get multiple backs into the game and really opening up the offense.

Other guys making moves in pre-season practice include Major Culbert at safety, Jared Crick at defensive tackle (helping solidify the depth up front), and Marcel Jones and Ricky Henry on the offensive line. More eyes to keep an eye on in two weeks when the season kicks off.

Remember Harrison Beck? The quarterback who was rated the #3 quarterback coming out of high school? He's apparently now the #5 quarterback on North Carolina State's roster, according to WRAL-TV's Jeff Gravley:
Compared to the other quarterbacks, Harrison Beck looked slow and out of shape. His passes sometimes looked like those B-B's that came out of a cheap B-B gun you had as a kid.
NC State hasn't decided on their quarterback...just that Beck isn't among the top three candidates. Beck played in five games last season, throwing for two touchdowns and nine interceptions. It would be too easy to rip on Beck, but I have to wonder what might have been without recruiting hype. Remember 2004? He was the rock star in this state. KETV-channel 7 gave him a blog. He had a web site. He was interviewed by every newspaper, every radio station around. But it's my opinion that it all went to his head. AJ the HuskerH8r likes to blame the fans for the wipeout that is Husker football, and to be sure, he might very well have a point with respect to Harrison Beck.

I'm not sure how the last week of the Summer Olympics can possibly match the first week. The incredible Michael Phelps saga, not to mention 41 year old Dara Torres. Add in beach volleyball in primetime, and it's been "can't miss TV". Unless Phelps announces his retirement, Omaha shouldn't hesitate to bid again to host the Olympic swimming trilas in 2012. If USA swimming really needs to move the dates up, do it. Talk to Warren Buffett and see if the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting can be moved up...or if it could be held outside at the new baseball stadium. The trials in Omaha have been prominently mentioned, and if Phelps returns in 2012, the eyes of the nation will be glued to the trials.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shatel: Sarpy County All But Committed to Royals

Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald pretty much confirmed something that I doubted would happen: Sarpy County wants to spend millions of dollars to build a second baseball stadium.

Oh sure, they're going through the formality of putting together a study to determine how to pay for it, but Shatel reports the decision probably has already been made. In an meeting with several Sarpy County officials, county attorney Lee Polikov told Shatel at one point that "This is just me talking, but I think we should do it."

Why are they doing this? Good question. They claim it's to save minor league baseball for the Omaha area. Perhaps. It's not because they think it's going to turn any sort of profit; they're hoping to merely break even on the deal. (I still think "breaking even" is an extremely optimistic goal for this...but I digress...)

How much is this going to cost? Sarpy County officials don't know. The Royals have told the county that it probably will cost $30 million, but they aren't sure if this figure includes land costs. When you consider that Lincoln's Haymarket Park cost $30 million 7 years ago, I'd assume that this number excludes the land costs. The Royals indicate that they'll chip in 25% of the cost (in other words, about $7 million). So Sarpy County needs to find a way to pay $22 to perhaps as much as $30 million.

Where does that $22 million come from? Good question. Shatel indicated that county officials think stadium revenues will pay for much of it. Oh really? Let's look at Omaha's financing plans for the downtown stadium, which are planned to raise $38 million: premium seating (boxes, club seats) $16.38 million; naming rights $8.9 million; seat tax $4.6 million; parking revenue $3.4 million; Royals/Creighton leases $7.1 million; concessions $2 million.

First of all, let's scratch off the Royals/Creighton revenues right off the bat; that's not happening. So, $31 million still needs to be raised. But will the Royals draw $16 million for club seating in Sarpy County? Hardly. Parking revenue? Isn't that one of the Royals concerns downtown? Make that $0.00. Naming rights? The rights for a facility where ESPN broadcasts from for two weeks is going to be worth much more than the rights for the Royals stadium.

I'm looking at the math here...and I don't see how this pays for itself. Even if you consider the multiplier effect of development around the ballpark, it looks like it's a money loser. Enter property taxes to make up the difference. That's the price for building a stadium in Sarpy County.

Nevertheless, it looks like Sarpy County wants to do it.

Since I don't live in Sarpy County, why do I care? Well, for starters, I still believe that building two stadiums is a tremendous waste of resources. The Omaha metro area likely only sees the same amount of benefit, but now the cost is significantly higher. I also think the offer from Sarpy County is influencing the Royals decision to look for other options. Let's be honest here...what incentive did the Royals have to negotiate with MECA when they know that Sarpy County is planning to give them what they want?

Also, it's time to forget Chalco. Sarpy County officials are looking towards the highway 370 interchange with I-80. That's almost Richfield... maybe Gretna.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Shootout Comes to College Hockey

The CCHA announced today that any games still tied after a five minute sudden death overtime will be decided by a shootout for the purposes of conference standings only. I had a little disagreement with AJ today over it; he thinks it's just like "roller-derby". I think it's a great idea.

The shootout has been a phenomenal success wherever it's been introduced, whether it's junior hockey or the NHL. Here's a classic one from a couple of years ago in the NHL:

The NHL has it's issues, but the shootout ain't one of 'em.

Let's be honest: nobody likes a tie. When college football added overtime years ago, some felt it cheapened the game. But guess what, after some of those memorable multi-overtime finishes, nobody is pushing to rid the game of it.

I just wish this rule had been added three years ago. In the 2005-06 season, UNO finished the season with 6 ties, and finished one point out of fourth place and home ice in the second round of the playoffs. Then, when you consider that UNO could have lined up Scott Parse, Bill Thomas, and Alex Nikiforuk for a shootout, you can only wonder where that season could have ended up. A week's rest, get a home series in the second round, possibly end up at the Joe, maybe get a better seed in the NCAA tournament (and thus not play Boston University a few miles from their campus)...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Office Park, Not Omaha Royals, for Proposed Chalco Site

Yesterday, the developers of Southport announced plans to begin construction this fall on an office park just southwest of Cabelas in Sarpy County. Does that location sound familiar?

That's the same location that last month was suggested as the new home for the Omaha Royals.

While the developers aren't shutting the door completely on the idea of a ballpark in that location, it's obvious that the developers aren't waiting to find out the Royals plans, telling the Omaha World-Herald that any talks would have to be in the next 60 days, since construction of the office park is scheduled to begin this fall.

Is that the end of Sarpy County talk? Of course not. For starters, there is another parcel of land just south of Cabelas still available, though it's only half as big as the office park parcel. Could a stadium even fit on that property, let alone with enough parking? That's really doubtful. Sarpy County officials are clear that they are considering several other locations along I-80 heading southwest towards Lincoln.

But heading further southwest also takes the stadium further and further away from the heart of the metro area; in fact, we may no longer be talking about Chalco...we may be talking about Gretna.

Does this development reopen the door to the Royals playing downtown? The more I think about it, I don't think the doors ever closed all that much. Last week's announcement that the Royals would entertain other offers was purely a negotiating position. It's a business, and they need to find the best deal they can find. Right now, it looks like the best opportunities for the Royals are in SugarLand, Texas and downtown Omaha.

And let's make it clear, the Royals are NOT building a new stadium. "We are not in the market to build a stadium," Royals president Alan Stein told the LaVista Sun. In fact, after reading Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov's comments about "hoping to break even", it's becoming more clear that the best move for the metro area would be for the Omaha Royals to play downtown.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Western Michigan Blogger Fears Buffalo...Not the Huskers

A few minutes ago, I was listening to Jon from being interviewed about "A Sea of Red" on the Husker Sports Network, and left the stream running. Good interview. (And thanks for the plug!) In the next segment, host Lane Grindle mentioned Graham Couch's Western Michigan "Bronco Insider" where he says the Broncos should "beware of the [Buffalo] Bulls, confident against Cornhuskers."

OK, Turner Gill is doing a great job at Buffalo, and has that program on the way up. That's a sign of respect, right? Nope.

I don't believe for second that Buffalo is as talented as the Broncos, but what makes this game so dangerous is its location, the lack of any sort of rivalry between the programs and its timing.

WMU has to go into Buffalo on Oct. 11, a week before going to Central Michigan. There is no hatred of the Bulls to keep WMU's focus and it's a league road game at a place that doesn't have great atmosphere (remember Eastern Michigan in 2007). Keep in mind, nondivisional games count toward the conference standings this year.

In other words, if Gill and his squad gets the victory, it's because it's a trap game, not because Buffalo is a better football team.

Then he turns his attention towards Nebraska:
Nebraska? It's the opener (a natural adrenaline rush) and the Huskers don't have a prolific offense or great speed at many of the skill positions (at least, so I'm told). Like against Florida State in 2006 and Iowa last season, WMU has a chance here. The Broncos usually compete well against teams that don't have high-powered offenses, as long as they can survive a brutal atmosphere.
It might have been lost in the defensive meltdown, but the Husker offense did score 163 points in three games last November. I'm not sure that's necessarily "prolific"...but it's not horrible either. As for speed, Marlon Lucky may not be the toughest inside runner, but he's got speed to burn. Joe Ganz has some mobility as well, and the young receivers, while inexperienced, have some wheels as well. There's a little speed there.

The key thing is the "(at least, so I'm told)" ... which indicates that I probably spent more time writing this entry as Couch spent looking at the Huskers.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Downsizing Husker Football

Every Husker fan saw it last year. An out of shape, overweight, and slow football team emerged from the Tunnel Walk and proceeded to get dominated nearly each and every week. (In case you've forgotten, grab an alcoholic beverage and check out the start of the KOCO-TV (Channel 5, Oklahoma City) highlights from last season's Oklahoma State-Nebraska game.)

Completely and utterly pitiful.

At the conclusion of last season, strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy left Lincoln to do his damage to the Texas A&M program. Enter James Dobson. Not the Focus on the Family guy,; he's too busy trying to figure out whether John McCain or Barack Obama would be the lesser infidel as President.

No, this Dobson has been busy trying to extract football players from the dung heap of 2007.

The initial report card... weight is down throughout the Husker football program.

Matt Slauson, down from 350 pounds to 317.
Cruz Barrett, down from 350 to 315.
Zach Potter, down from 295 to 280.
Thomas Lawson (a fullback, mind you), down from 270 (!!!) to 247.
Quentin Castille, down from 255 (!) to 233.
Philip Dillard, down from 260 to 237.

Dillard also says that the defense, despite the downsizing, is more physical than they've been. That's half the battle. The other half is speed. Players all say they are faster and more athletic. Problem is... we always hear that after summer conditioning. So is this just the same old talk? I don't think so... but I think we'll know for sure in eight weeks or so.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thursday Night Beer With Football on the TV

Yeah, it's preseason NFL games...but it's still football. I got my Husker season tickets this afternoon. My daughter looked at the TV this evening and said "fuh baw!" Yep, it's that time of year. Even saw Steve Octavien make a tackle on a kickoff for the Chiefs just now.

And finally the Brett Favre saga comes to it's sad conclusion...sad for everybody. Frankly, it's been a confusing mishmash of conflicting stories and tales that became an ugly divorce. When Favre announced his retirement back in March, I remember thinking at that time that Favre didn't want to retire. It really sounded like the Packers encouraged him to retire, since Aaron Rodgers seemed to be ready to take over.

So who's to blame? Well, everybody really. Favre made a decision and took it back. The Packers handled it badly as well by floating stories out there, especially with the tampering charge with the Vikings.

Perhaps it couldn't have been helped. Quarterback is a unique position in professional sports, in that there really isn't a good way for legends to bow out. At every other position on the team, players split time and take breathers. Not the quarterback. Sometimes you adapt your game, going from a speed receiver like Jerry Rice to a possession receiver. Baseball players move to first base or designated hitter. Not football's quarterback. The only position that might even be close is the goalie in hockey, and even goalies take an occasional game off. Not quarterbacks; they play every game until they get knocked out of the game. Literally. That's how Troy Aikman left the game. Others fade off on the bench as a backup... or spend their last seasons in some other uniform, such as Joe Namath with the Rams or Joe Montana with the Chiefs. So now it's Favre joining Billy C and the Jets. Hopefully the Jets don't try to involve Bill Callahan in the crash-course of the Jets offense for Favre.

I like the new attitude Bo Pelini is taking with the Husker defense, preaching "takeaways" instead of forcing turnovers. You don't have to look no further than 2003 Nebraska to see how a passion for going after the ball can transform a defense. That 2003 defense had a lot of question marks going into that season, and emerged with several NFL calibre players. Marvin Sanders says this secondary might have more athletic ability than that 2003 group. If that's the truth (and Sanders isn't blowing smoke), and he can get the secondary to play anywhere close to that 2003 bunch, a huge turnaround is in the cards.

Menelik Holt appears to be the first of the young receivers to step his game up. It also sounds like Niles Paul is also making his move as well. This is a storyline to follow...

KOZN-1620 AM's Kevin Kugler is in Beijing covering the Olympics for Westwood One radio, and has joined the blogosphere to share his experiences. Check out his picture of the smog he encountered yesterday. Be careful though Kevin... The Chinese government can make Steve Pederson look like a rank amateur in retaliating against those who don't follow the party line.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Does Perrault Understand Fan Blogging?

Last week, Matt Perrault of Omaha's KXSP-590 AM radio interviewed Jon Johnston of about the new college football preview guide "A Sea of Red". Perrault's interest focused on the number of bloggers (including yours truly) who contributed to the inauguaral issue. For many of us, this was the first time we were published in a more traditional format. Others, like Jon, had previous experience writing for print. One key difference between blogging and print is that blogging is more immediate. I've had numerous discussions about what blogging is --- and isn't. Dave Winer of Radio Userland fame once referred to blogging as the "unedited voice of an individual."

(I'm not completely convinced of that definition. My writing may appear to be completely unedited, though I do assure you that I do edit it to try and make sure it's somewhat coherent.)

One point is that blogging is almost immediate. Last season, I usually posted my initial reactions to my blog within an hour or so after road games or returning from the game in Lincoln. Certainly print articles require a greater investment in research, and usually go more in depth than typical blogging. The Lincoln Journal-Star does both exceptionally well: blogging on their web site to provide immediate coverage, then expanding stories to full length articles once the story has been developed sufficiently.

Each blog is a little different, though all seem to primarily focus on commentary. The Journal-Star's blog is a combination of news and commentary. Double Extra Point is a combination of analysis and soft-core imagery. Big Red Network and CornNation each publish a network of contributors who provide their own commentary. None of us are really journalists. Our readers may get their news from us since we frequently pick up and comment on items that aren't in their local paper or ESPN. Like Comedy Central's "The Daily Show", we should be secondary sources of information as we typically include commentary in our coverage. Rush Limbaugh may refer to himself as "America's Anchorman" but people need to distinguish between journalistic reporting and commentary.

Perrault asked Jon about how he separated his fandom from the "journalism" of CornNation, which was a question that caught Jon offguard at the time. Frankly, I had to listen to the interview a few times to try and figure out where Perrault was coming from. And I'm still not quite sure, to be sure. (Jon's still somewhat confused by Perrault's question as well...) I think Perrault comes from the perspective that sports bloggers have to put their fandom in check when they publish their commentary --- which is silly and absurd. My commentary, and the commentary of many of my fellow bloggers directly comes from our fandom. If we didn't have our fandom driving us to write, we simply wouldn't do this.

I started "Blasphemy" over three years ago to provide an alternative voice to a prevailing attitude that Nebraska football was on the right track. Some people thought this blog was "anti-Nebraska" because I wasn't toeing the company line. I never stopped supporting Nebraska football as my only offense was in criticizing the leadership in charge at the time. A year ago at this time, I was wondering that if last season went like I thought it could, I'd have to admit that I was wrong about the leadership. Instead, I was wrong about the 2007 season...and the rest is history.

Some of my fellow bloggers didn't share my opinions about the previous regime, which was their right. I hope they didn't consider me less of a fan because of our differences; I certainly didn't hold our differences of opinion against them. By exchanging our differences of opinion, I hope that our readers got a better perspective on Husker football.

The problem with Perrault's question is that he seems to feel that fans aren't able to .. or shouldn't criticize the program they love. Which shouldn't be the case at all. Fanatics may prefer to "drink the kool-aid" and refuse to consider opinions that may be "blasphemous", but in an open society like we enjoy in this country, everybody is entitled to their opinion. People should look at both sides of the issue before making any decisions or jumping to a conclusion. "My country (or team) right or wrong" is never a good thing. When people fail to criticize bad decisions by leaders, that simply enables future bad decision-making since leaders need to be held accountable for their poor decisions.

When a diverse group of bloggers such as the Husker bloggers come to an agreement on something, you can be assurred that there truly is a consensus on it. It's not an Iraqi-style unanamious re-election of Saddam Hussein, but rather a true democracy of ideas. And likewise, disagreeing doesn't make any of us less of a fan of our team.

The problem with Perrault's question is that while we are "homers", we are capable of some objective thought. Tonight, Jon and I were having a little debate over the relative merits of Oklahoma's Demarco Murray and Marlon Lucky. I think Murray's the better back; Jon likes Marlon. Now I admit that I stopped listening to Perrault for the most part after his spin-job over Creighton's absconding of NCAA regional basketball tickets. But I've got to assume that he got more than a couple of negative phone calls from Husker fans over last season. So you'd think he'd understand that fans are looking for the truth too.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: Will I Be Wrong on the Royals?

The Omaha Royals announced today that they are considering alternatives to playing in the new downtown ballpark. That's not "they won't play downtown"...but certainly a big step in that direction. (For the record, I predicted that the Royals would play downtown, and I may have to eat my hat over that prediction...) Does that mean Chalco moves into the lead? Well, Royals President Alan Stein told KETV-channel 7 that he wants to keep the team in Nebraska. Only problem is that Sarpy County is still studying the feasibility of a stadium, and the clock is ticking.

Right now, I'd have to say that the odds are getting better that the Royals will be leaving the Omaha area entirely. The scheduling issue might be enough to force the Royals to leave town entirely, as the Royals will likely find it undesirable to schedule games in Chalco at the same time the College World Series is underway downtown.

That doesn't necessarily mean Omaha is going to go without professional baseball, as Omaha still has a backup plan. It's very likely that MECA will be pursuing an independent league team to play downtown, and would probably be a better scheduling fit if Creighton is also using the stadium. Lincoln's Haymarket Park handles both the Lincoln Saltdogs and the Huskers, since the schedules don't overlap until the end of May/early June. Of course, that's probably dependent on the Royals leaving the metro area completely, and not just heading 20 miles west on I-80.

Bo Pelini says "I'm not a psychologist"...but he does have a plan for the team to put 2007 behind them. Call me crazy, call me a crackhead, call me whatever, but I still believe that the Huskers mental approach was the final straw that turned a bad season into something that looked apocoloyptic at times (Okie State up 38-0 at halftime, Kansas hanging 76, etc.). The whole approach is based on teaching the system, build comfort with that system, which leads to confidence in the system, which leads to success on the field. It's a marked difference from the previous regime, which essentially threw as much as they could at the players and hope some of it stuck. Which rarely happened, leading to player frustration and a loss of composure. And thus...the weekly meltdowns.

Larry Asante even said that Pelini told the team "The sky's the limit. The championship is out there to go and grab." Bold words after last season...especially when you remember that last August, the team chanted "National Championship!" Of course, Pelini didn't say what championship he was talking about: National, Big XII, Big XII North Division, or Weed-Eater Independence Bowl. After last season, fans can't exactly be picky.

Anthony Blue isn't on the pre-season practice roster because his knee still isn't healed. Personally, I hope that the staff is strongly considering a redshirt year for Blue. Dr. James Andrews, the famed othropedic surgeon says that nine months after surgery, the knee still only has about 80% to 85% of it's original strength. It seems like whenever you look at football players following an ACL injury, they don't return to form for another year or so. There's no need to rush a player back prematurely.

Speaking of players having troubles returning from injury, it looks like Kenny Wilson's career might be over. He's currently acting as a student volunteer coach.

Shawn Watson still says Marlon Lucky is the top I-back for Nebraska. But Roy Helu continues to impress, and more importantly, Lucky is taking on a mentoring role. And don't count out Quentin Castille... he's dropped a few pounds. Now if Tim Beck can help him work on securing the ball...

The Peter Brothers (Christian and Jason) are giving Ndamakong Suh a lesson in leadership. Say what you will about the Peter brothers problems off-the-field, but I don't think Nebraska football has ever seen stronger team leaders in the locker room than those two.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A 2008 Projection for Husker Football

Once again, it's time to fire up the crystal ball and project what will happen in the upcoming Husker football season. What's my scorecard on these projections? Only ok. Last season, I joined the myopic masses in predicting 10-3, though I did suggest a 5-7 "pessimistic" possibility. 2006, I did pick 9-3 correctly in the regular season. For 2005, I was off by a game by picking 8-3.

Needless to say, the biggest question mark of this season is determining how Nebraska responds to the change in coaching staffs. I think this team severely underperformed last season, and it was primarily due to the previous regime. Tom Osborne told the Journal-Star that he thinks this team will be better, and that the new coaches were pleasantly surprised by the talent level. Sunday Morning Quarterback went a step further:
"If the offense is merely steady -- it finished the season on a tear with Joe Ganz at quarterback, averaging 53 points over the last three games -- and Pelini’s initial efforts are good enough just to progress back toward the mean defensively -- that is, to split the difference between the best-case scenario of his lone season as coordinator and the worst-case scenario of last year’s collapse -- this is unavoidably one of the most improved teams in the country, and an impending threat to Missouri’s supposed stranglehold on the division."
I criticize the excesses of recruiting obsession quite frequently, and people misinterpret that as saying that "recruiting doesn't matter." Which is a gross misinterpretation. Recruiting is important...but it's only the beginning. Player development and coaching matters as well, and is more important than pure talent. And while we can argue about the relative merits of talent, I don't think anybody in their right mind could argue that Nebraska's talent level was at the bottom of the Big XII. They played that way, to be sure. But they're capable of better. Much better.

Some think that 2008 will be a success if only they "play harder". And while that's a noble thought after 2007, most fans still think in terms of wins and losses. So let's take a look at the 2008 schedule:

Western Michigan
They may not have had a winning season last year, but they did win at Iowa. Experts expect QB Tim Heller to lead Western to challenge for the MAC championship this season. Certainly, the Huskers had their issues with Ball State last year. And what's's the first game of the season for both anything can happen. (Can you say "Appalachian State"?) Probability of Husker Victory: 70%

San Jose State
They'll be breaking in a new quarterback in 2008, and weren't terribly proficient in 2007 in the passing game anyway. They do return Yonus Davis, who missed most of 2007 after rushing for over 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2006. In any event, this one is hopefully a mismatch. Probablility of Husker Victory: 98%

New Mexico State
Hal Mumme knows offense... but his defense gave 40 points six times last season (sound familiar?) He got to keep his job for 2008, though. Probability of Husker Victory: 98%

Virginia Tech
Between graduation, suspensions, and injuries, Virginia Tech has as many question marks going into the season as the Huskers. So making any sort of prediction on this game is merely a guess at this point. The only known factor is that this game is going to be played in the only known edge goes to the Big Red. Probability of Husker Victory: 52%

The defending Big XII North champions are everybody's choice to repeat. They're loaded on offense, and certainly improved on defense as the season went on. But how will Missouri react to being the hunted instead of the hunters? Does the Pinkel factor still exist, just bottling up pressure like the New Madrid Fault, awaiting just the right moment to unleash destruction across the Show-Me state? Oh...and this game is in Lincoln too. Probability of Husker Victory: 45%

Texas Tech
We all know about Tech's lethal offense. If Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree had seen Kevin Cosgrove's defense last season, they likely could have rolled the scoreboard into triple digits. But that was then...this is now. On paper, in August, this looks like a mismatch, but we'll see if Pelini can come up with something other than a prevent defense. Last time we saw Texas Tech, Nebraska had some success stopping Tech when they would apply pressure to the quarterback. Funny, but applying pressure to the quarterback seems to be something Pelini defenses seem to be good at. This one isn't hopeless, my friends. Probability of Husker Victory: 40%

Iowa State
Gene Chiclets, as a former Husker head coach once referred to him as, started off 0-2 including a loss to 1-AA Northern Iowa... but then knocked off Colorado and Iowa, and put a heck of a scare into Oklahoma. Chizek seems to have the Cyclones on the rise. This one's at the Jack Trice Wind Tunnel. Probability of Husker Victory: 60%

Baylor starts over once again with Art Briles. Briles might make it work eventually in Waco...but not right away. Probability of Husker Victory: 90%

The Sooners are the defending Big XII champions. They're loaded. They're going to be in the mix to win it all. This one is being played in Norman. Probability of Husker Victory: 5%

AJ convinced me that Kansas was overhyped last season. Even's Tim Griffin loved his take:
"Like Belinda Carlisle and the Go-Go's, KU comes around about once every 10 years or so to make a brief appearance ... then only to disappear into the black bowels of nothingness. The Squaks were a 2007 byproduct of luck and insanely lucky scheduling. No such luck this year."
Last year, they rode the confidence from a putz non-conference schedule and then avoiding Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas in conference into a BCS bowl berth. Well, guess what. The Sooners, Raiders, and Bovines are back on the KU schedule... oh and they also have to travel to South Florida as well. Not to mention that Joe Ganz hung 39 on them in his first start. I've got to believe that Pelini finds a way to hold the Jayhawks under 40...and this one's in Lincoln. Probability of Husker Victory: 60%

Kansas State
Something's up in Manhattan. Either Ron Prince is a genius or a schmuck. He tantalizes Wildcat fans by owning Mack Brown, then frustrates them by losing to Iowa State and getting taken behind the woodshed by Bill Callahan in his last gasp at glory. Now he's taken 19 junior college recruits for this season, raising questions as to just what's going on down there. Jason Whitlock thinks the Wildcats can win 8 games this season; I think that's unlikely. Either the Prince gambit pays off grandly, and K-State challenges Missouri for the division title...or Chizik takes ownership of "Grimace" as the Cats struggle to win more than 3 or 4 games. Which is it? My money's says take the under. Probability of Husker Victory: 75%

Still not a believer in the Buffaloes. If it hadn't been for Bill Callahan, they would have went 5-7 last season...and the Buffies wouldn't have changed much for 2008. Probability of Husker Victory: 70%

So what does this work out to be? Well, I truly believe this comes down to how Nebraska responds to Bo Pelini. But how well is that?

Most optimistic: 11-1. Yep...that's pie-in-the-sky, pass the bong, break out the straightjacket talk. But except for Oklahoma, I believe EVERY game is winnable. Last summer, we thought Nebraska had a chance to win at Columbia and Lawrence. They didn't...and got blasted. But if this team bounces back, you just never know.

Most pessimistic: 3-9. Here's the thing...we really DON'T know why Nebraska went 5-7 last season. I attribute it to negligent management of the program by the people who were in charge. But what if it was much more than that? What if Bill Callahan actually salvaged a win or two last season, and that was really the best Nebraska was capable of in 2007? Maybe the players are just saying the right things now, but they return back to the same low intensity and fundamentally lackluster play we saw last fall. If that's the case, we'll lose to Western Michigan to open the season, get a couple of wins before getting beaten by Virginia Tech...then the conference season begins, where we only manage to sneak out a home win against Baylor.

My best guestimate: My read is that Nebraska's due for a huge rebound in 2008. I see several big games in Lincoln that are winnable: Virginia Tech, Missouri, and Kansas. Will they win them all? Nope...but I think they'll win a couple of them, though I think they'll also disappoint fans by losing a game they shouldn't have. Call me nuts, but I'm thinking as high as 9-3. Maybe 8-4. But put me down for 9-3.