When Phil Steele picked Missouri fifth in the Big XII North, based in part on the fewest number of returning starters and returning lettermen, the outrage was immediate. Frankly, I think fifth is a little extreme, but I get the feeling that the Miz-zou gang doesn't share the doubts the rest of the college football world generally agrees with.
But that's just the players; of course they believe in themselves. But the fan base is sharing the "damn the doubters" position. This week, the SB Nation Big XII blogs voted on a preseason all-Big XII team. Each blog was asked to "send us 10 – 15 players from your college squad (i.e. CN will send us Nebraska guys only) or as many guys you believe have a LEGITIMATE shot at making the all-conference team in 2009." CornNation.com nominated 9 Huskers. Oklahoma's CrimsonAndCreamMachine nominated 13 Sooners. How many LEGITIMATE all-Big XII candidates do the Tigers (with 9 returning starters, fewest in the Big XII) have, according to Rock M Nation?
“If we win the Big 12 North two years in a row and then we get pushed back because we lose some great talent, it’s like a slap in the face,” added nose tackle Jaron Baston. “It’s like, ‘Well, Mizzou had their run. They’re done for now.’ That’s not us. We’re still moving forward.”
Along side no-brainer selections such as linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and right guard Kurtis Gregory, the Tiger blog nominated quarterback Blaine Gabbert amongst other non-returning starters (tight end Andrew Jones, defensive end Brian Coulter, and safety Kenji Jackson). More nominees than any other team other than Texas, I might add.
OK...maybe the Tiger fans just couldn't follow the instructions. They claim they wanted to submit somebody at every position (except kicker for some reason). I guess it wouldn't be a true all-Big XII team without a Tiger at every position.
It's not a big deal; the bloggers who voted merely brushed aside the reaches. If anything, the nomination spam hurt candidates who probably were on the fringe.
Then there is the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond, who had the brilliant observation that "Nebraska Isn't Back." (No s*, Einstein. Nebraska won't be "back" until Nebraska is back at the level that Oklahoma and Texas are currently at.) What Nebraska is, however, is getting better. We'll see if it gets us to that elite level; Husker fans are hopeful. But what does that mean for 2009? DeArmond tells us:
"Here’s where I shake my head in wonder at anyone picking Nebraska over Missouri but over Kansas as well.
The Cornhuskers have an inexperienced quarterback, lost just as much as Missouri on offense, don’t have a running back of the caliber of MU’s Derrick Washington. Shouting The Blackshirts Are Back! seems based more on t he hope that Bo Pelini is a defensive genius rather than a first-year college head coach that was simply better than Bill Callahan."
While yes, Nebraska lost their starting quarterback and top two receivers and a couple of linemen, that's less than Missouri, who lost their quarterback and top three receivers. And I've got to believe that Tiger fans have to be incensed that DeArmond thinks that Daniel, Maclin, Coffman, and Tommy Saunders is equivalent to Nebraska's loss of Joe Ganz, Nate Swift, and Todd Peterson.
Don't return a running back of Derrick Washington's caliber? Mr. DeArmond, let me introduce you to Roy Helu, Jr.
Oh, and Quentin Castille as well.
Yes, Derrick Washington is a great back. But don't you think that some of Washington's success is due in part on Missouri splitting the field with Maclin, Coffman, and Saunders, with the threat of Daniel having the option to hand off to Washington if the defense tries to cheat and double team the receivers?
Don't get me wrong; Washington is a great back. But ignoring the depth Nebraska brings at I-back is rather ignorant.
Even more ignorant: "the hope that Bo Pelini is a defensive genius". Maybe "genius" is a stretch, but Bo Pelini's track record at Nebraska, Oklahoma, and LSU speaks for itself.
Then the kicker. "Here’s one: those people picking Nebraska to win the Big 12 North are abso-tooting-lutely nuts."
Today, the preseason predictions came out, with the media selecting Nebraska to win the Big XII North in 2009.
Let's be honest. Nebraska has questions. Kansas has questions Missouri has a few more questions. If Missouri answers their questions better or faster than Nebraska or Kansas, the Tigers very well could win the Big XII North. It's not out of the realm of possibility.
But I get the feeling that for some in the state of Missouri, denial seems to be the preferred approach going into this season.