Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Night Dessert: Preseason Hype is Just That

It's easy to overreact to the news that Nebraska is ranked #9 in the preseason coaches poll. Is it a sign that Nebraska is back?  Nope.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Nebraska will truly be "back" when nobody asks about being "back".  Nebraska is better than they've been in years, but that's not saying much.  This #9 rating is more of a result of the schedule than anything else. Subtract Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Virginia Tech from the schedule, and replace with Texas (in Lincoln minus Colt McCoy after a last second loss in Dallas last December) and two teams with a losing record in 2009. 

My favorite criticism of this is that Nebraska is ranked as highly as they are because of past history. Rock M Nation's Bill Connelly sums it up quite nicely:
If Missouri had put together the exact set of circumstances (dominant defense leads to North title, near-upset in Big 12 title game, and easy bowl win ... and loses transcendent star in offseason), they would be ranked in the #15-20 range to start the season.  But Nebraska being Nebraska, they shoot straight to, in some cases, the Top 5.
Of course, then we hear talk about Nebraska "not having beaten a top 19 team since blah blah blah". Again, what does the past (with different players and coaches) have to do with anything? Is Tom Osborne or Frank Solich coaching the Huskers? Nope.  Is Bill Callahan coaching the Huskers? Thank God he's not. So what relevance does Callahan's suckage mean to 2010?  What is relevant is Pelini's record: top ten defense in 2003 at Nebraska.  Top defense in 2004 at Oklahoma.  Great defenses at LSU in 2005 and 2006, and a National Championship defense in 2007.  A defense that improved from start to finish in 2008, and one of the best defenses in the country in 2009.  That's a relevant track record, and if Pelini says the 2010 defense could be even better, then you disregard it at your own risk.

As we go through preseason practice, we'll be treated to more stories about players stepping it up. Which is all fine and well, but it's all somewhat irrelevant until the Huskers actually play somebody.  Which likely won't be until September 18th in Seattle. Take Zac Lee.  We know he didn't have a great season in 2009. We know about the injury. We know about the lack of receivers. We know about his mistakes. As things progress, we'll see whether he's truly able to step his game up to the next level.  Or whether one of the other quarterbacks will make a bigger step up. We saw Cody Green wilt under the spotlight as a true freshman, and we simply don't know anything about Taylor Martinez other than an impressive debut in a scrimmage.

One story that I find intriguing is Barney Cotton's confidence in his offensive line. When he's talking about Mike Smith going from the starter at left tackle to being a backup at guard or center, you have to realize that something is up on the offensive line.  That change is an infusion of depth that wasn't there last year. Again, it's too early to bank on anything...but when a senior loses his starting job, that's a sign of change. Especially in a position as important as left tackle.

Want more proof about the lack of substance this time of year?  How about considering pickles as a "secret weapon"?  Not saying that it's a bad idea...but it's not really a "secret" or any sort of "weapon" either...

Wasn't it nice to see football on television tonight? Yeah, it was an exhibition, and yeah, it wasn't very good.  (3 field goals and a defensive touchdown until the closing moments.)  But at least it was a sign of better things to come, especially after a ridiculously sweltering day outside.

You know one thing that bugged me tonight? Hunter Mahan won the Bridgestone Invitational today, and was pretty much ignored.  Instead, the big story was the guy who finished in next to last place.  I mean, if playing bad golf is now newsworthy, maybe it's time for me to get my golf clubs out of storage.

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