Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 BlogPoll Week 14

Here's my BlogPoll ballot for this week:

I'm not penalizing Boise State as much for their road loss. I've been forgiving of losses like this all season.  I really struggled with finding a team to add into the lineup, and I was down to Hawai'i or Notre Dame...and went for the Irish.  I couldn't forgive Hawai'i for their loss to Colorado...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Night Beer: Dan Beebe Is Mr. Absurd

Does anybody still believe much of anything that Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe says anymore?  How's that television contract coming along, Dan?  Seriously, Beebe dropped a few whoppers this weekend that continue to stretch the limits of his credibility. First, he claimed that it was too dangerous for anybody from the Big XII office to come to Lincoln for the last conference game for Nebraska and Colorado, with a division title on the line?  Well, maybe for Beebe, but what about Ed Stewart? You really think Mr. "Nebraska is still Nebraska, K-State is still K-State" would be in ANY danger?  Of course, the uproar over a division trophy is really silly.  I thought this thing was a ludicrous figment of Steve Pederson's imagination in 2006.  Let's remember that FIVE teams will be awarded one of these trophies this season:  Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M.

That's not to dismiss the stupid things that some Nebraska fans wrote, telephoned, and e-mailed Beebe over the last week. A few Husker fans have a history of saying and doing stupid things over the years, such as threatening Kevin Cosgrove. Indefensible, but that's life for a lot of people in the public eye. How many college football coaches have bodyguards, such as Missouri's Gary Pinkel?  Think that some crackpot Mizzou fan hasn't written a threatening letter to Pinkel?

Then Saturday night, Beebe went one step further, telling the Lincoln Journal-Star that Texas A&M's Tony Jerod-Eddie wasn't trying to molest Ben Cotton:
“Well, if you think it was that (jabbing at testicles), we’ll just have to disagree. I don’t think it was in that manner. And didn’t the Nebraska player say he was just trying to get to the ball?”  
 Wow.  Simply, wow.

The boys down at Bring on the Cats find Husker fans outrage over this matter hypocritical, since Chad May was allegedly poked in the eye by Christian Peter back in 1994.  Perhaps, but there are two key differences in the two situations.  First of all, this isn't a "he said; she said" situation (see Chase Daniel's since-refuted "spitting" allegation); there's actual video evidence. Secondly (and most importantly), Ben Cotton got flagged with two 15 yard penalties on the play.  Jerod-Eddie's stunt had a direct impact on the game, turning a difficult third and 14 into a ridiculous third and 44.  Nebraska was unlikely to get that first down on third and 14, but that still affected the field position after the punt.

There's only one response:  win the final Big Eight Championship game against Oklahoma on Saturday night.  Of course, it's obvious that just about everybody not wearing Husker Red will be cheering for the Sooners in this one.  That fact we should have known since last June.

It's just my luck this weekend.  Behind a touch of the flu and some travelling, I missed nearly all of the best parts of this weekend's sports action (Boise's second half choke, Nebraska basketball's second half comeback, and that wild fourth quarter in the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game)  Arrgh.

I'm not sure how many people showed up at Rosenblatt yesterday for the UFL championship game. Frankly, that was a gamble by the UFL that came up craps.  There was no reason to award that game to Omaha, and hope that the Nighthawks would make the game.  A better plan would be to award the game to the first team to earn the championship game berth.  They may have issued 15,310 tickets, but frankly, more people would have enjoyed this game in Orlando or Las Vegas.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Huskers Claim Back-to-Back North Titles in 45-17 Victory over Colorado

Looking back on today's game, I think Colorado's only chance to win today's game was if instant replay hadn't overturned Rex Burkhead's fumble on the fifth play of the game.  That would have given Colorado the ball in scoring territory and momentum, and that was something the Buffaloes wouldn't have the entire afternoon. From there on, Nebraska was in control of the game.

Cody Green had his best game as a Nebraska Cornhusker filling in for Taylor Martinez and Zac Lee. Shawn Watson didn't ask him to do too much, but he did what he needed to do.  He gained confidence as the game went along, ran tougher than he has, and zipped some passes right on target.  Or maybe Colorado's defense is that bad; hard to say.  Suffice it to say that Green vindicated himself well from some of the criticism he's taken in recent weeks.

After that incompletion, Burkhead did just about everything on offense except kick.  He ran with power, dragging Buffy defenders with him as he plowed his way downfield, and elusiveness, reversing field a few times to find daylight. Then there was his two touchdown passes out of the Wildcat formation, including his improv flip to Kyler Reed after reversing his field. Roy Helu ran with power in limited action.

Shawn Watson has taken a lot of abuse in recent weeks for his playcalling, but today, he opened things up a bit.  A little less zone read, a whole bunch of Wildcat (almost to the point of excess), and even some power formations to let the offensive line tee-off and dominate the Buffaloes.

The Blackshirts dominated the Buffs for most of the first 40 minutes of the game to take control of the game, minus a few busted coverages on defense. Will Compton might have been the biggest factor in limiting Colorado's Rodney Stewart much of the game.  The defensive line had a quiet game statistically, but had the deflection that set up the first interception of Cody Hawkins.  The three second-half turnovers pretty much elminated any hopes the Buffs had to make a comeback.

Nice to see Zac Lee make it into the game late to take a few snaps in his final home game. Also Joe Broekemeier took advantage of his opportunity to fill in for Niles Paul with some clutch catches. The game finished up with a nice postgame presentation of highlights of Nebraska's time in the Big XII conference accompanied to fireworks. At the time, I was glad that there was no forced trophy presentation as part of it. The 2006 ceremony seemed forced, out of line and atypical of Nebraska; I could ridicule it easily as just one more of those stupid things Steve Pederson did.  Turns out that some people in Lincoln are upset that there wasn't a presentation, feeling slighted because Dan Beebe chose not to send a representative to Lincoln with the trophy.  Seems Beebe was feeling threatened after getting lots of angry messages from Husker fans, and chose to avoid any confrontation. I get the feeling from the Tom Osborne quotes that he's wishing that Nebraska could have left the Big XII immediately rather than deal with Beebe and his organization this season.

Nevertheless, Nebraska doesn't need that bedpan trophy. We know what Nebraska accomplished this season; first back-to-back Big XII North championships since 1996-97. If that isn't proof that Nebraska isn't getting closer to where Husker fans want them to be, I don't know what is.

So we wait until tomorrow to find out whether the Huskers will play Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.  (I assume that while Texas A&M is technically still alive to earn the South, the Aggies trail the Sooners too much in the BCS to make up the difference for the tiebreaker.)  Wouldn't a Nebraska/Oklahoma matchup be the perfect way to leave the Big Eight/XII behind?

Husker Mike's PostGame Colorado Podcast

Nebraska claims the final Big XII North Bedpan with a 45-17 victory over Colorado

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Night Beer: Did Carl 'Fess Up To Bo?

I must say I was impressed that Bo Pelini didn't wait for the inevitable question about his behavior to apologize to fans; he started his press conference with his mea culpa. He said what needed to be said yesterday, and from that perspective, I think this whole episode starts to calm down.  (Nevermind some ESPN talking heads who still have to work through their material...)  We'll see if we start seeing a "kindler, gentler" Pelini on the sideline.

I know that in certain segments of Husker fandom, Bo Pelini's apology isn't enough. I get that, but let's be honest: Tom Osborne was a special case, and aside from Turner Gill, there aren't a lot of men like that. When Pelini was being hired, I felt he had the biggest risk as he's rough around the edges. But he's got the biggest upside.  Eventually, I think he'll learn how to manage his emotions better on the sideline.

One thing I didn't like was Bo's explanation of what happened with Carl Pelini and the cameraman. When Bo said that Carl was trying to escort a player off the field, I thought back and asked "what player?"  I didn't have access to the video at the moment, but I couldn't remember a player in that vicinity.  Then the still pictures came out, and Carl's explanation fell on the floor. I don't blame Bo for this; as Carl's brother and boss, he took him at his word.  That forced Carl to issue his own statement of apology today.  Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when Bo found out that Carl's tale was fiction?

Bottom line was that Saturday night was not the Pelini brothers finest night. But they survived, and hopefully they've learned some valuable lessons. 

On the local sports scene, Ralston just inked a deal with the Omaha Lancers to build a new 3500 seat arena on the old Lakeview Golf Course.  I'm not sure I see the logic in this development; it's going to use tax revenue from a proposed Menards home improvement store to pay for the $25 million arena.  That might fly, except I don't see the relationship between Menards and an arena.  I don't see a Menards store being dependent on the arena, so the arena is siphoning tax revenue away from the state that could be used on other programs.  That's not to say that Omaha couldn't use another recreational ice skating facility, but I just don't see the value in a Ralston arena. Like the Trailer Park at BFE, it's government welfare for sports franchises. And right now, government has much higher priorities for our tax money.

Speaking of baseball, the folks trying to bring an independent league team to Omaha are turning up the heat on MECA to play at TD Ameritrade Park. They have a franchise in the new 16 team North American Baseball League and thought they had a deal with MECA...only MECA is now holding out due to concerns about the league's viability.  It's curious to me why MECA wants to wait and see.  It seems that these independent leagues twist and turn from year to year anyway.  If the new league fails but the team is a success, they'll simply get absorbed into another league.  If they're willing to pay MECA's price to play downtown, I'm not sure I see a reason why not. It would diminish concerns that some people have about the new ballpark sitting idle all year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010 BlogPoll Week 13

Not a lot of changes this week...I drop the Huskers down below Oklahoma after this weekend's game...and move A&M ahead of Missouri.  At the bottom, Florida and Florida State move back in; I almost left Miami in despite losing to a ranked foe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Pelini Brothers Need To Own Up To Saturday Night

Much has been written and tweeted about the conduct of Bo Pelini and his brother Carl during and after the Huskers 9-6 loss at Texas A&M.  We've always known Bo Pelini was a fiery guy, and we've become used to seeing highlights of Pelini when things aren't going so well. Sometimes it's valid, like against Virginia Tech in 2008 when Pelini got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Sometimes it's not, when Pelini flipped his headset over his shoulder against Tech in 2009.

Last night, Bo Pelini went over the edge with his berating of the refs.  Former Husker linebacker Blake Lawrence said on Twitter last night that Pelini's problems with this side judge dates back to 2008. In the end, Pelini's outbursts on the sideline didn't seem to help the Huskers, and considering the number of penalties called, probably hurt the Huskers more.

Then you've got the issue with Taylor Martinez on the sideline. For a couple of hours, the internet was full of rumors that Martinez was quitting the team. At this time, those rumors have been discredited. Even so, it was an ugly display on national television. In this day and age, television networks use more cameras than ever before, and I would be shocked if a dedicated "Pelini Cam" wasn't part of most network television broadcasts...just in case you get something juicy.  Assign someone in the truck to keep an eye on Pelini and call out to the director if something happens, and boom, you've got instant highlights.  I get that; that's what technology buys us today.  So while we enjoyed those shots of Steve Spurrier in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, now we cringe when the focus turns to the Husker head coach.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman wasn't exactly pleased with what he saw, and he already discussed it with Tom Osborne this morning. I would be shocked if Osborne and Pelini hadn't already discussed this, and probably will discuss it further. While there will be discussions, I don't expect much to emerge from this officially, as long as the situation is addressed in some manner.

Here's what I'd suggest:  We know that Pelini's outbursts will be one of the first couple of questions on tomorrow's Big XII teleconference. Pelini needs to be prepared to address the situation, and by address it, I mean he needs to be contrite and admit that his emotions got the better of him. Don't mention the calls, don't mention the specifics of the situation. That'll get him in even more trouble. Just admit that he's got to do a better job managing his temper.  If he does this tomorrow as well as in Tuesday's press conference, Pelini will be just fine.

What he can't do is what Bill Callahan did five years ago after the throat slash. Everybody knew the question was coming, and Callahan denied even knowing anything about the controversy.  He never accepted responsibility, and in the end, he got reprimanded by the Big XII for it.  Callahan made the problem worse by not being upfront and contrite.  Denial got him no where.

Sometime next month, or perhaps better after the season is over, I'd hope that Tom Osborne and Pelini would sit down and go over these situations, and hopefully bring in someone like former Husker quarterback Clete Blakeman, who's now an NFL referee, to help provide some perspective from the other side. Nebraska's move to the Big Ten may give Pelini a mulligan in his relationship with referees; a new conference means new crews, and while they likely have heard about Pelini, they won't have a  personal experience to base it on.

I think Bo Pelini is still learning the nuances of being a head coach, but it's also easy for fans to confuse the manner with which he expresses himself on the sideline with the actual message that he's delivering. If Pelini was screaming and ranting with personal attacks on players, I don't think Pelini would have so much support from current and former players. Everything I've read and heard is that Pelini focuses on the mistake, not the individual who made them. If Pelini were to belittle a player in this manner, we'd have heard dissension from players by now. Lawrence confirmed this on Twitter this afternoon, saying that every player on the team is behind him.

So why does this approach work with players and not refs? My guess is that Pelini hasn't developed any personal relationship with referees...and shouldn't. So they get the full fury of Pelini; the "tough" without the "love."

I think Pelini knew that his approach didn't work by the time the team plane got back to Lincoln. I don't think Osborne and Perlman have to tell him or discipline Pelini; what they need to do is help Pelini find a way to grow and learn how to manage his actions on the sideline so it's not a distraction.

Brother Carl Pelini might have his own set of issues however, after his incident with the operator of, who turned his camera on Carl Pelini after the game, then quickly panned up and away from Pelini before the camera angle sharply shifted towards the turf. Since the camera turned away from Carl, we don't know what, if anything, he did...though it doesn't take much to assume that Carl could have done something with the camera. Again, at this point, coming clean is probably the best defense at this point, rather than let the story fester.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From A to Z: Aggies, Injuries, & Zebras Too Much for Huskers to Overcome

That gasp you heard around 7:45 pm this evening was every Husker fan holding his breath when Taylor Martinez limped and fell to the ground after reinjuring his ankle. At that point, the Husker offense wasn't looking so bad, but from that point forward, the odds were stacked against the Huskers.

And no, I'm not referring to the officiating.  Yet.

Cody Green came in at quarterback, but like against Iowa State, was ineffective for the most part, especially with a couple of misfired passes. Without much of a rushing or passing threat at quarterback, the Aggies defense locked down on the I-backs, and running room was pretty tough to find all night.  And it didn't help when Nebraska kept getting flagged for stupid penalties.  Say what you will about the refs, but most of those penalties were self-inflicted and issues that were Nebraska's fault.

Meanwhile, the defense played pretty darn well against an offense that had been putting up big number in recent weeks with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. I say pretty darn well, because the Huskers let the Aggies escape out of some key situations where Nebraska should have had the advantage, such as letting Jeff Fuller get free for a 36 yard gain on 3rd and long at the A&M 9.  Allowing Cyrus Gray to run for 139 yards.  So while Nebraska held the Aggies to 9 (or six, if you prefer) points, I'd suggest that Nebraska could have played a little better on defense.

That's not to say that Nebraska couldn't have played better offensively.  It wasn't a good performance by the Big Red, thanks in part to a resurgent Wrecking Crew defense, led by Von Miller who was a beast limiting Nebraska's offense most of the night.  Taylor Martinez returned in the second half, and looked okay at times throwing the ball.  But with a bum ankle, he was a one-dimensional quarterback, with the dimension not his strength. With Zac Lee's apparent arm injury and Cody Green's ineffectiveness, a one-dimensional Martinez apparently is Nebraska's best option at quarterback at this time.

Over an hour after the game, "Pelini" is still a trending topic on Twitter, where it's been for the last two hours. Fans of the other eleven Big XII schools thoroughly enjoyed watching Bo Pelini scream and yell on the sideline, and especially get flagged for it.  And we all know why they enjoyed it.

The statistic of the night:  16 Husker penalties for 145 yards versus two Aggie penalties for 10 yards.  And before I hear about it, the majority of those penalties were Nebraska's fault. Jumping offsides, false starts, holding... yep, Nebraska played undisciplined tonight, and the Huskers paid the price for it.

But 16-2?  Last week,'s David Ubben noted that Nebraska was tied for 116th nationally in terms of penalties called on the opponent.  After tonight, Nebraska probably should be tied for 120th.  Last week, Ubben said that this was one that would be "not a conspiracy, but still...."  This week, it'll be tougher for people to completely dismiss this line.  Last week, Texas A&M was (coincedentally) tied for 116th nationally in penalties per game (8.7).  This week, only two.  Did Texas A&M play clean football this week?

Well, that's just one play...but the old adage comes out here. The instigator never gets flagged, and the retaliator gets nailed.  And in this case, gets nailed twice. Not to excuse Cotton's actions, but rather to make you wonder what else the refs missed tonight.  (Question: Was Tony Jerod-Eddie auditioning for a career with the TSA to work airport security tonight?)

The defensive pass interference penalty on the third down pass to Brandon Kinnie? I was hot about it initially, but after seeing three replays, I think it was a good no-call in the end. The pass interference penalty on Dennard? After looking at the initial replays, that looks like a bad call to me.

And of course the one that took the cake was the "roughing the passer" penalty on Courtney Osborne that kept the Aggies game-winning field goal drive alive. It's been suggested time and time again that Pelini's continual abuse of the referees could be counterproductive; this is probably one of those cases. If so, that's something that Dan Beebe is going to have to address eventually, because while it's funny as hell to fans of the other eleven teams to watch Pelini get nailed, deep down they know that starting next season, the Huskers may be gone, but these referees will remain and still calling their games.

Let's put tonight's game in perspective.  Nebraska went -14 in penalties and -2 in turnovers against a ranked opponent on the road, and only lost 9-6 ... with their biggest playmaker hobbled.  In the grand scheme of things, the Huskers are still in decent shape.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sioux Defeat UNO 6-5 in an Instant Classic

North Dakota erupted for three goals in the third period tonight to beat UNO 6-5 in a game that will likely go down as one of the all-time classic games in the history of Mav hockey.  Early on, it looked like UNO might run the Sioux out of the building, as the Mavs dominated the play for much of the first period to take a 2-0 lead.

But when it became crunch time, the Sioux had something extra in their tank, and their experience playing at this level might have been the difference tonight. They didn't wilt after UNO dominated them early; instead, they came out fighting harder and quickly tied the game near the midway point of the game. UNO quickly answered when freshman Brock Montpetit fired a shot from a severe angle that apparently banked off of goalie Brad Eidsness. The Sioux retied the game on Mike Cichy's rebound, only to have the Mavs regain the lead when Terry Broadhurst drilled a rebound off of a deflection of a hard shot by Alex Hudson.

The third period turned out to be the Mavs downfall, and the Sioux took the lead when the Mavs let Chay Genoway cruised untouched behind the net for an easy wraparound goal.  34 seconds later, the Sioux widened the lead to two when Danny Kristo scored on the dejected Mavs.  Alex Hudson pulled the Mavs back to within one goal with three minutes left, but a last minute flurry went for not.

I know my description didn't give it justice; maybe it'll take a few days/weeks to put it in perspective. But considering the effort both teams gave as well as the raucous environment, it has to rank as one of the best games in the regular season for UNO.  It was a tremendous crowd with over 11,000 fans in attendance.  While Sioux fans made their presence known, the rumored 2,000 fans in green didn't materialize.  The Qwest Center was loud...really loud.  Louder than the Civic most of the night, to bring up that can of worms once again.

Tonight might have been the final nail in the coffin for UNO's plans to build an arena that only seats 7500 ans.  I'll estimate the Sioux fans numbered about 1000, meaning that local fans likely numbered around 10,000.  That's right...about 10,000 fans showed up for a hockey game in November, even with another estimated 21,000 fans at Rosenblatt for the final Omaha Nighthawks game this season.  It was a loud crowd as well, making it a great environment.  I still believe UNO will sell out the Qwest Center at some point this season; likely against Wisconsin, unless this team goes into a swoon.

And while UNO lost tonight, I don't think a swoon is imminent for the Mavs. Tonight, the Sioux looked like the preseason pick to win the WCHA and the overall #2 team in the country. Even in defeat, the Mavs looked like a legitimate team to contend in the WCHA. The only thing this team needs is experience, and that's something that's going to take some more time to develop.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's a Big, Big Weekend

I'm trying to remember if there's ever been a weekend like this upcoming one as far as local sports go. Sure, we've had weekends with bigger games, but when you put the entire schedule together, you've got a weekend full of things to keep an eye on.

The marquee game is the Husker game against Texas A&M.  Win, and the Huskers are Big XII North champions for the second straight year; that's something that only happened one other time:  1996-97. A month ago, this game didn't look quite as interesting as it did now.  Back then, Nebraska appeared to be cruising with a stout defense and an explosive offense, while Texas A&M was wallowing at 3-3 and playing inconsistent at best. What changed? Simple: the quarterbacks.  Taylor Martinez's leg injury just before halftime against Missouri caused him to miss nearly all of the next game and a half, and limited him last week against Kansas.  It doesn't sound like he injured himself further last week, and it may have actually helped him with developing the other aspects of his game.  Pardon me, though, if I express a little skepticism that Martinez is back to being "the old Taylor." I smell a whole lot of coach-speak here; I hope Watson is honest, and not just trying to sell us (or the A&M coaching staff) something.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M is on a four game winning streak thanks in large part on benching quarterback Jerrod Johnson. Ryan Tannehill has made the Aggies a much better team. I never was a big fan of Johnson despite his occasionally gaudy stats; like Josh Freeman at Kansas State, the measurables that draftniks and recruitniks covet never correlated with what was happening on the field. (Measurables are for fantasy football in my book...)

The Aggies defense is improved, but I'm still not ready to call them the "wrecking crew". They do rank first in the Big XII in rushing defense, but I expect the Huskers to try and hit them with a balanced attack.  Ball security will be very important this week.

But while that game is the biggest one, it's not the only game.  In hockey, #4 UNO takes on #8 North Dakota in the biggest regular season hockey series ever for the Mavs.  UNO has never been ranked this high, and has never played North Dakota, despite the history of both schools in the old North Central Conference. That alone makes it a big deal, but then you've got the Dean Blais factor.  Blais led the Sioux to two national championships before taking a shot at the NHL. Now he's back in college hockey, and has taken UNO to heights never seen before. It's a shame the Saturday night game is on at the same time as the Husker game because both games deserve the attention of fans.  Sioux fans could care less about the Husker game; at last report, 2000 of them are driving down I-29 on Friday to spend the weekend in Omaha.

The Sioux had an impressive weekend, sweeping Wisconsin on the road.  Sophomore goalie Aaron Dell shut out the Badgers for over 5 periods, earning WCHA defensive player of the week honors. This should be an exciting, memorable weekend at the Qwest Center.

If the Omaha Nighthawks offense hadn't completely disappeared over the last month, Friday night's season finale might be a little more intriguing.  The game is sold out, but I've seen a lot of tickets for sale on the secondary market.  It'll be interesting to see how many people show up for a game that's essentially meaningless, other than the final nighttime event at Rosenblatt. (I wonder if some people are planning to skip the football game to watch hockey?)

If that's not enough, Nebraska basketball faces off in Puerto Rico, starting tomorrow afternoon with a matchup with Vanderbilt. Friday afternoon could bring a matchup with Bob Huggins and West Virginia, while the Sunday game could be against North Carolina or Minnesota.  We should start getting a better idea of how Doc Sadler's team rebounds from last season in these games. Is Andre Almeida the difference-maker Doc Sadler's teams have missed since Aleks Maric graduated?

Like I said...a whole lot of things going on this weekend.  I really encourage people who haven't checked out UNO hockey to get their tickets for the Friday night game at least.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I think something special is happening with UNO hockey, and there will only be one more chance after this weekend to check out the Mavs before mid-January.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 BlogPoll Week 12

Not a lot of changes this week, other than to bump up Alabama and LSU over Nebraska, who drop with another stagnant offensive performance. Hard to keep them above those SEC schools after last week's game.

After spot 14, the upsets began, and everybody just floated up accordingly.  It seems kind of numb, but I'm not sure any of those teams told us anything more other than the teams they leaped, just kind of sucked this week.  Especially Iowegia, who seem to be kind of manic-depressive.  I had planned to just drop Utah completely from the rankings, but couldn't find anybody else to put into the rankings.  Southern Cal joins the party by upsetting Arizona, and Miami, well, doesn't look as bad as the other schools that I considered.  Hawai'i? North Carolina State?
Big XII PowerPoll
  1. Nebraska
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Missouri
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Baylor
  7. Kansas State
  8. Iowa State
  9. Texas Tech
  10. Texas
  11. Kansas
  12. Colorado

No real changes this week; I thought about dropping Iowa State for losing to Colorado, but I'm not ready to promote the Buffies out of the cellar.  The gap between K-State and Iowa State is growing.  Those last five teams are kind of a round robin of suckage; put them in any order you wish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Omaha Royals to Become the Storm Chasers...Playing At The Trailer Park

After the Omaha Royals announced that Werner Enterprises was going to be the title sponsor of the new Sarpy County Ballpark at BFE, all I could think of was "Trailer Park".  So when the word hit this afternoon that the Royals had changed their name to the Storm Chasers, all I could do was laugh at the comedic possibilities of this name.  No, tornadoes are not funny.  They are natural disasters.

This is not a natural disaster...this is a self-inflicted disaster that the Royals organization just implemented. The reaction was swift and nearly unanimous.  A horrible name, a horrible mascot. No matter where you look, it's a dud:  Omaha World-Herald, KETV-Channel 7, Revolution 21, eOmahaForums... no matter where you look, you find people shaking their heads in disbelief. It's all over Facebook, whether it's the Omaha Royals page or the KOZN Unsportsmanlike Conduct page.  It's even gone national:  the Royal Review , the Kansas City Star, and even Deadspin.

Was this a desperate way to get the initials for Sarpy County into the name of the team, yet not admit they were abandoning Omaha?  Hard to say.  The Royals insist this name won the voting, but it seems that almost nobody admits to voting for this name.  It seemed that everybody was in agreement to leave the Royals name alone.  Freshen the logo, change the colors if you will...but without a better alternative, leave well enough alone.

Listening to comments from the Royals management, you can almost hear the desperation in their voices as they try to justify the change, talking about being able to go into schools and talk about weather to kids.

"The team name recognizes the importance of weather in the metro area and across the state," said Martie Cordaro, the vice president and general manager.

Yes...that's right.  The baseball team wants to honor our weather.  Got that?  Exactly.  That explanation pretty much says it all.  It's like listening to a Bill Callahan press conference; words are coming out in complete sentences, but make absolutely no sense.

What does this mean for the future of AAA baseball in the Omaha area?  Hard to say, as this name seems to have soured a lot of people on the metro area's AAA baseball team. Maybe they'll get over it, or maybe they'll just ignore it.  When the Lancers left town and changed their name, attendance dropped like a rock until they changed their name back and moved back to town.  Now you've got a team that moved out of town with a new name that seems universally panned; some people will simply shake their heads and think twice about attending.  Or worse, just not think about attending, assuming that if the name is that bad, the rest of the product might not be worth it either.

And it's not like coming up with a good name wasn't difficult. Certainly Omaha's UFL team hit a home run by calling on the ties with Offutt Air Force Base to come up with the Nighthawks name.  Alan Stein and Martie Cordaro just left a huge opening for an independent league team to come into town with a better nickname that doesn't insult fans and presents a positive image of the metro area.  (Look up Nighthawks, Omaha)  It's been said that minor league baseball is not about the game, but rather the experience.  Bad logo, awful mascots (it's been suggested that this thing is the evil spawn of the Philly Phanatic and Q*Bert, the 1982 video game character), bad name.

Just another epic failure in the sad saga of the Royals leaving Omaha.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Will UNO Hockey Move into the Top Five?

On the heals of this weekend's win and tie at St. Cloud State, I wouldn't be shocked to see UNO jump into the top five in the USCHO rankings tomorrow. Last week, they were sixth and even received a first place vote.  #3 Yale lost to Air Force tonight, while #4 Miami split with Alaska.  Could UNO pass one of those teams up?

Friday night, UNO shut out St. Cloud State, as goalie John Faulkner only needed to make 23 saves.  Saturday night, UNO stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in the second period to take a 4-3 lead late in the game, only to have the Huskies tie it back up with just over a minute left.

Now comes the biggest series in UNO hockey history to date.  #10 North Dakota makes their first trip to Omaha for hockey; though the schools were long-time rivals in other sports in the North Central Conference, they've never played the Mavs.  Add in the history of Dean Blais, who led the Sioux to two national championships, and it's an fascinating matchup to see just where UNO matches up nationally.  Word coming out of Grand Forks is that upwards of 2,000 fans are planning to head south on I-29 this weekend.  That'll mean that Friday night's crowd should be electric with a large crowd of visitors along with a likely large crowd of Omaha fans.  Saturday night's crowd could be challenged since many casual sports fans will choose to stay home and watch the Huskers play Texas A&M on ABC.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blackshirts Shut Down Kansas

Want the story of the game?  The Blackshirts held Kansas to 87 yards of offense tonight, and if it wasn't for a Taylor Martinez fumble midway through the third quarter, probably would have shut out the Jayhawks. It was a dominating performance, and frankly, you never got the feeling that Kansas was ever going to mount a challenge, even though the game was technically close on the scoreboard.

It was a solid performance across the board on defense.  The line dominated the Kansas offensive line. The secondary were in lockdown coverage, and linebackers Lavonte David and Will Compton (when he was in) were all over the place. Yes, Kansas isn't a a good team, but still 87 yards and only five first downs (one by penalty?) is exceptional.

The offense was another matter entirely. Bo Pelini didn't think it was a lack of effort, according to his postgame interview. But it wasn't a particularly crisp performance by much of the team.  Taylor Martinez returned at quarterback, but was limited in the first half to handing off and throwing for the most part. In the second half, he ran a little zone read, but it was obvious he wasn't Martinez fast tonight.  He still accounted for 71 yards rushing, though.  He looked good throwing the ball at times, but he had a freshman mistake throwing the ball into coverage.  Ball security continues to be a problem, as he bobbled the ball twice tonight.  That's something he'll need to address in the offseason.

Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead had some nice runs, but much of the night, it seemed they needed another block or make a better read. It just seems weird to complain about the offense after a 397 yard performance, but there just wasn't the consistency you'd like to see. Since Martinez left the Missouri game, the Husker offense has seemed to stagnate without Martinez's game breaking ability

If I had to pick a player of the game tonight, it would have to be the oft-maligned Niles Paul. Many fans point to his many snafus, such as his kickoff return decision last week, as a reason to bury him on the bench. Problem with that strategy is that you throw the good out with the bad, and tonight, he had a lot of good. Third and 25, Paul leaps and snags a 26 yard completion to get a first down.  All told, four of his seven catches tonight kept drives alive when the Huskers faced third down. Add in some nifty kickoff returns, and it was a solid performance. Yes, you want Paul to cut down on his mistakes, but benching him is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

So Nebraska muddled through tonight against Kansas.  They could get away with that this week, considering the opponent.  They can't do that next week against Texas A&M; with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, the Aggies have been solid.  I think the defense will be ready next week, but the lingering question is whether Taylor Martinez can be the gamebreaker in this game he's been previously... because the Huskers will need that facet of their game next Saturday night.

Husker Mike's PostGame Kansas Podcast

PostGame Podcast after Nebraska's 20-3 victory over Kansas

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Shawn Watson Won't be Returning to Colorado

I've read a lot of speculation this week about Shawn Watson returning to Colorado as head coach.  Some of it is wishful thinking of fans who still haven't figured out that last season's Husker offense was more the result of injuries and a lack of depth on the offensive line and at wide receiver.  Some of it is simplistic reasoning:  Watson coached there, Colorado needs a head coach, and Colorado might want him back.

That might be the case, but they forget one key aspect of the job.  Watson knows all about the University of Colorado, and knows very well to stay away from that job.  Frankly, from my perspective, Colorado might be the worst head coaching job in the Big XII at this time.  It's not impossible to do well at Colorado (witness a 1991 (corrected: 1990) National Championship), but the odds are increasingly stacked against Colorado becoming a football power again anytime soon.

First of all, there is the fan base.  There is a solid group of core fans who support the Buffs through thick and thin.  But it's a small core grouping relatively speaking.  Unless the Buffs are playing a big-name opponent, folks in Denver seem to ignore the Buffs.  They frequently have to resort to gimmicky discounts to sell tickets.  That means two things:  (1) it limits the revenue opportunities and (2) it forces Colorado to play a very demanding non-conference schedule (this year, it was Colorado State, Cal, Georgia, and Hawai'i).

Colorado's athletic department still hasn't paid off the debt incurred when they fired Gary Barnett, and now the severance package for Dan Hawkins gets added to the top of that.  That will probably limit the amount of money available to pay the next coaching staff, though that actually might work out in Watson's favor, since they likely won't be able to hire a name coach.

The concerns of the state legislature about coaching contracts actually make the problem worse. The athletic department is restricted to only offering six multi-year contracts to coaches - meaning that there is no job stability or security for assistant coaches at Colorado.  Watson knows this well; he survived this in Boulder, but he knows that it's going to be difficult to assemble a staff he wants in Boulder.

And now comes word that current Buffs offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will be back next season, no matter who the next head coach is.  He doesn't have to be coordinator, but it looks like the next head coach will have to keep him around.  Again, that means that personnel decisions that typically are made by the new head coach will be made by someone else.

The next head coach at Colorado is going to find things tough...really tough to overcome.  Not impossible, mind you.  The right head coach could do it.  Art Briles made Baylor a winner.  Bill Snyder made Kansas State a winner. But the odds are stacked against success at Colorado, and Shawn Watson knows that from the inside.  I really doubt he seriously considers it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

2010 Blogpoll Week 11

This week's ballot is delayed because the administrator was late to open this week's voting...

Big change is watching Alabama tumble.  Still not completely sold on LSU, but they keep winning.  TCU jumps up to #2, taking advantage of the loss by the Tide and their blowout of Utah.  Oklahoma State's impressive victory over Baylor gives them a boost. So many teams lost this week that at the bottom of the standings, there wasn't as much room to drop teams.  I mean, who's going to move up?  That explains why a 2 loss Missouri team that's suddenly struggling stays in the top 20.

New teams are Texas A&M (they look completely different with a new quarterback) and Florida (where have you been, though that's more inertia than anything else).  Kansas State narrowly missed the cut.
Big 12 PowerPoll
  1. Nebraska
  2. Oklahoma State
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Missouri
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Baylor
  7. Kansas State
  8. Iowa State
  9. Texas Tech
  10. Texas
  11. Kansas
  12. Colorado
Oklahoma and Missouri slip with their disappointing performances, while A&M gets a nice promotion up the standings.  And based on the head to head result, Colorado has to be at the bottom.