Thursday, September 03, 2015

Not Riled Up About Nebraska Football in 2015

Tonight, the college football season kicks off the 2015 season, and on Saturday, Nebraska faces BYU in the season opener.  Exciting, yes?

Of course.  College football is a good thing.  But I have something to confess:  I'm not all that excited about Nebraska football this season.

Curious, most definitely.  But excited? It depends on how you define "excited":  if it's just the pageantry and the action, then yes, I'm still excited.  But in terms of chasing championships and winning football, then no.  No, I'm not.

I know I'm in the minority here; I think Nebraska took a wrong turn last December. It wasn't so much the decision to fire Bo Pelini, though I freely admit that I thought he should stay.  It's more that I'm not sure that Mike Riley is the guy who can take Nebraska any further.  And it's pointless to argue why at this point:  Riley is the coach, and is going to be the coach for the next 3-4 years at least, as long as he keeps Nebraska going to bowl games.  And even longer than that, if he proves me wrong and brings home some hardware.

This is more about 2015, and what we'll see on the field.  And from my vantage point, I see a team full of questions.  How will Tommy Armstrong adapt to a new philosophy?  How will Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf adapt to players with a different skill set?  I don't forsee Riley and Langsdorf adopting a Bill Callahan square peg/round hole philosophy, but can Nebraska find offensive success somewhere in the middle?

Even without the change in scheme, how does Nebraska improve offensively without Ameer Abdullah and several members of the offensive line?  Terrell Newby has had spot opportunities to play in the past, but squandered them as a freshman by failing to hang onto the ball.  Now he appears to be the man, but only by default.  De'Mornay Pierson-El could have been that difference maker on offense, but his broken foot still has weeks to heal.

Defensively, you hear good things about how Trent Bray has solidified the linebacking corps in practice, but now it's game week.  And the reality is that Nebraska might be starting two linebackers on Saturday that have never played linebacker in a college game.  But for all the good things you hear about the linebackers, you hear concerns about the secondary.

The schedule is tricky, in my opinion.  There are no games that Nebraska can't win, but there are a bunch of games that the Huskers will need to play really well in.  BYU is not your typical season opener; they embarrassed Texas last year and could have made some noise if it weren't for Taysom Hill's injury.  They say he's 100%, and if that's the case, he's going to be tough to defend...especially when breaking in a new scheme defensively.  BYU stops the run really well, and that would seem to be Nebraska's bread and butter going into the season.

Miami isn't exactly a cakewalk either.  I'm very concerned about our conditioning; the game is in the afternoon in South Florida, and Riley elected to hold practices in the evenings to avoid Nebraska's August heat.  And we also know that Wisconsin and Minnesota are very loseable games...with Michigan State coming to Lincoln in November.

So yes, I'm predicting a 7-5 season...and frankly, no Husker fan would be excited if that happens.  That being said, there are a bunch of reasons that make 7-5 more of a worst case scenario. Maybe Riley is that gem that was only held back by being in Corvallis most of his career. (Didn't stop Dennis Erickson from winning big at Oregon State, but I digress.)  10-2 or 11-1 is entirely possible.

I don't see a large amount of downside below 7-5 though. Iowa seems to have too many problems, while Northwestern is still figuring out what they are going to do.  Illinois just wants to survive 2015.  Frankly, the only other school that I see that could upset Nebraska is Purdue.  Yes, Purdue.  Not likely at all, mind you...but I think Purdue has a better chance (in West Lafayette) than Iowa and Northwestern have at winning in Lincoln this season.

So no, this is not a Bill Callahan train wreck that's coming.  It's just that I see that "four loss" string coming to an end, and in a negative fashion.  The good news is that if I'm wrong, we'll know about it really, really soon.


Isaac Smith said...

Honestly I'm in the same boat as Mike - I'm going to go into each game expecting to win but none of what you said is out of line. I think the moral of all off season talk is that we should win the games we should win and not get embarrassed and I think most Husker fans would be happy with year one... once the emotions subside.

Isaac Smith said...

I agree with Mike on this. I'll go into each game expecting (and hoping for a couple games) for a win but none of what was said here is out of line. I think the overall story line of the off season heading into the season is that we should win the games we're supposed to win and not get embarrassed in games we lose. I think if that holds true then most Husker fans will be happy... once the emotions subside at least. It's going to get bumpy but we as fans need to be patient and root for our team!