Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: Chalco Dreams Fading Away

Ugghh...what a crappy evening this has been. Internet acting up, car acting up, phone calls from work. But enough of my misery...

Sarpy County administrator Mark Wayne finally came out and admitted that Sarpy County may not be able to build a baseball stadium after all. It's the classic catch-22. The stadium is going to cost much more they forecast, and they competing against Omaha. Omaha is planning on some sort of professional baseball, and businesses don't want to commit to Sarpy County's plans. Problem is that MECA and the Royals aren't talking much these days as both are holding out to see what the best deal is going to be. Right now, it looks like a two horse race between downtown Omaha and Sugarland, Texas, with Sarpy County stuck in neutral.

My co-authors over at CornNation surprised me by naming Bo Pelini their "Big XII Cob of the Week" today. I guess the honeymoon ends after three games. To be sure, the team struggled on Saturday night, but honestly, how badly would Virginia Tech have beaten the 2007 Huskers? Jon points out the "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" penalty, but I'd argue that the impact of that penalty is vastly overrated. The killer was the original late hit flag, which turned 4th and 3 at the NU 35 into 1st and 10 at the NU 20. Yeah, 1st and 10 at the NU 10 made it a little easier to score, but the original late hit was the demoralizing blow. One could even argue that it left a little more time on the clock for the Huskers to mount a comeback.

I gave serious thought towards nominating Shawn Watson myself, as I felt the problems on Saturday night started on offense. The decision to abandon the running game early in the first quarter dug the Huskers into a 9-0 hole. Some people said that we "couldn't" run the ball against the Hokies, but the stats show otherwise. Here are our first quarter rushes from our I-backs: Castille for 4 yards, Lucky for 4 yards, Helu for 4 yards, blocked punt, interception, Helu for 9 yards. Second quarter: 2 I-back rushes, 15 Joe Ganz passes/scrambles. Yeah, that's a balanced attack. But I felt that Watson deserves a little more opportunity since it was really just his fourth game as the "true" offensive coordinator.

UNO's hockey squad was picked to finish eighth in the CCHA this season by both the coaches and media. Probably fair, since there aren't a lot of reasons to rate them higher. UNO's defensive corps was rather green last year, and it showed last season. This season they'll have a little more experience. This season, the Mavs will need one or both goaltenders to finally step their games up to the next level. Mike Kemp sounds optimistic going into the season:
"We're going to be a different looking team from what we've been the past few years. We're bigger and stronger, but we've also been able to maintain a lot of our team speed. We're excited to get going, definitely."
If he's blowing smoke, UNO hockey could be heading back into the doldrums they found themselves from 2001 to 2003. If he's speaking the truth, things could get exciting on the ice this fall.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week 5 Power Poll

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Last week I said that USC was on cruise control to Miami. Problem is, the cruise apparently was recalled like the cruise on my old Ford Explorer. So long, USC. With the remaining games against the woeful Pac-10, it's going to be tough to get back into the mix.

1. Alabama (The whole point of the Power Poll is to evaluate every team based on what they've done...and nobody's done more on the field this season than boys of Saban. Say what you will about Saban's sliminess, but the man can coach...)
2. Oklahoma (It was tough to leave them #2 after demolishing TCU last week...)
3. LSU
4. Missouri
5. Texas
6. BYU (Heck of a rise without playing a game...)
7. Penn State
8. South Florida
9. Georgia
10. Utah

Big XII Standings
Colorado and Nebraska had disappointing losses, but they don't drop because nobody below them did anything to move ahead. So it's the same as last week:
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Texas
4. Kansas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. Nebraska
8. Colorado
9. Baylor
10. Iowa State
11. Kansas State (Yeah you won...but giving up 37 points and 509 yards to the Ragin' Cajuns doesn't impress anybody...)
12. Texas A&M (Neither does a victory over Army...)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: The Statement Needs to be Made on Monday

After looking over the video from last night's game, Bo Pelini is even unhappier with the execution. He says that that the Huskers did "some boneheaded things" and it's up to the coaching staff to get things fixed:
"We can't concern ourselves with making a statement next Saturday. We've got to concern ourselves with making a statement on Monday and practicing the way we need to practice."
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tells the World-Herald this evening that he has no plans to alter the rotation at I-back. After Saturday night's game, I'm not so sure that Lucky should be demoted to backup I-back.

Considering the relative strengths of Lucky, I think he should be a wide receiver. I get accused of having "hate" for Marlon Lucky...which isn't the case. I think he's simply out of position. Lucky's at his best when he's running in space, and more often than not, that's when he's catching a pass. So why not play to his strength?

The anonymous "coach" who talked to Yahoo's Tom Dienhart essentially said the same thing:
"(Marlon) Lucky is good, and he runs good routes. But they really can't run the ball."
So why not split him out wide and let him stretch the field a little bit. It's not like Nebraska has shown much of an ability to stretch the field. Maybe Marlon Lucky is that guy.

At I-back, it sure seems like Roy Helu is the guy. Remember that touchdown run in the third quarter? How many tackles did he break on that run? Even Pelini agreed that it "sure looked like" Helu was the better back last night.

I-back isn't the only issue. On defense, I think there are some issues in the secondary that need to get corrected this week with Missouri and their high powered spread offense coming to town. Ricky Thenarse saw some action late in the first half near the goal line and made some big stops near the goal line, but didn't appear in the second half. Larry Asante, who missed blocking the man who blocked the first punt of hte game, didn't play in the second half either. He left in the 2nd quarter after being injured, but I thought I saw him back on the field towards halftime.

If I had to guess, I almost expect that we'll see Major Culbert and Matt O'Hanlon starting at safety next week.

Virginia Tech brought one of the largest and most vocal fan contingents to Lincoln that I can recall. Friendly group of fans as well, at least the ones I encountered.

Oh, and for those of you hoping to see Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit in Lincoln on Saturday? Fugetaboudit! They're going to Vanderbilt. Yes, Vanderbilt.

Hokies Pokey the Huskers

A few quick thoughts upon returning from tonight's game:
  • Nebraska's offense got itself into trouble once again by abandoning the running game in the first half. An ill-conceived 3rd and two pass was batted down...and the Hokies blocked the ensuing punt. Next offensive play? An interception. Yeah, Joe Ganz threw a touchdown pass shortly thereafter, but in the second quarter, Nebraska's I-back's only had two carries. Two carries. Two f-ing carries for the I-back in the 2nd quarter. Shawn Watson should be running steps tomorrow.
  • As I mentioned on the audio blog as I left the stadium, the secondary struggled with coverage of Hokie receivers quite a bit. That simply can't happen over the next couple of games.
  • Red zone defense is significantly improved this season. That's the good news. The bad news: the Hokies did get 4 field goals tonight.
  • Please, I'm begging. More Roy Helu at I-back. PLEASE!
  • No whining about the late hit call on Ndamakong Suh. It was the correct call. It looked like it on the HuskerVision screen, and it looked legit on my DVR. Don't know what Bo Pelini said to earn the unsportsmanlike conduct flag, but every Husker fan knew it was going to happen at some point. The fire and passion Bo Pelini brings to the Huskers was badly needed; hopefully Pelini learns how to manage it over time.
  • Give all the credit to the Hokies; they made the plays tonight. But Nebraska made way too many mistakes. Pelini acknowledged that as much on his post-game radio broadcast. There's going to be an awful lot of teaching going on this week in Lincoln.
  • Which is going to be necessary, because if Nebraska makes this many mistakes next week, Missouri could score 100.
  • Sarcastic quote of the week: “Va Tech is really going to have one hell of a time containing Nate Swift.” Ummm...Swift is a little faster than some folks give him credit for.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Husker Mike's PostGame AudioBlog: Virginia Tech

Gabcast! Husker Mike's PostGame Virginia Tech AudioBlog

Jamrog's Formula for Scheduling Football Opponents

All day, I've been looking forward to tonight's Virginia Tech/Nebraska matchup, and realizing this has been what this season has been missing all along. A home game against a lower tier opponent is fine to open the season and work out the kinks, but let's be honest, too many cupcakes only make you fat and lazy.

Jeff Jamrog, Nebraska's director of football operations, agrees as well, and illustrates his formula for scheduling non-conference opponents:
  • A BCS conference foe
  • Mix with competitive teams from "mid-majors" such as the WAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA.
  • Make sure the Huskers play three non-conference home games each season to pay the bills
  • Avoid 1-AA (aka "Football Championship Subdivision") opponents if at all possible.
Not a bad formula, but I'd suggest that if you could get two BCS conference foes, do it. The trick is getting other teams to agree to it. Here's what Bo Pelini says about it:
“I’ll play anybody. I don’t care,” Pelini said. “We’ll play the best people out there. Now, you can’t play four Top 10 opponents out of conference every year, because this conference is too good. You’d be dead. But we want to play quality people, and I think that’s where it’s headed.”
Right now, Nebraska is still working on a five game deal with Wyoming, but Wyoming apparently is hesitating. That deal would have the Huskers playing Wyoming in Denver in 2011, then three games in Lincoln, and a game in Laramie around 2016. Probably a good deal for everyone; not sure what the hang up is. Perhaps the Cowboys would rather play a home game in Laramie in 2011 instead of the money for a game in Denver. Or maybe two games in Denver. Like I've suggested, a game on a Saturday night or Sunday of Labor Day weekend in Denver would be very cool.

Watching Woody Paige blow his top at seeing the Sea of Red invading his turf would be the icing on the cake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Season Really Begins with Virginia Tech

Officially, Nebraska has a 3-0 record, but in the eyes of most fans, the season really kicks off Saturday night when Virginia Tech and the Hokies walk out onto Tom Osborne Field. Honestly, the first three games were somewhat like NFL exhibition games. You want to win, but the point was to get your feet wet on the field.

Meanwhile, Tech has played East Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech. So they aren't going to be intimidated about playing in Lincoln. But this isn't one of Frank Beamer's better squads...even Hokie fans admit it. They're just looking for improvement and development of young talent, just like the Big Red.

So while I think Nebraska is going to win...and certainly hope that Nebraska is going to win...I'm not 100% confident. This is one of those games that I could see going either way. Tech has a decent defense, but they struggled against East Carolina and to some extent against North Carolina until T.J. Yates went down. Tech's offense is somewhat one-dimensional, as Tyrod Taylor isn't the most gifted thrower. He is, however, a fairly gifted runner, and that's always been a problem for the Husker defense.

This is only the second time Nebraska has played Virginia Tech, and I'm proud to say I actually saw the first matchup. It was New Year's Eve 1996 in the Orange Bowl, and while the official attendance was 51,212 at Joe Robbie Stadium that night, I'd put the actual attendance closer to about 30,000. It was a woeful turnout by Husker fans; only about 4,000 showed up as fans already had plans to go to the Sugar Bowl until the Texas upset. Going to Miami wasn't cheap either. I had to fly out of Kansas City and fly back at 6 am New Years morning, then drive back to Omaha bleary eyed. And that airline ticket still cost me over $400! So I have to give the Husker fans who did show credit for their dedication. That wasn't a cheap trip to make, nor was it the trip they wanted to make.

Hokie fans were much more numerous, and they were enjoying themselves before the game. I did find that they took offense at my asking what a "Hokie" was; perhaps they view that question the same way Husker fans view "Does the N stand for Nowledge?" Afterwards, they were incredulous that they had lost, which surprised me some.

Needless to say, there will be a few more Husker fans in Lincoln on Saturday night.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday Night Beer: Thunder Collins Arrested on Murder Charge

Who would ever have thought that Lawrence Phillips could ever be dethroned as the former Husker player fans wished had never worn a Husker uniform? Yesterday, one man was killed and another man was seriously wounded in a shooting in Omaha. Today, a suspect was arrested: former Husker running back Thunder Collins.

To be sure, an arrest doesn't equate to guilt. That is a subject for the court of law and in due time. First degree murder is no laughing matter. In fact, this is about as serious as it comes, as the World-Herald reports that the case revolves around a drug deal that turned into a robbery attempt. Which makes it even more incredulous that Collins actually gave an interview to Omaha TV station KMTV-Channel 3 yesterday, admitting that he was in the area yesterday. (I'm sure Omaha TV News blogger Ted Brockman is going to have fun with reporter Devin Patton not inquiring further just what Collins was doing in that neighborhood and what he saw...)

One thing is for sure... no Nebraska running back should ever be allowed to wear jersey number 1 ever again.

It's not like this is the first time Collins has been in trouble either. Certainly, Collins is becoming known much more for what he's done off the field than on the field. Collins was perhaps the first recruit where the hype went absurd. Even before he ever put on a Husker uniform, the Pinnacle Sports Network was already debating whether AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" or Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" should be his theme song. Fans ate it up, expecting him to start right away. He never lived up to the hype from his arrival.

Now, Collins sits in jail facing charges that could lead to the death penalty, should he be found guilty.

It almost seems unfair to mention a couple of other former Huskers who were also overhyped when they arrived in Lincoln, but they're in the news as well for football. Former Husker quarterback Harrison Beck will start for North Carolina State this week, rebounding from a poor fall practice to some extent. Starter Russell Wilson is injured and backup Daniel Evans has been horrible. True freshman Mike Glennon is going to redshirt, leaving Beck as the next option. The News & Observer gave us the following account:

In 10 career games, Beck has four touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. All four of his touchdown passes came against non-BCS conference foe Central Florida and FCS team William & Mary.

"He can wing it around," (NC State head coach Tom) O'Brien said. "We're just going to have to tell him that we're wearing the red jerseys on Saturday night, and we'll be in good shape."

Ouch. Not exactly a vote of confidence there.

Also, running back Leon Wright-Jackson is the starting running back for Hawai'i, though he's been battling injuries. He'll be facing San Jose State this weekend, and judging from how the Warriors have run the ball this season and how San Jose State did with clogging the Husker rushing attack a couple of weeks ago, he probably won't have a big game.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lancers Problems a Warning to Sarpy County & Royals

Yesterday, the Council Bluffs city council voted to void the rest of the Omaha Lancers agreement to play in Council Bluffs' Mid America Center after this upcoming season. For now, Council Bluffs and the Lancers will continue to negotiate, but the writing is on the wall. The Lancers have bled money ever since moving away from the heart of the city in search of new digs and free parking. And now it's coming to an end, as the Lancers prepare to leave the Bluffs. What will happen to the Mid America Center now without an anchor tenant now?

Is that story getting ready to repeat itself, with the Royals and Sarpy County? If you listen to some in this community, you bet. They see all development exploding around Chalco and see this as a can't miss. Funny thing, development exploded around the Mid-America Center too: Bass Pro Shops, movie theatres, hotels, expanded casinos, shopping, restaurants.

And it all failed when it came to the Lancers. Why? I'll give you a theory: the old fans weren't willing to cross the river, and the new fanbase failed to materialize. Replace "river" with "county line" and start asking questions.

"Oh, no!" they say. This is different, they'll tell us. It's the same thing that dot.com investors told us ten years ago, before that bubble popped. It's the same thing that real estate investors told us five years ago, before that bubble popped.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. And when history is being made right under your eyes, it takes the truly ignorant to miss it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 4 Power Poll

Again, not much of a change this week.

1. USC ("Bye Week" might be as tough as an opponent as anybody else in the Pac 10. They are on cruise control to Miami in January from here on out...)
2. Oklahoma
3. Florida
4. LSU
5. Missouri (If that's Missouri on a bad week, look out...)
6. Alabama
7. Georgia
A huge break after Georgia. At this point, you could make a solid case for any order of the teams from #3 to #7.
8. Texas
9. Wisconsin
10. Penn State

Big XII Standings
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Texas
4. Kansas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. Nebraska
8. Colorado
9. Baylor
10. Iowa State (I'm counting the Cyclones victory over Kent State as better than Kansas State's victory over North Texas.)
11. Kansas State
12. Texas A&M (Quickly becoming the "New Baylor" of the Big XII)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: Barfknecht Sees Weaknesses In Mizzou

The World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht headed to Columbia to watch Missouri defeat Turner Gill's Buffalo Bulls 42-21 yesterday. I had predicted a big Missouri victory, but the game was fairly tight for most of the first three quarters. Barfknecht wonders whether Gill had found a formula for defeating the Tigers:
Did Buffalo offer any kind of blueprint for slowing down Missouri?

"We'll see," Gill said. "Everybody will look at it and see what is best for their team and their personnel. What was best for us was we wanted to be physical."

Somewhere, Tom Osborne just read that and smiled. Meanwhile, Daniel and Missouri's receivers are grimacing because icepacks are a likely accessory for them today.

Buffalo defensive ends coach Brian Mohnsen, a former Husker player and video scouting director, said the Bulls played almost all base defense Saturday and then tried to clobber people.
To be sure, the game was closer than most folks thought. But before anybody gets too excited, check out Chase Daniel's line for the game: 36 completions out of 43 attempts, 2 touchdowns, and 439 yards. Yeah, his receivers coughed up the ball three times. But Daniel's been solid all season long. It all starts there with Missouri. If Nebraska is going to have any shot of defeating the Tigers, the Pelini brothers need to find a way to prevent Daniel from getting into his usual rhythm. We know from last season that a prevent defense plays right into Missouri's plan. And even Nebraska has a plan, does Nebraska have the horses to implement it?

Question: Are the Tigers the best football team in the state of Missouri, considering the current state of the Chiefs and Rams?

But before worrying about Missouri, Virginia Tech is up first. Tech may have turned the corner late against North Carolina, coming back from a 17-3 deficit to win 20-14 on the road. Tyrod Taylor may have limped off the field with a twisted ankle, but he could have returned after leading the Hokies back into the lead.

In any event, we'll start learning this week what kind of team Nebraska has as the "exhibition season" has ended.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nebraska's Memorial & Rosenblatt Stadiums Make ESPN's Top 100

ESPN yesterday released a list of the top 100 most important sports venues, and both Rosenblatt Stadium (#51) and Memorial Stadium (#88) made the list. Note the distinction about "most important"; ESPN's Jim Caple starts off by saying it's not the "best 100" or his "favorite 100", but rather based on what has happened there.

Rosenblatt's claim to fame? The College World Series, of course. Says Caple:
"Because a pilgrimage to the home of the College World Series might be even better than a trip to the Final Four."
Memorial Stadium's claim to fame? Well, Caple goes to the old stereotype:
Because "Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football," and that inscription on the stadium entrance might not be hyperbole.
In this year's inaugural issue of "A Sea of Red" (you did buy a copy, didn't you?), AJ the Huskerh8r and I discussed whether Nebraska's fans are the "greatest". I think they're pretty good fans...but like all groups, we've got more than our share that give the fan base a bad name. But by that same token, I think I agree with Jon that the signs over each entrance probably should go down. In some part, it's because of who put them up in the first place. But the bigger issue is that there shouldn't be a need to brag about it either. Actions speak louder than words, and there's no need for this gratuitous self-promotion.

No, I think you can look at Nebraska's five national championships (and especially that 60-3 five year run in the middle 90's) as justification enough of Memorial Stadium's presence on that list. It's certainly not the aesthetics. While the recent improvements on the east and north have dressed it up (despite the clusterf* of not adding any entrances where the new seats were added), it's still not a great stadium from an architecture standpoint. (Certainly with most of the seats in the endzones, it's a poor design!) But it's what we've got, and the product on the field (last four years being the exception) makes it well worth it's inconveniences.

I'm sure that fans of Rosenblatt will try to point out that with Rosenblatt being #51 on the list, we shouldn't be tearing it down. But that's not the point at all. Look who's #1 on the list: Yankee Stadium, which will be demolished soon after the last ball game tommorow night. Like Rosenblatt, it's had it's time in the spotlight. But it's reached the point where it's no longer feasible to keep fixing it up. The demands of the events it holds make it obsolete. Rosenblatt could probably survive another ten years or so as it is with moderate investments, but eventually, it was going to require a complete overhaul. That complete overhaul makes the interim investments a poor investment long term. That's why the new stadium is being built. $30 million would buy Rosenblatt another five or ten years, but $100 million would still eventually need to be invested in it.

In both of these cases, it's not the aesthetics of the building, but rather the history of what happened inside that is the claim to fame.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chalco Ballpark Estimate Comes In High

Coincedence? The study for a proposed Sarpy County ballpark is in...and as expected, it comes in a lot higher than Sarpy County officials predicted. The authors of the study, Convention Sports and Leisure, say that a new stadium (7,000 seats) will cost $41.3 million to build once land is acquired and prepared. I'm not sure what that all entails, so for working purposes, count on $45 to $50 million as the total cost of spiting the city of Omaha.

How would Sarpy County pay for this stadium? The study makes several recommendations which, frankly, don't look practical. Some proposals would require changes in state law, a process which has been already been rejected in previous years for Cabela's and the original downtown stadium for the Royals. The other suggestion: increasing property taxes.

Does this kill the idea of a Chalco stadium? Hardly. Sarpy County administrators seem unfazed by this development. In fact, county attorney Lee Polikov found the report "encouraging" for some reason. (That seems to suggest he thought the report was going to come in even higher than it did.) Perhaps they've already got committments from someone to donate a large portion of the funds necessary to build a stadium. That's how the new downtown stadium came to be. Or perhaps folks in heavily Republican Sarpy County don't care about taxes. Or maybe Santa or the Tooth Fairy will come through. You just never know.

Hopefully what this does is reopen the lines of communication between MECA and the Omaha Royals to get both organizations to reconsider their earlier positions and compromise to keep the Royals in the Omaha area. The consultants even note that it would be extremely unusual for a metropolitan area like Omaha to build two new stadiums:
"Markets similar in size to Omaha are rarely home to two modern, relatively large ballparks, as will be the case if separate venues are constructed in downtown Omaha and Sarpy County. This situation could present unique competitive dynamics between the two facilities."
Of course, "competitive dynamics" seems to be the driving factor in this debate as the report also investigated the cost of building a stadium for an independent or class A franchise. Gee...imagine that... Sarpy County might still pursue a stadium even if the Royals weren't interested.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Night Beer: MMA Proves Omaha an Event Town

I must admit that I'm not a fan of boxing or "ultimate fighting" or MMA or whatever they call it. (When I was a kid, we called it "kill the man"...) But apparently many people in Omaha are, or at least bothered to leave work early to head to the Civic Auditorium for tonight's "UFC Fight Night". A quick channel surf showed the place looked pretty close to full, and judging from the traffic downtown after work, lots of people went early. Kevin and Mike'l on KOZN-1620 AM were even broadcasting from the Civic, and they pointed out that this is yet more evidence that Omaha loves a big event, even if we don't understand the sport. Whether it's UFC or Olympic swimming or college volleyball, we love a big event if we're given a reason to attend.

Which must absolutely frustrate others who try to promote regular sporting events in town, such as the Omaha Royals. Speaking of which, the talk about building a stadium in Chalco and Gretna has completely dried up. Last we heard, Sarpy County officials were awaiting a report on how Sarpy could possibly afford to build a baseball stadium for the Royals. That report was due about four weeks ago, and if feasible, negotiations were to begin after Labor Day. Either the negotiations have gone back underground, or the feasibility study came back rather negative.

Here's another little tidbit from the radio today. CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd picks Nebraska as a dark horse candidate to win the entire Big XII this season:
It's clear that coach Bo Pelini is lining things up for Oct. 4 when No. 5 Missouri visits. If the Huskers can take down the Tigers -- Missouri has won three of the last five -- it might be time to reassess the North.
Now, I haven't see much from Nebraska so far to suggest that the Huskers could run the table in the Big XII this season, but that doesn't mean they can't either. It's really hard to draw much of a conclusion from the opening three cupcakes on the schedule.

But if Nebraska continues to improve and gets players like Rickey Thenarse back on the field healthy, you just never know. Nebraska is going to need all of the playmakers they can find when the high powered spread offenses of the Big XII start showing up in October.

Speaking of the cupcakes, it turns out that Nebraska is actually coming out money ahead by having the first three games on pay-per-view. Normal telecasts net Nebraska $275,000 for each game, but executive associate A.D. Marc Boehm estimates that the Huskers will net between $250,000 and $400,000 for each pay-per-view broadcast. In other words, Nebraska will likely clear an extra quarter of a million dollars for playing games suitable only for pay-per-view. Yikes. That's horrible news for folks looking for reasons to improve the schedule. But on the other hand, it helps repair the budget damage from two high-profile dismissals in 2007.

Here's another potential future schedule upgrade. Nebraska is in discussions with Wyoming on a multiple year deal, with one game at Invesco Field in Denver and the others in Lincoln. That's likely a win-win for everybody, especially if they hold this game over Labor Day weekend. (Saturday night or Sunday would make this a nice weekend trip for Husker fans!) Nebraska gets two home games, and Wyoming gets the revenue from 45,000 additional fans than can fit into War Memorial Stadium. And can you imagine Woody Paige's outrage at seeing 50,000 Husker fans roaming through Denver that weekend?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Husker Season Gets A Whole Lot Tougher From Here

Now that the "exhibition" part of the schedule is over with, things start getting a little more interesting from here on out. (Some people might argue that "bye" might be as tough of an opponent as New Mexico State.) Certainly, the first three games didn't provide much competition; Sagarin rates the schedule #138 so far. That starts changing next week. Sagarin's computer sure thinks highly of Virginia Tech; they are ranked #11 this week. Missouri is #18, and Texas Tech #19.

But what do we know about the Huskers? Well, not a whole lot, to tell you the truth. They're playing harder, and the coaches can make adjustments during the game. So that's a huge improvement over last year.

ABC selected Virginia Tech/Nebraska to be part of the ABC primetime lineup; that's good and bad. Love the "big game" coverage...but man, does that make the drive home after the game really suck. But really, the important thing about that game is getting our first real impression as to where this program stands in 2008.

There's a lot to like. A fairly diverse offense that can move the ball any number of ways. A much improved defensive line, led by Ndamakong Suh and Zach Potter. Some very talented youngsters in the secondary, such as Eric Hagg and Prince Amakurama. And a surprising linebacker in Cody Glenn, who allegedly couldn't stay healthy while at I-back.

Consistency is going to be the key. We've seen flashes of good play, and stretches of not-so-good play. Problem is that from here on out, there simply isn't any room for error. Virginia Tech looks to be settling on the elusive Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Missouri is deadly on offense. Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach wasn't impressed with 693 yards against SMU on Saturday night:
"What we've done, quite honestly, for two-and-a-half games, I don't consider acceptable. I don't know at what point we think that we've arrived. This group of quarterbacks and receivers, we haven't done anything impressive."
Will Nebraska emerge from this next three game stretch 3-3 or 6-0? More than likely, somewhere in between. I wish I knew where Nebraska is...but it's purely a crap shoot at this point.

One thing that might be easier to prognasticate is who will televise those games. On October 4th, there are likely five TV windows available: Versus and FSN at 11:30 am, ABC at 2:30 PM, ESPN at 4:30 pm (tentative), and FSN at 6 pm. Here are the games that day: Kansas @ Iowa State, Missouri @ Nebraska, Oklahoma @ Baylor, Texas A&M @ Oklahoma State, Texas Tech @ Kansas State. From my perspective, the Missouri/Nebraska game is the top game of the day, with Tech/K-State close behind. So I expect ABC and ESPN to grab those games.

On October 11th, there are only three or four windows available, with ABC already planning Oklahoma/Texas at 11 am. ESPN will show a 4:30 pm game (time tentative) and FSN will carry a game at 5:30 pm. Will ABC carry a 2:30 game? Here are the candidates: Iowa State @ Baylor, Kansas State @ Texas A&M, Nebraska @ Texas Tech, Oklahoma State @ Missouri, and Colorado @ Kansas. This one's tough, and it might depend on what happens the next couple of weeks. I'll bet that ABC uses one of their 6 day windows on this game to wait and see what happens to Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas Tech the week before.

Week 3 Power Poll

Not much of a change in this week's Power Poll, since Ohio State wasn't even there to begin with.

1. USC
2. Oklahoma (Sooners and Trojans separating themselves from the rest of the pack)
3. Florida
4. LSU
5. Missouri
6. Alabama
7. Georgia
8. Wisconsin
9. Texas
10. Oregon (Dropped for almost losing to Purdue)

Big XII standings
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Texas
4. Kansas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. Nebraska
8. Kansas State (Yeah, they were passed by Tech and the Huskers. It's still early.)
9. Baylor (Must give them credit for blasting Washington State)
10. Colorado
11. Iowa State
12. Texas A&M

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Huskers Play Four Quarters Against New Mexico State

Nebraska played a pretty good first half against Western Michigan...and a good fourth quarter against San Jose State. But the second half against the Broncos and the first three quarters against the Spartans left a lot to be desired for Husker fans. So it was nice to see the Huskers play pretty well tonight against New Mexico State.

It wasn't a perfect game, but certainly acceptable. The Aggies drove the field on the opening possession by throwing multiple interesting looks at the Huskers, especially lining up wide receiver Wes Neiman in the backfield to take a direct snap. But once the Huskers got to the sideline following Zach Potter's blocked field goal attempt, the defensive coaches made the necessary adjustments. While it wasn't a domination, it was a good performance especially considering the injuries in the secondary. I mean, with all respect to redshirt freshman Lance Thorell, you've got to hope that Rickey Thenarse and Anthony West are going to be back in two or three weeks.

Offensively, we saw the offensive line finally get into sync, opening some lanes for Marlon Lucky to finally exploit. Roy Helu, Jr. is still the best all-around running back on the roster as far as Im concerned, but there's no question that Marlon Lucky is this team's best playmaker once he gets the ball in space.

So the Huskers are now 3-0, though the going gets a whole lot tougher from here on out. It was a better performance, but as Bo Pelini said after the game, there are plenty of areas where this team needs to improve.

Other thoughts:
  • San Jose State beat San Diego State 35-10, one week after the Aztecs lost by 8 to Notre Dame. Western Michigan beat Idaho 51-28. Maybe the first two Husker opponents aren't quite as feeble as first thought.
  • If you think that Nebraska has pretty much shown their entire offensive playbook, tell me that you really believe that Nebraska's passing game is pretty much limited to screen passes.
  • Auburn 3, Mississippi State 2? Who got the save for the Tigers?
  • WTF were people thinking when they ranked Ohio State in the top five? Who has Ohio State beaten since defeating Texas in 2006? Seriously. They were annihilated in the 2006 national championship game by Florida, and were dominated by LSU last season. There's a reason why they didn't even rate a mention in my power ratings. And it looks like they won't be seen there anytime soon.
  • The rest of the Big MAC is going to have to depend on Penn State to regain respectability. I've seen a few lowlights from that Michigoon/Notre Dame game that suggest that Rich Rodriquez has quite a bit of work to do in Ann Arbor.
  • Turner Gill's Buffalo Bulls had quite the finish against Temple, scoring the winning touchdown as time expired.
  • Missouri 69, Nevada 17. Ouch. Yeah, it's nice to get your feet wet against the spread against San Jose State and New Mexico State, but it gets serious from here on out.
  • Nice to see Jeffie Husker check in from Houston this morning. Hopefully all is still well.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Night Beer: WTF is Up With Baylor?

First of all, what a game between Kansas and South Florida tonight. Early on, it looked like the Jayhawks were set to roll, but the Bulls came out on fire to start the second half. Then suddenly, the Jayhawks caught fire again to tie the game at 34. But down the stretch, South Florida returned a Todd Reesing interception deep into Jayhawk territory, setting up a game winning field goal as the Bulls won 37-34.

I was hoping that FSN would also be showing the Baylor/Washington State game tonight as well, but it turns out that the game was only being carried in Texas and Washington State. (At first, I thought that my cable company had chosen to show the Kansas City Royals instead.) Nevertheless, it was weird watching Baylor score touchdown after touchdown. As I post this, Baylor is up on Washington State 45-17.

That's not a misprint.

Baylor is beating a BCS conference opponent 45-17.

Looks like Art Briles is off to a good start with Baylor.

Of course, the real reason why we couldn't watch Baylor/Washington State is Hurricane Ike. Send your thoughts and prayers south to the folks down in Texas, especially Jeffie Husker of DoubleExtraPoint, who is weathering the storm in Houston. Hope we hear from him tomorrow or Sunday safe and sound.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Schedule Upgrades

Nebraska's 2009 membership in the Sun Belt Conference appears to be just a one year fad, as Jeff Jamrog is preparing to sign contracts for a three-game series with Fresno State and a home-and-home series with Miami. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know that Nebraska has always tried to schedule a Miami or Virginia Tech each season. The difference is that over the next three years, it's one premier opponent and three mediocre or worse teams.

And that's horrible for college football. Look at the crap that passed for a schedule in the Big XII conference last weekend. This week is much better: Arkansas @ Texas (now postponed due to Hurricane Ike), Iowa State @ Iowa, Washington State @ Baylor (moved to Friday night due to Ike, but still televised by FSN), Missouri State @ Oklahoma State, SMU @ Texas Tech, Nevada @ Missouri, Oklahoma @ Washington, Kansas @ South Florida, and New Mexico State @ Nebraska. But still, you'd like to see a few more big name matchups.

So now, Nebraska has two games scheduled each year from until 2017:
  • 2011: TBA, Fresno State, Washington, TBA
  • 2012: Southern Miss, @ UCLA, TBA, TBA
  • 2013: TBA, @ Southern Miss, UCLA, TBA
  • 2014: TBA, Fresno State, Miami-FL, TBA
  • 2015: Southern Miss, @ Miami-FL, TBA, TBA
  • 2016: TBA, Tennessee, Fresno State, TBA
  • 2017: TBA, @ Tennessee, TBA, TBA
How will Jeff Jamrog and Tom Osborne fill those games? Personally, I'd like to see another home and home deal with a BCS conference team or a 2-for-1 deal with another decent mid-major. Then, go ahead and schedule another MAC or Sun Belt team for a 4th game. One of those is ok each season. Three is not.

And lets face it... Nebraska needs to play three home non-conference games each season. So only one game can be on the road. So go on the road in 2011 and then get a return game in 2012. A home game in 2013, and return it on the road in 2014. A home game in 2015, and a road game in 2016. Maybe a Big Ten team, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa. How about some ACC schools, such as Boston College or North Carolina? Maybe some SEC schools like South Carolina or Arkansas? I'm not suggesting that Nebraska needs to take on the likes of Florida or LSU with the schedules they've set up. But let's put something on the field that fans will want to attend and the TV networks would love to show.

Speaking of Ike and Arkansas, that Arkansas at Texas game has now been moved to September 27th. That game will probably now grab the 2:30 ABC time slot for that day, unless ABC talks the Big XII into allowing to move this game to primetime on the 27th. Versus has an 11:30 am game that day, and FSN has a 2:30 or 6 pm timeslot as well. My money's on the FSN 6 pm timeslot right now.

Ike did AJ the Huskerh8r a favor. Since Baylor/Washington State got moved to Friday night, FSN switched the 11:30 am Missouri/Nevada game from pay-per-view to FSN. (Even if Nebraska was playing New Mexico State at 11:30 am, I still think FSN would have stuck with the Mizzou game.) Better game for TV anyway; I figure that FSN chose the Baylor game just to get one of their required Baylor telecasts out of the way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: Darth's Next Stunt Will Cost $25K

Darth Husker settled with the Daily Oklahoman over his "Sooner quarterback cocaine scandal" fark; while terms weren't announced, the agreement stipulates that if he does it again, it'll cost him $25,000. My guess is that Darth is probably brown-bagging his lunch now.

New Mexico cornerback Davon House must be reading AJ the Huskerh8r. He recently was quoted as saying that "we believe our receivers are 10 times better than their receivers."

This week, it's become fashionable to call for Roy Helu, Junior to get more carries at I-back this week, and play Marlon Lucky in the slot. I called this in May, but I don't think we'll see it for another two weeks. No sense tipping your hand early. But there is a precedent for turning Lucky into a "slash" player; his high school coach lined him up at quarterback and as a slot receiver. Even Bill Callahan lined him up wide as a freshman. Heck, I'd like to see him returning punts and kickoffs.

So Andy Christensen is going to be reinstated for the Virginia Tech game. I've got mixed feelings on this. On one hand, missing spring and the first six weeks of fall practice with a new coaching staff is a penalty. And he was found not guilty of the most serious charge. But by that same manner, from what I read in the media about the trial, something seemed to happen at the Brass Rail that night. The evidence wasn't strong enough to send Christensen to jail for twenty or thirty years. But what I read appeared to be strong enough to keep Christensen out of a Husker uniform. Playing football is a privledge, not a right.

Omaha got yet another big event: the 2013 US Senior Open golf tournament. I wonder what that will mean for the Nationwide Tour's Cox Classic. The dates for the 2013 open look to be the same as the traditional Classic dates (early August). But if I had to choose between the two, I'd take the US Senior Open in a heartbeat.

Can we please put Tom Brady out of our misery now? Players get hurt all the time. It's football. It happens. And it's ironic that the football program that plays fast and loose with the rules of the game now whines about the legitimacy of the play. Cry me a river.

Joe Mortensen: An Example of How Recruiting Hype Failed Nebraska

Today's Omaha World-Herald profiles Kansas linebacker Joe Mortensen. Rated a "2 star" prospect by Rivals, he accepted a scholarship offer from Nebraska in the summer of 2003 after attending the Huskers summer camp. More specifically, he was the most valuable player of the camp.

Fast forward a few months, and the Bill Callahan/Steve Pederson error was underway. On signing day 2004, Mortensen finds out that Nebraska has rescinded his scholarship offer. So he reopens his recruiting, and signs with Kansas.

Who needs a 2-star linebacker, right? Nebraska doesn't need to offer scholarships to 2-star linebackers, right?

So whatever happened to that schmuck anyway? Well, he's now a three year starter...and a consensus all-Big XII linebacker.


To be fair, Mortensen might not have developed into a star linebacker if he had come to Nebraska and been coached by the previous staff. So it's not assurred that Mortensen would have been all-Big XII at Nebraska.

But do you think he could have helped Nebraska? And was that a huge mistake by the previous staff? Once again... absolutely.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Week 2 Power Poll

No change in this week's Power Poll after a week of crappy matchups.

1. Southern Cal
2. Oklahoma (Almost moved down because of the first half against Cincy)
3. Florida (Almost moved up, but I'm not sure Miami is any good... So they hold steady for now.)
4. LSU (The Tigers may hold steady until Hurricane season is over...)
5. Missouri
6. Georgia
7. Auburn
8. Oregon
9. Alabama
10. Wisconsin

Big XII Power Rankings
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Kansas (The rise is based more on the suckage of others this week...)
4. Texas (Outyarded by UTEP? Turner Gill's Buffalo Bulls did a better job defending the Miners than the Bovines...)
5. Oklahoma State (Have you been consulting with Kevin Cosgrove?)
6. Kansas State (Again, rising due to other's suckage...)
7. Texas Tech
8. Nebraska
9. Iowa State
10. Colorado (Nearly lost again to another 1-AA team...)
11. Baylor
12. Texas A&M

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Shatel: Solich a Better Recruiter than Callahan?

On a weekend of lousy matchups in college football, there were two games in particular I was interested in. It wasn't the matchups, but rather the former Huskers in charge. The Buffalo at Pitt game wasn't until late afternoon, but the Ohio at Ohio State game was on simultaneous with the Husker/Spartan matchup. I must admit I was keeping an eye on the out of town scores on the scoreboard, and was starting to get intrigued when I saw "Ohio 14, Ohio State 12, 4th quarter" flash. (Even Corn Blight from CornNation was texting me for a score update on that one!)

In the end, Ohio's five turnovers killed their chances to pull off the upset in the horseshoe. As we were going through this weeks predictions, I thought Ohio was going to be intently focused on Ohio State while the Buckeyes would be thinking ahead to their matchup with #1 USC next week. I predicted Ohio State 27-13, which was pretty darn close. Nevertheless, Frank Solich's team put on a good performance in Columbus on Saturday, and he's got the Bobcats on the right path in the MAC.

Contrast that with Nebraska on Saturday, as the Huskers muddled through the first three quarters against a San Jose State team that nearly got beat by 1-AA Cal-Davis last week. Tom Shatel noted that everyone in the press box was also keeping an eye on the Ohio/OSU game. In some respects, there was a similarity between the Huskers performance against the Spartans with the Huskers performance in 2007.

My preseason prediction was that much of the problem in 2007 should be attributed to the previous coaching staff, and specifically how they developed and coached these players. I felt that there was much more talent in Lincoln than we had seen.

After two games, we still haven't seen much of it.

So is it still a work in progress, or are the critics right... Is the talent level at Nebraska THAT low now?

How could that be? Haven't we been told of the unbelievable level of talent that's been recruited in recent years? Wasn't recruiting going to be the solution? Shatel today dropped the following bombshell:
"Ironically, it's not a stretch to say Frank Solich was a better recruiter than Callahan and Co.

We'll make that judgment later. There might be a ton of talent here that is waiting to blossom, waiting to click."
Stop for a second and digest that statement for a second. (That statement would have certainly been Blasphemous not too long ago. Might still be, in fact!) The jury is still out on Callahan's recruiting. Oh sure, there are those meaningless Rivals ratings, to be sure. But the real proof is in how the teams play and how the players progress through this system and potentially advance to the next level. And to be sure, Solich put a whole bunch of players (mostly on defense) into the NFL. We'll have to wait to judge Callahan's players until their eligibility expires.

For now, we're still waiting for the promise to be realized. Maybe it never will. Maybe it's going to take a little longer. Maybe 2007 wasn't just a poor coaching...maybe the problems run much deeper.

We don't know at this point. Bo Pelini told the Lincoln Journal-Star that his players haven't played near the level they are capable of:
"I don't think we've played nearly as well as we've practiced. We've been making bonehead errors. Obviously, it's bad because we have high expectations, but it's good that there's a lot more to do, a lot more to practice, a lot more for us to accomplish."
If he's correct, and it's just a matter of correcting the mistakes and improving, those high expectations many fans have made might still be realized. But improvement needs to be made soon, as the schedule starts becoming less forgiving.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Does Bo Know The Way to Stop San Jose (State)?

With apologies to Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, today's Husker game against San Jose State had Husker fans crying "Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe" most of the first three quarters. The game got off to a horrendous start for the Big Red with numerous missed tackles in the first quarter that allowed the Spartans to jump on the scoreboard first.

The tackling problem was short lived, as the defense made the appropriate adjustments. But on offense, the Huskers were mostly putrid all day. San Jose State stacked the line playing 9 in the box most of the day, and Nebraska struggled to run the ball most of the day.

Today's game was a hard one to get a handle on, as I kind of got the idea that the coaching staff wasn't as concerned as the fans in the stands were. Offensively, Shawn Watson seemed content to run screen passes to the wide receivers rather than push the ball downfield. I kind of got the idea that Nebraska was trying to not show or do too much today.

Which is essentially what fans got today. A 35-12 victory that wasn't much to think of. They were outgained by the Spartans, and might have been outscored if it weren't for an interception return by Ndamakong Suh and an 85 yard kickoff return by Niles Paul.

So it was a day of much suckage. Here are a few game notes:
  • On one first quarter run, Yonus Davis not only broke six tackles, but apparently Barry Turner's leg as well. The Omaha World-Herald reports that Turner says it's a fracture. A medical redshirt may be in order for the senior defensive end. Pierre Allen played well in relief of Turner today.
  • The offensive line was thought to be a strength of this team, but now looks like a weakness. Yes, both Western Michigan and San Jose State stacked the line, but there should be more productivity than what we're seeing. On the Husker Radio Network postgame, former all-American Brendan Stai theorized that part of the problem might be the patchwork status of the line; the players haven't reacted a comfort level with their roles. Maybe that's the case, but if so, that's a problem that needs resolution immediately.
  • OK, this defense isn't going to be one of the top defenses in the country..but make no bones about it, they are improved. This defense swarms to the ball, and gets their arms up and makes defending the pass a priority. Look at the interceptions from Ndamakong Suh and Zach Potter today.
  • Cody Glenn was a playmaker again. He's probably out of position frequently due to his inexperience, but his speed and physicality more than make up for it.
  • Don't be looking for Blackshirts to be issued anytime soon, though if they issue a few to some standouts on defense, they'll start out up front.
  • The first Blackshirt might go to the uprights at Memorial Stadium. San Jose State's kickers doinked both of them, and missed another entirely. Those seven points might have changed the complexion of today's game entirely.
  • Niles Paul is another potential playmaker on offense. His electric 85 yard kickoff return at the start of the fourth quarter gave Nebraska the spark to finish today's game strong.
  • Roy Helu, Jr. looks to be the strongest I-back at this point. With the inability of the offensive line to open up holes, Marlon Lucky has been a non-factor to this point.
  • Quentin Castille dropped an option pitch today, continuing a problem with ball security. Perhaps another I-back to linebacker conversion in the spring? Sure worked with Cody Glenn.
  • For those of you looking, there was no post-game audio blog today due to phone issues.
Bottom line is Nebraska is 2-0...but it's an unsure 2-0. You'd like to think that the next two games are winnable. (New Mexico State hasn't played yet, and Virginia Tech struggled with Furman today.) After that, all bets are off. Last year, I said after the Iowa State game that Nebraska needed to improve significantly to win again...they regressed, and lost six of their last seven games. Same thing applies in 2008; they need to improve significantly from what we've seen to win many games from here on out.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Night Beer: Fowler Wants NU/Iowa in KC; Tomey Pops Off

Over at CornNation, I lamented this weekend's horrible football schedule. Turns out ESPN's Chris Fowler shares that opinion. Fowler went on to propose some more neutral site matchups, like last week's Mizzou-Illinois (in St. Louis) or Alabama-Clemson (in Atlanta). #4 on that list? Nebraska-Iowa at Arrowhead in Kansas City.

I have mixed feelings on this, but overall, I think I'd pass on this suggestion. Nebraska-Iowa is a matchup that should happen more often, but frankly, moving home games from Lincoln is not a good idea in general. While Arrowhead is a great facility, it's now smaller than Memorial Stadium. Fewer fans means less revenue to the school, and moving a game from Lincoln means less revenue for the state.

Nothing against Arrowhead; it's a great facility and the Oklahoma State game ten years ago was a great event. If Nebraska could somehow figure out a way to convince opponents to move to Arrowhead, that would be a great move. Home games? Not so much. (I can already hear the outcries of "elitist b*stards", but bear me out.) I just don't see the point of moving a game away from fans of both schools unless it adds something special to the mix. Colorado/Colorado State works in Denver because Mile High holds 50% more fans than Folsom. Missouri/Kansas and Iowa State/Kansas State works at Arrowhead because Arrowhead is bigger than all four stadiums. Everybody wins in those situations.

How did this weekend's game with San Jose State happen? Seems that Spartans head coach Dick Tomey wanted to dump Tennessee and get an easier game on their schedule. Yep...Tomey would rather play Nebraska than Tennessee for four reasons: better weather (less humid), kinder fans (Memorial Stadium is not a particularly intimidating place to play), he's familiar with Lincoln, and Bill Callahan was dismantling the program. Ouch.

Administrivia strikes the Husker basketball program again. Doc Sadler got a verbal commitment from Jorge Diaz, a 7 footer from Puerto Rico. Diaz was cleared by the NCAA, but couldn't get admitted into Nebraska. Turns out the computer crashed while he was trying to pass an online English proficency test. Now the administration is pointing their fingers back towards the athletic department, saying that the athletic department declined to offer Diaz a second chance to take the test. All this after the Roburt Sallie fiasco that resulted in Sallie signing with Memphis instead of Nebraska. Oy! Not again.

Want another feel-good walk-on story? Read about Matt O'Hanlon, who will probably start again against San Jose State. Now, you can look at walk-on's from either a glass half-full or glass half-empty perspective. On one hand, when you've got a secondary depleted by injuries, every bit of help is a good thing. I'd rather not have to yank a redshirt off of Anthony Blue because we're out of bodies. On the other hand, you'd like to have more depth available ... but that's a recruiting mess created by the previous regime. (Which is the point of the walk-on program... it's another safety net for the program.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: MECA Wants Baseball, Just Not Royals

Tom Shatel got confirmation from Roger Dixon that MECA wants professional baseball at the new downtown stadium. In fact, MECA is already working on plan "B": an independent league team like the Lincoln Saltdogs. Only problem is that it seems that the independent league team is plan "A" and the Royals seem to be plan "B". Much like it almost seems like to the Royals, downtown is plan "B" (or "C"), trailing Chalco and Sugarland, Texas.

Isn't this bizarre? The problem with this situation is that both organizations are trying to gain the upper hand in these negotiations, but gaining that upper hand is a potentially risky plan for the rest of the community. And it's distracting both organizations from coming up with an agreement with the ideal solution for the entire community: getting the Royals into the new downtown stadium.

It's a high stakes game of chicken to see who will blink first: Sarpy County by dumping millions of property tax or state sales tax revenue into a new stadium? Sugarland, Texas who'll simply snap up the team? MECA who will sign a new independent league team to play downtown? Or will one of Omaha's city fathers, who calmed the discord last winter and brokered the agreement to allow the new stadium to be built in the first place, get these two sides back to the table and find the solution to this mess.

My wife pointed out the headline at the top of the World-Herald's sports section tonight:
"One of the worst things that ever happened to me in football is Bill Callahan..."
-- Rich Gannon
Of course, that got my attention, and so I read the entire article about the problems facing the Oakland Raiders, and read the entire quote:
"One of the worst things that ever happened to me in football is Bill Callahan really felt like everyone spent the offseason watching what we had done offensively, and we had to change things," Gannon said, "and we spent the whole offseason trying to doctor our offense and do more things at the line of scrimmage. As smart a guy as I was, it was confusing and complicated to me."
Obviously, the headline writer at World-Herald Square wanted to take a shot at Callahan by taking a quote completely out of context, which isn't exactly fair to Callahan or readers. But by that same manner, it's more evidence of Callahan's inherent problem running an offense, whether it was in Oakland or Lincoln.

Many UNO fans have missed Tom Shatel's interview with outgoing UNO sports information director Gary Anderson, where he talked about UNO going division 1 (almost happened twenty years ago when I was still a student, apparently!) as well as the future of the hockey program:
Q: What's your take on where UNO hockey is?
A: It can be better. Everybody involved in the program wants it to be better. We want to compete on a national level. Can we? The answer is yes. But what will it take? We need to look at everything, beginning with where we play.

Q: Where should that be?
A: Our own arena, somewhere in the 7,000 to 9,000 range. I've been in Boston University's arena and it's that size. It has a big arena but doesn't take much to fill it up.
I'd suggest a little bigger: 8,000 to 10,000, but those are details to quibble over. UNO is going to need to replace the Sapp Fieldhouse, and it only makes sense to bring the hockey program closer to campus to make it more accessible to students. If you make it big enough, you also make Omaha a potential candidate for the Big XII basketball tournaments as well. A new arena isn't happening in the near future, as Omaha is investing too much money in the new downtown stadium. But longer term, it's going to be a necessity for UNO.

Husker offensive lineman Andy Christensen ended up being found "not guilty" today of sexual assault. He did plead guilty to two misdemeanors involving his arrest, however. So is there a chance that Christensen could once again put on a Husker uniform? This is his senior season, so it's either this year or never. I must admit that I'm torn on this one. On one hand, not guilty from a legal sense is not the same as innocent. There are different standards that determine whether you need to spend thirty years in jail versus being allowed to play football. Just because he was found "not guilty" doesn't mean that he was innocent that evening.

That being said, Christensen has been punished to this point. He was suspended before spring practice, so he missed all of spring and preseason practice. He hasn't had an opportunity to learn the revised playbook or to practice. Even if Bo Pelini reinstates him to the team tomorrow, it will take a lot of time to get him to the point he could contribute again to the team.

Week 1 Power Poll

Last year, I decided to post my own version of college football rankings based on two things that I think are fundamentally wrong with the existing poll system. First, the rankings are based on what each team has actually done, not based on preseason hype. Secondly, each week is a distinct and separate entity from the previous. If you are playing like crap, you'll fall if someone else plays better. None of this "#1 until you lose" garbage here.

Here's the Top Ten after week one:

1. Southern Cal (Went on the road and took Virginia behind their own woodshed.)
2. Oklahoma (I'll forgive them the second half due to the weather and the ridiculous halftime score.)
3. Florida
4. LSU
5. Missouri
6. Georgia
7. Auburn
8. Oregon
9. Alabama
10. Wisconsin

Big XII Power Standings
1. Oklahoma
2. Missouri
3. Oklahoma State (Taking Washington State to the woodshed in Seattle counts)
4. Texas
5. Colorado
6. Kansas
7. Nebraska
8. Texas Tech (Too many penalties and points given up to 1-AA Eastern Washington)
9. Kansas State
10. Iowa State
11. Baylor
12. Texas A&M (Where else could you rank a team that lost to Arkansas State?)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pelini: First Game "Not Bad"

Coach Bo Pelini tells the Journal-Star that the Huskers game wasn't all that bad. Most of the problems were simple miscommunications or missed assignments that can be corrected. Effort wasn't a problem; he felt everybody played too hard. In fact, some of the mistakes might have been the result of playing too hard.
“It’s more of a discipline thing, getting our guys understanding, ‘We play team defense here and everybody has a responsibility and you have to have your eyes in a certain place,’” Pelini said. “You have to play your technique and fundamentals exactly right and fit within a defense. You can’t try to do too much. And at times, I think that’s what we had.”
And the inexperience in the secondary was a huge factor, when only Philip Dillard and Larry Asante had prior significant playing time. For as good as Cody Glenn played at times, he also made several mistakes. I remember one play where he overpursued a Bronco ball-carrier who juked Glenn out of his shoes and scampered for a nice gain. Glenn recognizes it too.

Pelini was pleased with the performance of the defensive line, who were significantly more relevent on Saturday night than most of 2007. Is that enough to warrant the awarding of Blackshirts? At halftime, I thought... maybe. But after the second half, probably not. In fact, I'm not sure I see much of a reason to issue Blackshirts for a few weeks.

Tom Shatel asked yesterday whether the Virginia Tech/Nebraska game would even be televised after the Hokies were upset on Saturday. My response is: why wouldn't it? ABC might not be as interested anymore, but I'd be absolutely shocked if it wasn't televised. According to the Big XII conference web site, Versus will carry a game at 11:30 am and FSN will carry a game at either 2:30 pm or 6 pm. It doesn't say whether ABC will carry a game, however. So what are the other games that day?
  • Louisiana-Lafayette at Kansas State
  • TCU at Oklahoma
  • Army at Texas A&M
  • Virginia Tech at Nebraska
  • Colorado at Florida State
The Buffies game visit with Bobby Bowden doesn't count, since that's a road game and should be televised under the ACC television contract. Hokies/Huskers still looks like the best game of the day, with TCU/Oklahoma being the other game likely to be carried. So if I was prognasticating this game, I'd expect the Virginia Tech game to be either at 2:30 pm (on FSN or ABC) or at 6 pm (on FSN).

And because of this, I kind of expect the New Mexico State game to be an 11:30 am kickoff for pay-per-view because of the possibility of a night kickoff for Virginia Tech. That game will now be the season opener for New Mexico State, as Nicholls State cancelled their Thursday game against the Aggies because of Hurricane Gustav.