As underdogs at home by 24 points, the Huskers are unlikely to put up a fight against the Buckeyes. I could end this post there, but for some bizarre, unknown reason, I will continue. The only hope for the Huskers is in pure college football chaos. Turnovers, lucky bounces, and a few breakout players are necessary to prevent a blowout, so what would it take for Nebraska to somehow beat Ohio State?
Depending on where you look for the odds, the Badgers are between a 10 and 12 point favorite over the Huskers this weekend. Looking at the results of their 4-0 start shows an offensive efficiency that will be difficult to stop. And the defense is ruthless in its pressure. The combination of speed and aggressiveness in the defensive backfield is forcing turnovers and putting the offense in a position to win. And in addition to the eye test, then come the numbers.
Of all the games left on the 2017 schedule, this looks like the last game the Huskers would be a double digit favorite heading into Saturday. The turmoil of the last eight days is likely to wear on the team. It would be a surprise to me if Nebraska came out as anything but flat to start with.
Head Coach Mike Riley has been put on notice. Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst has been fired by Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green. In a season where stability seemed like it was going to be hard to come by, this decision is not going to suddenly lead to any smooth sailing on the football field. Eichorst made an unusual (for him) decision to speak out after the loss to NIU last Saturday and publicly declare his frustration with the results of the game. Here is some of the reaction today.
The Nothern Illinois Huskies are nearly a two touchdown underdog against the Huskers on Saturday. Bob Diaco’s defense is probably the story again after the game. Either his defensive will start out with their foot off the gas in the first half, or they will finally start playing aggressively on the edges. While an Oregon-like first half burst is not likely from the Huskies, it is very possible that this team hangs around Nebraska in the first half.
Head Coach Mike Riley signed a new 1-year extension last month to push his current deal out to 2020. And University President Hank Bounds indicated there would be further contract extension discussion at the end of the season. It is important for recruiting efforts to show that the University is committed to the coaching staff in place. However, the timing on the announcement of this particular contract extension is particularly puzzling. It seems strange to have not waited a week or two for a couple of potential wins on the schedule.
First to 50 wins? Take the over? Will the Ducks get to 70? Or will the game even happen because of air quality? Smoked Duck with a side of Smoked Cheesy Corn? Lot of question hang in the air, sort of like the smokey particulate hovering over Autzen Stadium because of the wildfires in the area. There is no guarantee that the game may even happen, but we can still speculate.
In the Husker’s 43-36 win against Arkansas State, the new 3-4 scheme and Bob Diaco’s first effort at the defensive helm were only supposed to be an off-season bullet point in the list of things announcers, media, and pundits talk about leading up to the first game of the season. It could have been easy to just chalk up the elastic Husker defensive effort to the first game of season jitters and learning adjustments to the new system. It would have been simple to move on to the Ducks from there. But then a not-so-simple thing happened (or did not happen), Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco did not talk to the media after the game.
There are Blackshirts. There are team captains. There were already Thursday night college football games, and there will be Friday night college football games (which is weird). Husker gameday is Saturday. The long slog through the off season is over. So now the Arkansas State Red Wolves come into town as a team expected to contend for the Sun Belt. This is a game that the Huskers are supposed to win, but the line has moved from 19 down to 14.5 (depending on where you look). So what will happen?
It certainly has been years since I dug deep into the off season analysis of my favorite sports team, and it will certainly have to wait one more. I always love watching the Huskers on game day Saturdays (now with new and improved Fridays!). But this year, my excitement during the off season was spent looking forward to 2018 and beyond, not 2017. When facing both good and bad challenges in life, I set ,y mind to the worst possible and best possible expectations and use a mental range finder for what are the likeliest possibilities in between. I have not picked up the 2017 Phil Steele College Football Preview to bury myself in the statistics, because I did not need it to see this team has a very narrow band for what is likely to happen this season.