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Big Red in the B1G: Hope Spring(s) Eternal

It's been difficult for me to write about Husker football since the bowl games. Look, I am as big a Husker fan as it comes. I make rash decisions about football through extremely Red-tinted lenses, and I am definitely more of a believer in Bo than is probably rational. Still, the absolute implosion against South Carolina and the absolute meltdown in Husker Nation was enough for me to take a break from following Nebraska football news for a while. Sure, I took a few stabs at reading up on what happens next and various position battles, and I even made a half-hearted attempt to get into recruiting, but in the end, the end of the season was exhausting. I had to stay away from the local papers and definitely not read any more local comments.

So how did this all happen? Maybe it was my utter lack of perspective and my ill-placed belief in Nebraska's seamless transition into the B1G. Surely a few hiccups were to be expected, but the absolute beatdown at Michigan and Wisconsin and the ridiculous loss at home to Northwestern were just a few of the growing pains of a season filled with change. Perhaps I just was hoping to finally get over that 'proverbial hump' and see Nebraska in a BCS Bowl again. I mean, even moreso, maybe I was just ready to see Nebraska assert some dominance. It just didn't seem to ever come together last year. It almost did against Michigan State, but that lasted all of one week. Still, I can't help but put those things aside and get excited about football... Do you know why?

Spring football is here! There will be lots of new faces for each team, new names to memorize, and endless news about who sucks, who is awesome, and who needs to go away. Coaches will be on hot seats, backup QB's will be rumored to take over the top spots, and all will be well across the B1G landscape. All across the Midwest, teams are kicking the cobwebs and Ferentz is breaking out the speeches about, "Execution." (Note: Pelini has started to harp on this as well... I'm not a fan). Let's just say everything seems right. It's a great time of year where we all can start dreaming about something better and where everybody has a chance. There are new coaches all over the place and we'll start breaking them down I'm sure. After the break are some random thoughts I have on Nebraska's offseason, the B1G, College Football, and other stuff... But before you go there, behold the B1G Spring Schedule in MS Excel form (Now with more color!):

Note: Iowa is actually not playing a 'Spring Game' but rather doing some sort of scripted practice thing. Soooooo, yeah.

Nebraska Thoughts

  • It might just be the Spring speaking, but I think the team is going to be better in 2012. With that said, the record might be the same as last season. Wisconsin and Michigan at home is a plus, but going to E. Lansing and playing tough games against improving opponents (and a decent non-con) makes for another 9-10 win season.
  • I am of the mindset that Taylor Martinez will make a jump in understanding of offense, decision making, and reading of defenses based solely on the reality that he has the same Offensive Coordinator for the first time will be a huge plus. Throw in seeing the same teams and a steady RB, he should be better. Also, this might be the best core set of wideouts Nebraska has ever had... you know, so long as they catch the ball.
  • I'm going to go ahead and throw it out there, Nebraska really could have won their bowl game. Before you roll your eyes, hear what I'm trying to say here. Nebraska played tough and I honestly believe they were as talented as South Carolina, they just weren't disciplined enough when it mattered, and so they lost. That's on coaches, which sucks, but I'm also encouraged that those are things that can be taught... I think. We'll see.
  • For the record, the B1G did not break Taylor Martinez. Despite him not being the prettiest thrower of them all, he definitely held his own after some big hits. Good for him. The B1G is Big and all, but hey, he survived.
  • Nebraska will still contend for the Legends (I'm pretty sure that's what we're in) crown this next season. I know Michigan and Michigan State are strong, and Northwestern (obviously), Iowa and Minnesota aren't doormats by any means. Still, there is a lot of talent returning at Nebraska and I think some games will flip their way...
  • The new coaches are already making me excited at Nebraska, and while I don't know Kaz all that well or Joseph, I do like Papuchis as D-Coordinator. Pelini gets a known commodity, but also has someone who isn't his brother. Look for a really energized defense this season.

B1G Thoughts

  • Is the bowl ban at Ohio State maybe a good thing? Seriously, I know the loss of revenue and black eye to the university is huge, but come on. Urban now essentially has a year where he can tinker, recruit, and overachieve in putting together whatever scheme works. He also gets a mulligan for any loss because in the end it doesn't matter all that much. Yeah, we'll mock Buckeyes for the NCAA penalty, but it's not that big a deal, and it really has some upside.
  • The Pac-12 deal is really fascinating. I recently was talking to some friends about the possibilities of a B1G-Pac challenge and how cool the rotating trips could be. We also decided that the Pac 12 sucks. USC has been fairly good over the years and Oregon has really poured it on as of late, but it's been a while since the conference at large has been intimidating. I just hope it helps Nebraska keep its pipeline into Arizona and California.
  • I was not prepared for the Michigan-Michigan State snippiness (that's not a word, but really it's the best I can do without getting into expletives). In the Big XII, Nebraska had dealt with listening to Kansas-Missouri, Kansas-K State, Texas-aTm, and Texas-Oklahoma, but neither of those fanbases ever resorted to just attacking each other. Of course, that usually meant they turned on Nebraska... Either way, that will be interesting to watch because I honestly think neither team is quite as great as the end of the season made them think. That's more an indictment on the conference as a whole.
  • Minnesota and Indiana will be better this year, right? I mean, they have to be. That was just embarrassing. I don't care if a team loses every conference game, they should at least go out and beat the teams they are paying to play them. Yes, I know Nebraska has done that as well, but not consistently and not against the awfulness that is New Mexico State.
  • I hope BOB does well at Penn State. I don't really have idea what will happen there otherwise, but I hope he is successful and that the players who are there now do well.
  • Is Wisconsin going to reload? I still think Ball coming back is a terrible decision. I am happy he's trying to give back to the school that's stood behind him, and I understand that there is potential to get even more if he follows up his success of this year. I just don't see either of those things happening. Also, does Wisconsin have a QB yet?
  • On that note, does Iowa have enough RBs to get through this year? Also, what in the world? Since when is there this much turnover in coaching at Iowa? I'm sure it's all under control and the hires seem... okay. Well, that's a lie. I still don't understand Greg Davis. He's extremely boring, thrived on the bubble screen, and was not exactly ushered out kindly at Texas. So, good for you? Sure, why not.
  • Northwestern is now NU. We as the Nebraska contingency have conceded the nickname in hopes of getting rid of the bad karma that came with infringing on their territory. We ask that you allow our team the opportunity to actually win some head to head matchups in all sports. Thank you for your compliance.
  • Illinois, I'm still sad for your loss of the Zooker. The conference will never be the same. With that said, you did win a bowl game, which is more than a good portion of the conference could say... so there's that, which is nice. Bonus points to Purdue for being one of the most entertaining non-important bowl games of last year. The onside kicks were faaaaantastic. I expect more of that this year.

Random Football(ish) Thoughts

  • The whole, "Let's move the kickoffs up" thing is really dangerous to me. Some teams will kick it out of the endzone, but considering they're guaranteeing the ball at the 25, I have a feeling that you'll see pooch kicks and people getting destroyed. This will probably end poorly.
  • Recruiting is out of control. Junior Days? Signing your life away in Jr. High? Fans hate-tweeting kids who change their minds? Yeah, I'm pretty sure we need to reassess our priorities when these things happen.
  • Spring Games being televised is also a bit much. These are glorified scrimmages where coaches parade their fancy 'product' onto the field and sell a ridiculous amount of tickets... except they don't show much. Nebraska will probably still sell out and make a boatload of money. Good for them? Sure.
  • On that note, can we pretty much blame the NFL for this stuff? Their infatuation with highlighting even the most minuscule of events (Um, the Combine? Really?) has disseminated into the college game. Sure, it's fun to have football on, but I'd prefer to have real football instead of the hubbub that we've come to know as football. Oh well, it's not that surprising.
  • Playoffs, Plus-1, Bowls... I really don't know that it even matters how we crown the champion anymore. I used to believe it was going to the most deserving team, but now I realize that's always kind of been a farce. There is no perfect formula, but I think we need to reward conference champions, good overall records, and then try to make a system where fans actually get to enjoy the games. The NCAA doesn't always try to see that it happens this way, but they need to.
  • Music Festivals - Are the worth it? Look, I know this is a random sidenote, but with almost every single band touring the festival circuit, I almost have to go to one to experience good shows. I did Lollapalooza one year, which was fun, but exhausting and probably not nearly as fun as a one-off show would've been. I recently experienced Punch Brothers in concert, and they were ridiculously amazing (I cannot underscore this enough), but I don't know if it would have been nearly as fun if I had spent the day going from stage to stage. OTE fans seem to have a good handle on these things. I figured I'd throw it out there.