At roughly 1:00 Central time - aka, God’s Time - Eclipse Mania will hit the heartland. For what is reportedly about 1.5 minutes, the sun will be blotted from the sky, people will cease doing whatever it is they were doing, and the prophecy that the Nebraska Cornhuskers will win the Big Ten will start to come to fruition...
Okay, maybe not that last part, but today is Nebraska day as we close in on the 2017 season, and there are signs that Nebraska could be an underrated performer coming into the year. Yes, there are a lot of question marks - including the question of how many WR will be on scholarship once the season gets here - but today is about optimism. Today is about once in a hundred years. Today is about people panicking a little bit because they don’t understand lunar and solar cycles so they obviously think this is a sign from god that the world is ending. Today we take on the case for the 2017 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
I. Case History and Opening Statements
A. Case History
The Nebraska Cornhuskers finished 2016 with a respectable 9-4 (6-3) record that included massive blowouts against Iowa, Ohio State, and Tennessee - the latter being somewhat disputed as a blowout, but it also wasn’t close. While year two of the Mike Riley era was better than year one of the Mike Riley era, one could be - excusably - annoyed with the direction of the program and the relative inability to get past the four loss mark. As such, Nebraska fired longtime Riley assistants Mark Banker and Bruce Read, and added in new DC Bob Diaco (a man who is much prettier than you are).
B. Opening Statements
Ladies and Gentlemen of the court, I begin my defense of the 2017 Nebraska Cornhuskers not with statistics and data, but with heart, passion, and somewhat misguided belief in signs from the heavens. As the moon will blot out the sun this afternoon, it is important to look at how - and where - these events are occurring. Oregon, Wyoming, Nebraska, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina... These are the programs you should be believing in.
Sure, Nebraska needs to replace almost all of its offensive production from 2016, and yes, its defense must make wholesale scheme changes, but this is a team with the talent and passion to compete for championships. QB Tanner Lee, a savior from the South - Tulane, specifically - is the man for the job. He can make all of the throws on the passing tree, he understand the system, and he gets the ball out of his hands quickly. WRs Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El look to benefit most from this change in offensive leader, but don’t be surprised to see new true Freshman Tyjon Lindsey make waves at the position. RBs Tre Bryant, Mikale Wilbon, and Devine Ozigbo will be battling all year for touches. There are TEs and we might even use them. Look, what I’m trying to say is that there are good players here and OC Danny Langsdorf might even know how to use them. Also, Bob “Good Looking” Diaco.
II. Discovery - or - Evidence that Nebraska will be Big Ten Champions in 2017
A. What we wrote in the offseason
2. Nebraska Football and Lowered Expectations on Offense
3. Nebraska Football: Have you ever fired your best friend?
4. Selected Nebraska traditions
B. What we can learn from pop culture
“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”
While this is probably a deeper metaphor for the good and bad in all of this, I would like to pose that this was Pink Floyd actually predicting that in 2017, the world of football would be eclipsed by the moon, which is obviously a reference to the Nebraska Cornhuskers because there is a Total Eclipse today. Right? Right? Let’s move on to some legitimate analysis.
III. Closing Statements
All jokes aside, Nebraska should be an average to slightly-above-average team in 2017. It is year three of the Mike Riley experience, and his guys are now fully running the show. From the aforementioned Tanner Lee to the experience offensive line, Nebraska’s offense has the potential to be the first group that Riley really has his fingerprints on. From the sounds coming out of camp, I would expect to see a pass-heavy group, even with injuries, transfers, and marijuana wreaking havoc on the depth chart. Even if this team needs some time to gel, I look for this group to be what Nebraska has to lean on later in the season.
It is on the other side of the ball that things get really interesting. Bob Diaco is truly a jolt of energy - in a metaphorical, but maybe also really literal - to the team. While 3-4 is the term d’jour, I expect multiple looks out of this defense. Nebraska will be relying on a relatively young group of talent to make this work, but guys like Lamar Jackson, Carlos Davis, his brother Khalil Davis, and all of the LBs will be doing their part. While it’s early, the sound from everyone down in Lincoln is that good things are coming from this group.
So while there are no guarantees, this is the Big Ten West, and winning the division is generally always in play. Win the games you should, steal something when you can, and don’t do anything stupid, and you are flirting with ten wins and a berth in the “Get obliterated by the Buckeyes” game in Indianapolis. The bottom line is that this is a team with a lot of talent, a lot of inexperience, and with the right storytelling, potentially the greatest path to the title it has seen in a while.
Of course, storytelling and fake eclipse prophecies only get you so far because...
IV. Schedule of Events
Schedule of Events
|Sat, Sep 2||vs Arkansas State|
|Sat, Sep 9||@ Oregon|
|Sat, Sep 16||vs Northern IL|
|Sat, Sep 23||vs Rutgers|
|Fri, Sep 29||@ Illinois|
|Sat, Oct 7||vs Wisconsin|
|Sat, Oct 14||vs Ohio State|
|Sat, Oct 28||@ Purdue|
|Sat, Nov 4||vs Northwestern|
|Sat, Nov 11||@ Minnesota|
|Sat, Nov 18||@ Penn State|
|Fri, Nov 24||vs Iowa|
This is less than ideal. Crossovers against Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers, a game in Oregon, and no real pushovers in the non-con make this a potentially brutal 2017. I’d be lying if I said this isn’t a really daunting year. If Nebraska wins 10 games with this lineup, I’d feel really good about the direction of the program. Even so, I’m hoping for at least 7, maybe 8?
V. The Verdict
The jury seems to believe this will be another year where Nebraska goes 8-4. Even though I seem to have eclipse brain, the reality is that this schedule is tough, and breaking new players in everywhere won’t help. We’ll just have to go with the people and hope that something magical can happen.