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What constitutes “progress” for the Huskers in 2019?

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Lots of talk about football being good again and where Big Red has gone wrong...but what’s the baseline for improvement?

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Welcome back to B1G 2019 and Nebraska Week!

For those venturing over from various corners of the Nebraska internet, ready to rig our polls, mostly, the Potluck portions of our B1G 201X series are a chance to incorporate a couple things you don’t get in the excellent previews offered by our Nebraska writers:

  1. A smorgasbord of hometown cooking—from Cozy Dogs to Fat Sandwiches—to help us better understand the Great Midwestern Traditions of throwing things in (A) mayo, (B) Jell-O, or (C) batter, and calling it good.
  2. The perspective/comments/criticism/barely-veiled WSR trolling from our non-Nebraska Off Tackle Empire writers.

Will these takes offend? Possibly. Will they be something other than [insert hometown paper] cheerleading? Probably. But unless you’re visiting Champaign or Piscataway, you’re likely not to be greeted as benevolent conquerors, so best to know what the rest of the conference is thinking of you.

Question #1: MORE Things to Deep-Fry?!

How we’ve been through this many B1G 201Xs and never talked about King’s Food Host is beyond me. The Lincoln-based drive-in company rose and fell long before our time—with the last establishments bought out in 1979—but their innovation ought to live on.

I’m not talking the telephones at the table to phone in your order, mind you. I’m talking the Cheese Frenchie, a grilled cheese battered in a cornflake-style mixture, then fried.

A recipe and a trip down memory lane.

So, writers: Is this just Midwestern decadence gone too far, or an innovation worth celebrating? Give us your grilled cheese recipes, if you must, and tell us something else you would fry if given the chance.

Dead Read: King’s has lived on in other iterations, I believe. I think there was a revival in the 90’s that lasted a while (I believe it was on 10th and South Streets). The local chain Amigo’s has adopted the cheese frenchie. I hate cheese. Never had one. Never will.

LPW: That grilled cheese looks amazing! If I ever head to Lincoln I’ll get one.

Beez: Bread of any kind. Granny Smith Apple slices, Brie, grated Parmesan or peccorino, honey mustard or deli spicy mustard. Assemble sandwich. Put lots of butter into pan and melt and then toast bread until it’s crispy and perfectly unhealthy. Add more butter as needed.

Other fried things I’d try? Uh….might be easier to throw out random things and see if I say no, because once you fry something it’s basically delicious.

Andrew: At the risk of excommunication from the clan, I will share my ancient family secret: cut that shit vertically. Don’t @ me

Jesse: I need to take a moment to talk about the real Cheese Frenchee champion that is about to end its watch this week—B&G Tasty Food.

This started in 1953 as a loose meat sandwich place and has been around since, and while I discovered that they had the Cheese Frenchee somewhere around 2003, it’s been a staple—unfortunately, probably—in my life since.

My dad used to make these once a year growing up, so finding a homemade version without a lot of frozen-then-fried elements like you usually get was a revelation. They will be closing on Memorial Day, but they are still open if you’re in Omaha. It’s over by Jams on Dodge and its unreal. Grab some waffle fries and a shake to go with the meal and please don’t expect to do any work the rest of the day.

Townie: Fried grilled cheese? Sounds like the grandparent to mozzerella sticks to me. But let’s face it, frying stuff isn’t midwestern, it’s southern. And I would argue that the fried stuff in the Midwest moved north with the blues and the railroad. The corn flake batter is probably the most midwestern thing about that dish.

I live in an area of the south that will fry anything. ANYTHING. From your run of the mill okra, shrimp, and crab balls to pickles and mac and cheese. Yes, you read that correctly dear reader...they make balls of mac and cheese, coat them in corn meal and deep fry them.

It makes me feel dirty just writing that…

BRT: Never had the cheese frenchie, nor heard of one! Sounds good though.

I’m pretty gifted at grilled cheese, actually. Here’s how to make an excellent one: sourdough bread, slather both pieces with goat cheese (this can be difficult and takes some pre-planning, as it’s not super spreadable if you get it in the log form. That is the tastiest kind though). Then, only sharp cheddar as your filler cheese. Grill the sandwich as normal. The result is a deliciously tangy offering that goes perfectly with tomato soup.

Oh, and slice diagonally. Don’t listen to Kracklepopski.

WSR: My variation on the grilled cheese is a simple yet delicious one: sprinkle garlic salt on the butter. Both sides. Just do it, cook it, and enjoy. And what kind of tiny monsters are you people that you need to cut a grilled cheese sandwich? Just pick it up and devour it.

As for frying things, well...did you not read about the Minnesota State Fair last week? Everything that can (and can’t or shouldn’t be, really) be deep fried already has been. And right now I’m thinking about a fried pulled pork sandwich. I have no idea why, but there has to be some way to do it.

Creighton: Mine’s going to sound weird, but trust me it’s awesome. Butter the outsides of the bread. On the inside of one of the slices, spread some fig jam. You don’t need a lot. For the cheese use muenster.

Fry it up in a skillet or grill it in a panini press and cut diagonally into triangles. Enjoy!

Poll

The Cheese Frenchee?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR, NEBRASKA
    (35 votes)
  • 76%
    Hell yeah, sign me up!
    (112 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which grilled cheese would you eat?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Beez’s Not-Actually-A-Grilled-Cheese Apple-and-Mustard Sandwich
    (8 votes)
  • 13%
    Andrew’s Cut-It-Vertically
    (15 votes)
  • 30%
    BRT’s Goat Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, and Diagonal Grilled Cheese
    (35 votes)
  • 32%
    WSR’s Garlic Salt Simplicity
    (37 votes)
  • 6%
    Creighton’s Mickelson-and-Muenster
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    THESE ARE GROSS. I will tell you my own recipe in the comments.
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    I, like Dead Read, share the heretical opinion that cheese is gross.
    (7 votes)
113 votes total Vote Now

Question #2: Huskers’ Progress, and Old Football Friends

The Scott Frost Experiment enters Year Two, and while the Huskers haven’t proven Kentucky loudmouth Matt Jones wrong yet, optimism around the program is reaching heights making some check their calendars and see if they need to be worried about that Y2K bug. And, as the Omaha World-Herald is noting, that continuity in the program is breeding confidence among the players, too.

And it’s tough to argue with the idea that Nebraska won’t be better, baseline, in 2019—the issue just seems to be a matter of degree. The Huskers shipped 2.7 wins in 2018 according to S&P+, most in P5 by a long shot, and lost only two of their last 6 games, to eventual bowl teams, by a combined 8 points. Turnovers were a problem, and we’ll get into replacing personnel tomorrow, but in the meantime, writers:

Without relitigating the idea that UNL will or won’t be a national title team again, assess what would constitute progress for the Huskers in 2019.

Bonus: UNL AD Bill Moos has reiterated his desire for the Huskers to play the Kansas schools, Iowa State, and Missouri in the non-conference. (1) Is this a good idea, and (2) what’s your ideal three-game non-conference schedule?

Dead Read: One easy barometer of progress is to have a winning record, and barring an injury to Adrian Martinez, I suspect that will happen. I think winning eight games would be a stirring success after two eight-loss campaigns. Another way to progress - stop getting the doors blown off. Do not allow fifty points to anyone, and do not get blown out by twenty or more points. If the defense can avoid those things, and the team has a winning record, it will be definite progress. If they do that and win eight games, it will be an excellent season. (I am not sure all that will happen.)

I think playing Kansas State and Missouri would be fine. I have no desire to play Iowa State and Kansas - the cost/benefit isn’t great, losing to the ‘Clones or Jayhawks would be horrific. Non-conference ideal: One P5 at the top of its conference, one P5 team in the bottom half of its conference, and a decent G5 team that might be good enough to go bowling.

Candystripes: There’s a very easy, very measurable bar for what would constitute reasonable progress this year for the Huskers: 6 wins. The schedule sets up pretty favorably for this, and while there are many advanced metrics that would suggest other progressions that would, statistically, be more meaningful than simply winning football games, it is very hard to argue that winning is not better than losing.

LPW: Progress would be winning five or six games. If we take last year as Nebraska losing games badly, this year then should win more games and lose certain games by smaller margins.

I think it’s fine for the Huskers to play their old rivals in the Big 12. My ideal non-con schedule is Duke, Stanford and a MAC team for my Wildcats.

Beez: Without looking at the schedule, I’d measure progress in three ways: more wins than last year, a defense that closes the gap with a very (potentially) good offense, and most importantly, a top 3 division finish. Regarding the top 3 finish, I think it’s a possibility, and for it to be true “progress,” I’d say they need to be comfortably top 3, like with a gap over the rest of the teams behind them, not getting a technical top 3 do too* tiebreakers or some such.
*intentional. #socialexperiment

First, that non con would be solidly ok most years, with an occasional “pretty respectable.” Plus there’d be little risk of dropping games to any of the four teams in most “good” Nebby years.

For Wisconsin, one game has to be App State because it’d rule to get to see my two favorite teams play a bunch (also this is happening in 2020 and I am nervous and excited). From there I’d love to see someone like Va Tech or Wazzu or Texas Tech. Finally, let’s round it out with Notre Dame. In other words, let’s make the non con generally tough or awesome, cuz the West produces so many crappy games each year.

Andrew: I’m going to expect just a bit more than the obvious answer from an accomplished coach and favorite son who returned to a dormant power and found his QB immediately. Nebraska does certainly need to make a bowl—fall short for any reason other than an injury apocalypse and all the good vibes from Frost’s homecoming and good year one disintegrate—but show me something more than that.

Whether it’s winning the 7th game or knocking off whoever ends up winning the West, show me there are big things in the offing here.

Jesse: I’m on the Bowl Wagon. Get to a bowl, beat at least one team you weren’t supposed to, don’t lose to the teams you’re supposed to beat, and probably get 6 wins. That’s progress, especially if there isn’t a Michigan repeat of last year lurking on the schedule.

As for the perfect non-con? I don’t know… I like snagging a game against an old rival within distance of Nebraska, but I sort of like what we’ve been doing. Old conference rival or old football rival, one decent MAC team, and somebody terrible. Let’s just keep doing that.

Townie: I’m on the Scott Frost bandwagon. I think he’s a great coach. I think he will do great things there. But in reflecting on 2018, we tend to promote the second half of the season and forget about the first…

That part was the loss to Troy (24-19!?)...the blowout by Michigan (56-10)...the loss to Colorado (33-28—that one stings a bit, right?)...the loss to Purdue (42-28)...and to Wisconsin (41-24).

So forgive me if I’m not convinced that Nebraska is a lock for a bowl game. This season will be a good test for Frost, but if he doesn’t make a bowl, that’s okay. Because he will get there next year. And I think he’ll be winning the West in the next 2-3 years.

BRT: I think bowl eligibility would be a clear sign that things are going in the right direction. Is it sad that we’re talking about just making a bowl as a benchmark for Nebraska football? Yes. But that’s where we are right now.

I won’t say that’s the only way we can see improvement, but it would be a nice, tangible measurement. But even last year, when the record was the same as the previous year, you could see clear improvement—only one real blowout, general competitiveness in most games, and an arc of better play throughout the season, which to me, dying to be optimistic about Husker football though I am, shows competent coaching. It’s not so crazy to think that a few of those close games could go the Huskers’ way this year…right?

I think games with the old border state rivals would be great! Look how popular the Colorado game was last year for fans. It would also be awesome to have games that are literally just a couple of hours away, instead of our closest game being five hours away in Iowa City. I wouldn’t stack them all in a single year, of course, but I’d be happy to see Missouri or Kansas State pop up on a future OOC schedule.

WSR: I think that defensive improvement is the surest sign of progress, however we want to quantify that.

Bowl eligibility? Sure. I get a kick out of the thought of Nebraska fans invading Yankee Stadium as much as the next Quadrangle of Hate resident. But yeah, turning those close Ls into Ws and keeping the Ws as Ws would be progress. It’ll be interesting to watch too, since Nebraska can be lumped into the “EVERYONE THAT ISN’T ILLINOIS” group of the B1G West this fall. And my perfect Non-Conf? A tune-up with a MACrifice, a game against another P5 midwestern team (STOP HOGGING IOWA STATE, IOWA!) and a home & home with a PAC team. Preferably Oregon State or the other crap ones.

The real secret? Never playing any 13th grade teams like North Dakota State or any other Dakota Territory team.

Creighton: I would say the Huskers either need to win a bowl, any bowl, or maybe make it to one of the mid level New Year’s Day bowls. 6-7 wins is progress, despite what Nebraska’s inevitable preseason top-25 ranking would imply.

Trust me on this one: Playing Iowa State (and by extension Kansas) isn’t worth it. There’s nothing to be gained from playing bottom tier P-5 teams (yes ISU was ok last year don’t @ me). K-State and Mizzou seem like fine games to watch, and will probably give Nebraska a better barometer reading of how good they are than if they beat up on the Jayclones. I would also like to see the Nebraska-Texas rivalry return as soon as we can confirm that both teams are back.

Poll

What constitutes progress for Nebraska?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    6 wins/bowl game
    (71 votes)
  • 18%
    A winning record.
    (52 votes)
  • 33%
    8 wins, minimum.
    (93 votes)
  • 4%
    Wait, LPW actually said 5 games?!
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    Top 3 in the West
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    New Year’s Day bowl game
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    West Division title
    (13 votes)
  • 4%
    Championships or bust GBR woooooooo
    (12 votes)
274 votes total Vote Now