This IS NOT OKAY!!!

First and foremost I should acknowledge the fact that I missed last week. Yes, I saw the game. But sue me, I’m busy. Believe it or not these posts take time. Sometimes I do not have much of that. Big Red hung tough last week before having their pants pulled down and their ass spanked for all the world to see. Some of that was completely palatable, not to mention predictable.  Wisconsin was indeed the better team, and the Huskers hung tough before eventually getting exposed. While that sucks, it happens, particularly when you are as flawed as this team is. Saturday night was a different story altogether. Ohio State walked into our building and put an ass kicking on us like I have NEVER seen. Look Ohio State is good, but they aren’t nearly as freaking good as we made them look. Not even close in fact. That was an awful performance, a pathetic effort. What I saw was a team mailing it in. It was an abhorrent effort, particularly defensively. The whole thing is extremely tough to stomach.

I’ll spare you the offensive and defensive breakdowns. In a nutshell, it is bad, real freaking bad. What I will tell you is that this is not acceptable. Look, I don’t expect Tommie Frazier and Grant Wistrom to walk through that door and save us. That fairy tale shit isn’t going to happen. The 90’s are not coming back. That is reality. Regardless, letting anyone outside of the New England Patriots walk in to our house and eat our lunch like that is not acceptable. Period. As far as I’m concerned Mike Riley is a dead man walking. I take no pleasure in that. While I was never a fan of that hire, I did grow to like the man. Mike Riley is extremely likable. I felt a connection to him, as odd as that seems. He runs a good, clean program. His players conduct themselves with class. That matters, believe me. Particularly in this state. But this is a results driven business. Losing at home by 6 touchdowns doesn’t fly in Lincoln, or at least it shouldn’t. A program that has had just 2 losing seasons in nearly 50 years before the current administration’s tenure is now staring down its 2nd in 3 seasons. Not for nothing, losing to a team from the MAC is also unacceptable. More than that, the way this team conducted itself between the white lines was troubling. I would like someone out there to give a shit. I saw very little of that Saturday night. If you don’t think the effort was questionable, well, I have nothing for you. You clearly did not see the same game I saw. Or perhaps your own narrative has made you blind to the glaring reality. No matter how you cut it, this was not good. It was atrocious. Horrendous. Embarrassing. Unacceptable.

Where does that leave us? Well, first and foremost I am willing to concede that barring significant improvement and tangible progress this staff needs to go. I take no pleasure in this. This program needs stability. Something it has not had in a very long time. It is true that you can’t fire your way to stability. Still, if the process is broken, and it sure as hell seems that way, you have to fix it. On Saturday night, with my ass sore from the kicking the Buckeyes administered, it is obvious that what we are doing is not working. Year 3 is the year where a coaches program starts to see real progress. That is typically how that goes. I see very little positive signs going forward. I see a program that is light on both talent and direction. The results are ugly. Very ugly. From the ass kicking by the Bucks to the loss to Northern Illinois, this thing is clearly going in a negative direction. It has to stop!! When Sean Eichorst was fired I thought it would send a message to the players. I have no doubt the message was received. Saturday night it appeared that they simply did not give a shit.

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Buckeye Beatdown

Well folks, it happened. Yep, that score and the impending soreness is very real. 62-3 is a reality. The Nebraska Cornhuskers got absolutely curb stomped Saturday night. It was every bit the scene from American History X. The Buckeyes told NU to bite the curb and the Huskers were left with no choice. I’m not going to make excuses. This thing was ugly from the outset. Any talk of OSU being a “beatable” team is completely laughable the morning after a 59 point ass kicking. I could go on about how horrendous the offense was under the direction of Ryker Fyfe and their meager 204 yards of total offense. I could point to the Buckeye drive chart and shudder at the amount of TDs given up or the OSU 11-15 3rd down conversion rate. None of that is worthy of my time and effort. I highly doubt you want to hear about it either. Rather than beleaguer the point, I’m going to look forward.

Ass kickings like this happen. It’s a part of sports. Over the years I’ve seen several. There was the 70-10 shallacking in Lubbock in 2005. Who can forget 41-6 to the Missouri Tigers in 2007 or the 52-17 shit kicking the following year? These things happen. It sucks, but its all part of being a sports fan. So where do we go from here? Its time for everyone, fans included, to put on our collective big boy pants and move forward.  Put the thorough domination of Saturday night in the rear view and focus on the windshield. This team sits at 7-2 with 3 to play. Those 3 are incredibly winable. The next 2, to the Minnesota Gophers and Maryland Terrapins, are both at home. Those are chicken soup games. After 2 games against excellent competition in extremely tough environments the Big Red come home to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium and all of their fans. That should give this team a boost. Then, of course, there is the Black Friday matchup with the Iowa Hawkeyes who got their own wheels blown off last night. That game will be no gimme, but its a game NU should absolutely win. My point here is that these games are all winable. A 10-2 season is at their feet. That’s a great season. Especially when you consider the atrocities of 2015. There is still plenty to play for.

How does NU go about moving forward? Anyone who has ever tried anything has failed at some point. Perhaps it wasn’t as spectacular as 62-3 or seen by as many people, but we have all experienced failure. It’s a part of life. All there is to do is learn from it and move forward. That is all Nebraska can do. The naysayers and doubters will be out in droves, the Huskers will plummet down the rankings, and the criticism will the thick. So what? Its all bullshit right now anyway. This team needs to collectively look within, accept the ass kicking, and move on. The worst thing that can come of this is for the Huskers to throw a pity party. I’ve seen it too many times. A team gets beaten and it so thoroughly demoralizes them that they never get their act together. Mike Riley and the leaders on this team have to make sure that doesn’t happen. Don’t let Ohio State beat you twice. This is where the character and makeup of a team matters, not when you are 7-0 and in the top 10. Adversity has solidly landed on the Huskers and its incumbent upon them to get off the mat and prepare for the stretch run.

There are a few logistical issues with winning out. First, Tommy Armstrong needs to come back. Ryker Fyfe is awful. I’m not here to make it personal, so Grand Island people please save your ire. There is no way you can look at Fyfe and think that he is a workable piece. What does he do well? If there is anything, I haven’t seen it. Tommy needs to be back. We all saw him laying there motionless on the field Saturday night. He was out cold. It was a scary scene to be sure, but his subsequent actions indicate that he is going to be allright. One thing is certain, this offense needs him in the most serious way. For all Armstrong’s various flaws, he is the life blood of this offense and maybe this team. If NU is going to finish strong and salvage this season they will need #4.

As important as Tommy Armstrong will be to finishing the season strong, Danny Langsdorf and Mike Riley need to recommit to this running game. These last few games it seems that NU has lost its way in that regard. Saturday night was a good example. Armstrong and Fyfe combined for 9/33 passing for 126 yards and 2 INTs. That is an average of just 3.8 yards per attempt. That should make everyone want to puke in their cereal. The NU run game was in no way good, but it averaged 3.3 yards per carry. The entire 2nd half I pulled my hair out wondering why Langsdorf insisted on chucking the ball around. More than anything, that philosophy led to the score being so extreme. Run the ball, and move the clock. Additionally, it helps the defense. The defense has been up and down, obviously last night was down, but the offense has to do their share. Doing their share involves not leaving a steaming pile in their lap time after time. A re-commitment to the running game helps everyone. Getting David Knevel and potentially Tanner Farmer back should help in getting a push, but also not playing 2 of the top 3 defenses in the Big 10 will make a difference as well. If NU can get the run game going, it will help the entire squad. That task falls squarely on the entire offensive staff.

This season is not lost folks. I had a pretty good idea that last night would go the way it did. Ohio State played angry. Nebraska offered little resistance. It’s tough coming off an emotionally draining game, like the one in Madison last week, only to play one of the best teams in college football. A beat down was foreseeable. Although, I must admit, I didn’t think it would get that out of hand. Mike Riley did absolutely zero damage control once the train went off the tracks. Whatever. It matters little. Saturday night happened and now we all must move forward. Live in the windshield. The next 3 games will go a long way to define just what type of season 2016 is.

 

Buckeyes World

The Pick

Any fan of college football had to be shocked (and awed) at what occurred during the NFL draft last May. The NFL’s signature event began to sound like a paid advertisement for the Ohio State Buckeyes. It bordered on absurdity.The Buckeyes had five players drafted in the first round alone, and 12 overall. Even more impressive, those 12 picks were all in the first four rounds!!  Yes, the talent pool is that deep in Columbus. Urban Meyer inherited a good program and has elevated it faster and more thoroughly than anyone would have possibly thought. Thru just four years, Meyer has a 50-4 record, an undefeated season, a Big 10 title, and a National Title. Typically, a program that loses that much in the draft goes through a major overhaul, complete with frustrating growing pains. But there is nothing typical about the football super-machine Urban Meyer has built in Columbus. Even without the Joey Bosa’s and Ezekial Elliot’s of the world, this team is still the class of the Big 10 and a 100 percent legitimate National Title contender.

Great programs like Ohio State are constantly in a state of flux. As it becomes more and more commonplace for all draft eligible players to depart for the NFL, these super programs have become more adept at reloading. Besides Alabama, nobody is better at reloading than Urban Meyer’s club. Gone from last years squad are five of the top seven tacklers, super-stud leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott, and five of their top six receivers. In total, OSU returns just six starters. So why am I picking them to win the Big 10? I’ve seen this movie before. There will be a period of adjustment, but the horses are in the stable. There is also stability at the QB position. JT Barrett is my top QB in the country. Last year he was part of a strange back and forth that, in my opinion, was extremely detrimental to the squad. This year it’s his show from the outset. That will be a big help. So will new RB Mike Weber and TE Marcus Baugh. As long as Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck doesnt screw it up, like he did against MSU last year, this offense will again be a top unit. Defensively, leading tackler Raekwon McMillan returns, as does Tyquan Lewis who had eight sacks a year ago. A player that stands out to me is Sam Hubbard, who is just a sophomore, but jumped off the screen last fall. Luke Fickell and Greg Shiano will have to get this unit up to speed, but with the athletes available, not to mention their own coaching acumen, its not that big of a deal.

The Buckeyes have an early season showdown in Norman with Big 12 favorite and preseason top five Oklahoma. That’s a hefty order. But otherwise they have until October 15th, and a trip to Camp Randall, to gel, and get the kinks worked out. Additionally, Michigan visits Ohio Stadium Thanksgiving weekend, giving them the clear leg up on the division. While the trip to Oklahoma is a substantial stumbling opportunity, I expect the OSU train to be rolling in time for conference play, and for them to represent the East and win the conference in Indianapolis December 3rd. More than that, this team has substantial playoff possibilities.

The Field

I can already sense the hate mail I’m going to get from the maize and blue crowd. It’s funny how entitled a group can get in under a year. Will Michigan be good, even great this year?  Yes, absolutely. But I don’t see them making the jump to league champion. It’s a big jump, in a tough league. No shame there. The schedule is not kind. Trips to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State all spell trouble. The margin for error in this division is slim. There are enormous questions offensively, too many to make them a favorite. I see them competing, but look what OSU did to them last fall. A 29 point beat down in the Big House. They have a ways to go before I start calling for titles in Ann Arbor. Although they are surely trending that direction.

I will never count Michigan State out. This program has my highest admiration for their toughness and blue-collar attitude. Breaking in a new QB is not exactly a recipe for success. This club will have to lean heavily on RB LJ Scott. But I’ve seen Sparty do this and win championships before. Mark Dantonio is one of the best coaches in the game. It will take some magic to make it back-to-back for MSU. If any coach can work that magic with this group, in this division, it’s Dantonio.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have a very real shot at this thing. I know most people remember the egg they laid on New Years Day, and will scoff at that, but this is a damn good team with a legitimate shot. CJ Bethard had a terrific 2015, and if he repeats that production, the Hawks will be in a very good spot. They also have difference-makers Josey Jewell and Desmond King defensively. If this squad gets rolling like they did a year ago, this is a legitimate contender.

Does Mike Riley have the magic to take his boys from Lincoln to Indy?  Sure, I think that’s a possibility. Winning that game would take substantially more magic. If that happens he might think about a spot at Caesars Palace three times a week.