Another Loss, What’s Next?

Bowl games can be such a pain in the ass. After maneuvering my schedule around a trip back to The Good Life for Christmas, I had absolutely no wiggle room for a 2:30 Friday kickoff. Most employers don’t want to hear about how your team is in the Music City Bowl and thus you need a 4 hour window to lock in. Thus, I was stuck with the unenviable position of attempting to go dark on the game until I got home. That was unsuccessful. Finally when I arrived home at 730, I was able to grab an oats soda and settle in. What I saw was an uninspiring, yet completely predictable performance. Tennessee owned this game from the beginning. That group of underachievers easily dispatched of Big Red. When you are missing 3 of your best 4 or 5 players, that tends to happen. Nebraska was utterly punchless for the large part of the afternoon. That fact was disturbing.

The Husker defense had absolutely no answer for Josh Dobbs. He did as he wanted all day long. NU defenders bounced off of him and, when he was surrounded, he easily escaped every time. Dobbs accounted for 409 yards on the afternoon, with 4 effortless TDs. He was a man among boys. There is no reason he should have burned NU the way he did. The Husker defense was pretty terrible all day long, contributing greatly to Dobbs prolific day. Basic tackling was a problem, a major freaking problem. This was easily the worst tackling this defense has had all year. Defenders were routinely out of position as well. This left GAPING holes for whoever UT gave the ball to. And they did, to the tune of 230 aggravating yards. Still, this team had its chances. Once during the 2nd quarter and again during the 4th, the Huskers pulled within one score. A stop would have had Big Red within striking distance and the ball. The Blackshirts failed to get a stop both times, spoiling any and all momentum. It was a pretty sorry day for that side of the ball. With the offense obviously hindered, the defense would be called upon to carry the load. Based upon various performances throughout the year, I felt confident going in. What a disappointment. This unit absolutely laid down and let the Volunteers have a glorious afternoon in the Southern Sun. Disgusting.

Offensively, the Huskers were exactly what I thought we would see. Missing Tommy Armstrong was going to be tough to overcome. He has been the workhorse for this offense. Danny Langsdorf and Mike Riley have leaned too hard on Tom. This entire unit is dependent on him. As he has gone, this offense has gone. His absence was enormous. Add in the injured Jordan Westercamp and dinged up Terrell Newby, Alonzo Moore and David Knevel and you knew the results wouldn’t be great. Ryker Fyfe was, well, Ryker Fyfe. He was OK, but not the difference maker NU needed under center. The offensive line struggled, MIGHTILY, with the Tennessee front. Whether it was running or passing, NU could not handle Derek Barnett and the rest of the defensive line. Hell, there were times Barnett was not touched. He, and his cohorts, lived in the Husker backfield. It was painful. NU gained just 61 rushing yardsand allowed Fyfe to be sacked 4 times. That dog wont hunt. I knew the offense would struggle, but I expected NU to be able to run the ball and control the game. That did not happen. That did not come close to happening. Combine that with the awful defensive effort and you have a 14 point loss to an underacheiving squad in ugly ass uniforms…….Pass the beer.

So there you have it. Another loss. Thats 4 of Big Red’s final 6. Not good. It puts a very bitter taste on top of such a promising start. I actually have more questions about this team, and this program, than I do answers at this point. Part of me feels like the Mike Riley era is on course, but needs more talent, particularly at certain positions. Another part feels like we are just biding our time until this thing crashes into the mountain.  I’m extremely torn. I feel like it could go either way. Of course I want Riley and company to figure it out, but that is hard to see see through the fog of losses to inconsequential teams like Iowa and Tennessee. There are valid reasons for losing either of those games. In this sport good teams figure out ways to win.  It happens all the time, just ask the Gophers. It would have been great to win one of those games. I don’t feel like that is expecting too much. Instead NU gets manhandled in both. What does that say about NU going forward? I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you.

Into the darkness of the offseason we go. 8 months without Nebraska Football. What am I going to do with all this extra mental space? What can we expect/hope to see in the coming months before taking the field September 2nd against Arkansas State? Be prepared to be beaten over the head with news about QB controversy. NU hasn’t had a real QB situation since 2010 when Taylor Martinez shocked Husker nation by winning the job over Cody Green and Zac Lee. Be prepared for a similar 3 way QB battle. Tulane transfer Tanner Lee has turned heads in practice. Many see him as the favorite to win the job. Do yourself a favor and don’t look at his stats from 2 years in New Orleans. Pee-freaking-eew. Lee apparently has a rocket arm, and ample size, but his experience is not good. Then there are the unknown commodities of Patrick O’brien and Tristan Gebbia. O’brien has the benefit of being on campus for a year, but Gebbia set California ablaze with his play in his final season. All commodities in this equation are major question marks, but the fact is that one of them will be the signal caller for the offense next fall. Its going to be a major story this offseason. You will probably be sick of hearing about it by the time camp starts next fall. Then, of course, there is the incoming recruiting class. I’m no recruiting guru, but it appears NU has lost a fair amount of steam on the recruiting trail. This program needs more talent. Its that simple. It is obvious, especially along the lines, that more horses are needed. It is completely unacceptable to be dominated up front the way we have against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Tenne-freaking-see. Line play should be a staple of Nebraska Football and for too long it has been mediocre or worse. The primary way to improve the talent level is recruiting. Time for this staff to hit the road and get more horses, preferably thoroughbreds, to Lincoln. The future depends upon it.



The Hatter Strikes Back

The Pick

Years and years from now we are all going to look at the Thanksgiving 2015 on the bayou with crossed eyes. It may be the damndest thing I’ve ever seen. A group of influential, i.e rich, boosters were getting ready to oust longtime coach Les Miles. These people saw their program as waning. Naturally, the fall guy was the head coach. They may have had just cause. After starting last year 7-0, LSU loses at Alabama then gets whacked at home by Arkansas. Then the Tigers go on the road to Oxford Mississippi and get slapped around. The powers that be in Baton Rouge saw their program becoming an afterthought in the ultra competitive SEC West. They took action. Backroom meetings were held, action was planned, but, oops, someone leaked this information. As the Tigers took the field against Texas A&M Thanksgiving weekend it was well known that this might be Les Miles’ last game. The Mad Hatter had something up his sleeve. By embracing the rumors it turned that game into a Les Miles love fest. The players carried Miles off the field amid chants of “Keep Les.” The groundswell of support was too much for the AD to ignore. After the game LSU AD Joe Alleva stated Miles would return. Typically where there is smoke there is fire. Had Miles not pulled an end around I believe he would be gone. How Miles worked the situation was sheer brilliance. This year LSU has a loaded team that I believe will make Joe Alleva look very smart and those boosters quite foolish.

This is the best team LSU has had since the 2011 bunch that destroyed the SEC before getting Sabaned by Alabama in the national title game. There are awesome players, with ample experience all over this roster.  One player stands out above the rest. Leonard Fournette is every body’s All American. He is the closest thing I have seen to Adrian Peterson. He is big, physical and fast. He will have another monster season before invading, and destroying, the NFL. A chief beneficiary of Fournette’s greatness is QB Brandon Harris. I cant remember the last time LSU had a good QB. They are always a liability. Harris will not be. Aided by a ferocious ground game Harris will be free to throw darts to Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. This offense will be very difficult to stop. But that is not why I am picking LSU. In the offseason, LSU aquired defensive coordinator Dave Aranda from Wisconsin. I’ve admired Aranda’s defenses up close for years and am happy to have him out of the Big 10. He is an outstanding tactician and will be a difference maker for LSU this fall. It doesn’t hurt that Aranda will have more athletes on hand than he could have ever dreamed of in Madison. LSU returns 10 of their top 11 tacklers from a year ago. I see Safety Jamal Adams and Cornerback Tre’Davious White becoming household names this fall as this unit ascends to the top of the college football’s defensive rankings. This team has it all, including a favorable schedule. Every schedule in this division has potholes, but the Tigers are fortunate to miss Tennessee and get Alabama and Mississippi in Death Valley. All of these factors make me a believer that this is the year LSU gets back atop the mountain in the SEC.

The Field

I really hate to bet against Nick Saban. He is the best coach of this generation, maybe ever. His Alabama program reloads like nobody else. However, he does lose defensive guru Kirby Smart this fall. I think that hurts Alabama just enough. The schedule isn’t favorable either. The Tide visit each of the other top 4 contenders in the league. There are plenty of opportunities for this team to fritter away any chance at a league title. Would it surprise me to see the Tide curb stomp the rest of this league? Not at all. Saban never surprises me.

I need to see Ole Miss win more than 10 games per year, or a division title, before I take them to win this league. Sure, Hugh Freeze’s club has plenty of talent. Chad Kelly is probably the best QB in the SEC, but they lose 4 of their top 6 tacklers from last year along with their top rusher and 2 top receivers. This program has promise, but I need to see more before I stick my neck out there for them.

The very same can be said about Tennessee. The Vols have become a very trendy pick to win the SEC and make the playoffs. There are a few good reasons for that. 17 returning starters is a good place to start. But I’m not convinced this group is ready for the bright lights just yet. Lets not forget the Vols have lost 11 straight to Florida and 9 straight to Alabama. There are also trips to Georgia and College Station on that schedule. Pump the brakes on this trendy pick. Im not buying it.