Archive for November, 2006

Checking in on Those Preseason Predictions
Thursday, November 30, 2006


I made a bunch of preseason Husker predictions on this blog. Let’s check in and see how I did on those prognostications (you can look them up for yourself in the archives on the right-hand side).

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From “It’s Gameday” entry on September 1:

I enjoy making long-shot calls at the beginning of the season. And you have to do it before the season begins… because if you don’t, you’ll have people coming out of the wood-work as the Huskers keep winning, making ridiculous claims. Here are some of mine:

1) Nebraska will beat Texas

Explanation: It will be the Longhorns’ first game outside the state of Texas. And they have a freshman quarterback. If memory serves me correctly, the Longhorns were supposed to manhandle Nebraska in their last visit to Lincoln, but escaped with a 3-point win. And that was with Jammal Lord under center. I’ll take my chances with Zac Taylor. I know, I know… not many people are calling this one. Count me as the first.

* How’d I do? – I was a Terrence Nunn ball-clutch away from hitting this one. Oh well.

2) Nebraska will win at Iowa State

Explanation: The Huskers’ past road failures mean nothing to me. Nebraska wins this one.

* How’d I do? – Not bad.

3) If I hear one more word about Callahan not being able to win on the road, I will blow a gasket.

Explanation: I don’t mean to diminish the importance of any Husker season, but the last two Nebraska football campaigns don’t mean anything. Callahan’s first two seasons have been wiped out of my record book. His road record is 3-6 overall, 2-6 in conference…. but in my book it’s 0-0 and 0-0. He overhauled a system, and flipped the culture of Nebraska football. It’s not done overnight. If he has a losing road record this year, and a mediocre one the next, then his record will be blemished. Remember Frank Solich? In his last two seasons, he had an overall record of 4-6 on the road (3-5 in conference). And those were years five and six of his system… the same system that was used by the previous head coach. Callahan gets a pass. So please stop with the “Can Callahan win on the road?” He may be in year three… but it’s only his first year of judgment.

* How’d I do? – Hard to say. I didn’t blow a gasket.

4) Nebraska will win 3 games by 21 points or more. They will not lose any games by more than 11 points.

Explanation: The Huskers were in every single game until the fourth quarter last year, except for the Kansas game (and that was a throw-away fluke). And this year’s team is better. The competition is stiffer, yes, with USC and Texas on the schedule. I’m just a believer. What can I say?

* How’d I do? – The Huskers actually won four games by 21+ points (the Colorado game nipped me) They lost to USC by 18, and to Oklahoma State by 12. I was kinda sorta actually completely wrong.

5) Nebraska will finish 10-4, losing the Big 12 Title game, and winning the Bowl game.

Explanation: It’s a solid Nebraska team, but they are probably still a year away from a top-10 finish. That being said, we’re going to learn a lot about the direction of this program this season.

* How’d I do? – We’ll find out Saturday if I nailed this one.

6) Bill Callahan will be at Nebraska until at least 2012.

Explanation: He loves Nebraska, and he knows there’s more security in college football than the NFL (if you win). He’s got more control here than he ever could have in the NFL… and he’s got everything he needs to succeed. And he will. When he came on board at Nebraska, I said he would stay at Nebraska as long as he wanted to. I still believe it.

* How’d I do? – So far, so good.

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From “Quick Observations” entry on August 17th:

Husker prediction: This will be the best rushing season for the Huskers since 2001. I haven’t looked at any stats of the last 5 years… I’m just going with it. The depth has to get you somewhere, right?

* How’d I do? – They’ve actually rushed for less than they did in 2001 (and even 2003). Given the balance and development of this system, it was a stupid prediction to make. Without running the option, though, this team has done pretty darn good.

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From “The Slacking Stops Now” entry on August 29th:

Before the season starts, it’s time to make a few random predictions. I’ll be glad to hear some of yours. Just throw them at me, and I’ll post’em.

Here are some of mine:

1) Cody Glenn will get the first carry in the opener.
2) The Huskers will clinch the North Division before the Colorado game.
3) Nebraska will be mentioned by ESPN as a National Championship contender at some point during the season.
4) I won’t remember Nicholls State’s nickname at season’s end.
5) Sam Keller won’t play this year.
6) The Huskers will go 10-4 (including the Big 12 Title game and Bowl game).
7) Nebraska will not lose any football game by more than 11 points.
8) Kenny Wilson will be last year’s Zac Taylor (translation: “We’re so glad you came to Nebraska.”)
9) The only Nebraska losses I’m sure about will be: at USC, and at Texas A&M.
10) I’m immediately unsure of both of those.
11) More fans will watch the new video board instead of the actual game — and then, after missing a play, will have to watch the video board for the replay. It’s an endless cycle.
12) Nebraska will play the Longhorns twice this year, and beat them once.

* How’d I do? –
1) Wrong
2) Yep – My best prediction of the season.
3) I didn’t hear anything before the USC game. Probably wrong.
4) Is it the Colonels?
5) I’m so good.
6) I’m just about there.
7) Again, wrong.
8) Not even close. Too deep a backfield for that to be true.
9) I was right/wrong
10) That was smart back-tracking on A&M
11) Nailed it.
12) Coulda’, shoulda’, didn’t, won’t
.

In summation, don’t ask me to read your palm.

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Is Nebraska Nebraska’s Team?
Thursday, November 30, 2006


Has it happened already? This soon? Just five games into the season?

Check Out These Huskers

The Big Red is playing with a passion that we haven’t seen in Lincoln in quite some time. They’re diving for loose balls, hustling on defense, hitting their shots… I know we’re only five games into the season, but something special is brewing in the capital city.

When I first saw them play in person against Nebraska-Omaha, I wrote on this blog that my opinion of Husker basketball had changed. I felt the game with Creighton would be close and competitive. I was wrong, but not the way I would’ve thought. Aleks Maric is playing the best basketball of his Husker career. A big man + confidence = a dangerous combination. He scored 26 points in 26 minutes, to go along with 11 rebounds. That’s a double-double, right?

I’ve always believed that the best way to compete or make up for any shortcomings is to be the hardest-working team on the floor. Endurance and hustle can create opportunities. That’s exactly what’s happening for Nebraska. And get this: they may be more talented than we thought.

The Huskers rolled past North Texas 76-57 Wednesday night. And this was a North Texas team of which Doc Sadler said, “this will be the best team we have played this year.” He verbally smacks Creighton, then his team smacks the Mean Green.

Nebraska has won five straight to open a season for the first time since 2001-02.

Meanwhile, in the Other Big City…

Creighton took care of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 74-39. Pine-Bluff had a nice, pleasant trip to the state of Nebraska, getting outscored by the state’s two Division I teams 145-81. Happy holidays.

The Bluejays played better, but how can you get a gauge on a team when they’re playing a bunch of 8th-graders?

Here’s the Rub

The question is: Has Nebraska closed the gap? That’s an open-ended and somewhat rhetorical question. But if you’ve seen both teams play, I would throw this out there: the Huskers are more entertaining.

While the Huskers are running up and down the court, the Bluejays are still trying to find their footing. For a team with just five games under its belt with a new head coach, these guys seem to have a good handle on what they’re doing, or at least on what’s expected of them.

Maybe here’s the answer: It’s only November… way too early to talk about this stuff.

What a waste of time.

It’s the Most, Wonderful Time….
Thursday, November 30, 2006

… of the year. At least, that’s how the ESPN bowl season theme song goes. A playoff system would be more than wonderful. But as Bill Callahan would say, “It is what it is.”

And This is What it is Right Now

The Big 12 Bowl Schedule: (I’m assuming the Gator takes a Big East team, i.e. West Virginia)

Holiday Bowl December 28th @ San Diego
Cal vs Texas A&M (this is the only Big 12 bowl matchup that is finalized)


Independence Bowl December 28th @ Shreveport
SEC Team vs _____ (my guess: Kansas State)


Texas Bowl December 28th @ Houston
Big East Team vs ____(my guess: Oklahoma State)


Sun Bowl December 29th @ El Paso
Oregon State vs ________ (my guess: Texas Tech)


Insight Bowl December 29th @ Tempe
Minnesota vs _______ (my guess: Missouri)


Alamo Bowl December 30th @ San Antonio
Iowa vs ________ (my guess: Texas)


Cotton Bowl January 1 @ Dallas
Nebraska/Oklahoma loser vs SEC (my guess: Auburn)


Fiesta Bowl January 1 @ Glendale, Arizona
Nebraska/Oklahoma vs Boise State

It’s nice seeing the Huskers near the bottom of the bowl list. The later the better.

How would you like to spend your hard-earned dollar in El Paso? Shreveport? Been there, done that.

And a tip to fans: Any bowl named after a state, or sponsored by a cologne, is a bowl you don’t want any part of.

My apologies to the Texas Bowl and Brut Sun Bowl.

NewsFlash: Nebraska is Guaranteed to Play on New Year’s Day
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Press Release from the University of Nebraska:

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic and the Big 12 Conference have announced that Nebraska and Oklahoma will fill the league’s spots in those two bowl games.

The winner of Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game will earn the conference’s automatic bid into the Bowl Championship series and a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be played on Monday, Jan. 1, at the University of Phoenix Stadium, with kickoff set for 7:45 p.m. CST.

The opponent in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be announced as part of Sunday night’s BCS announcement show on Fox at 7 p.m. A trip to the Fiesta Bowl would be Nebraska’s first since defeating Tennessee in the game following the 1999 season. It would also mark Nebraska’s first appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game since the 2002 Rose Bowl. Nebraska would be making its sixth appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. In addition to 1999, Nebraska also played in the contest following the 1975, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995 seasons.

The Big 12 Conference runner-up will participate in the 71st Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan. 1 in Dallas. The Cotton Bowl will kick off at 10:40 a.m. CST and will be televised by Fox Sports.

The opponent in the Cotton Bowl will be a representative of the Southeastern Conference. That team will be determined following Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. An appearance in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic would mark Nebraska’s first trip to Dallas for the New Year’s Day game in 27 years, dating back to a loss to Houston in the 1980 Cotton Bowl. Nebraska also appeared in the Cotton Bowl following the 1964 and 1973 seasons.

Husker fans who are interested in attending Nebraska’s bowl game will have an opportunity to secure tickets shortly after the conclusion of Saturday’s Big 12 Championship games by visiting Huskers.com. Seat locations will be determined at a later date.

Nebraska’s team allotment for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is 12,500 tickets, with the tickets costing $135. Beyond the seats designated for the respective team allotments, the Fiesta Bowl is sold out. Nebraska will receive 12,500 tickets for the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, with tickets costing $90 each.

Tickets for the bowl game will remain on sale at Huskers.com until the team allotment has sold out. The ticket office will also be open for special hours Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m. to accommodate Husker fans wishing to purchase tickets in person at the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office (Stadium Parking Garage) or over the phone by calling 1-800-8 BIG RED.

Nebraska’s bowl appearance will be the school’s 44th all-time postseason trip, the fifth-most in NCAA history. Nebraska has played in several January bowl games in recent years, but this year will mark Nebraska’s first bowl game on New Year’s Day since a 24-17 victory over Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl.


This is great for Nebraska. The school is guaranteed to play on New Year’s Day or later for the first time since that ill-fated BCS National Championship game against Miami.

This program is headed in the right direction, folks.

The Ol’ Buffs Coach Chimes In
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gary Barnett has spent the season outside of the coaching ranks, having been fired by the University of Colorado one year ago next month. He’s been doing some television and radio work, and will be at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday to work the radio broadcast of the Big 12 championship game between Nebraska and Oklahoma.

He said the Cornhuskers are “solid, but not a great defensive team. Their ability to run helped them — and they’re good, don’t get me wrong.”

Given Oklahoma’s ability to stop the run, it sounds like Gary is stamping OU’s ticket to the Fiesta Bowl.

Big 12 Honors Come the Huskers’ Way
Wednesday, November 29, 2006


As if winning the North wasn’t good enough, Nebraska received some top honors for some of its players.

Zac Taylor is Offensive Player of the Year

After Zac Taylor had already addressed the media at Tuesday’s Husker news conference, it was announced that Taylor had been voted the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He was asked to address the media again from the Husker pulpit. He seemed surprised, but it should come as no surprise to anyone else. He’s only been the starting quarterback for 15 months, but he’s allowed the coaches to accelerate their system more quickly than they could’ve hoped. Going from a passed-over high school quarterback, to one of the highest-rated college quarterbacks in the country (#9 at last check… higher than Brady Quinn, in case you were interested)… it’s a great story. A storybook finish could be in order this Saturday.

Other Honors, Some Surprises

Adam Carriker – Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year (well-deserved)

Dane Todd – All-Big 12 First Team Fullback (not bad for a guy who’s carried the ball zero times, and has two receptions… maybe it was that touchdown catch against Nicholls State that put him over the top).

Bo Ruud – All-Big 12 First Team Linebacker (even he seemed surprised. He might be the 4th-best linebacker on this team. Voters might’ve been confused when they saw “B. Ruud” on the ballot. But for all he’s been through this season, and the way he’s performed given his personal circumstances, give it to him.)

Maurice Purify – All-Big 12 Second Team Receiver (deserving… he’s there whenever you need him).

All-Big 12 Honorable Mention:

Stewart Bradley, LB; Brett Byford, OL; Cortney Grixby, DB; Marlon Lucky, RB; Corey McKeon, LB; Andrew Shanle, DB (surprising?) ; Matt Slauson, OL.

It’s Not Being Said, So I’ll Say It.

Bill Callahan wants to beat Bob Stoops badly.

Stoops embarrassed him in Norman, when Callahan had to kick a last-second field goal to avoid a shutout. Last season in Lincoln, it was Stoops calling the key trick play (the fake field goal) that led to a touchdown (and the infamous “slash”).

Callahan wants to put one on Stoops here.

Make no mistake about it.

Coach Cheesesticks Is a Good Hire

Funny moment from the news conference: Coach Callahan was asked what he felt about the new Iowa State head coach. Said Callahan, “It’s a good hire… is it Chizziz?… Chizzicks?…” then once he figured he’d painted himself into a corner, he added, “I don’t know the man very well.”

Classic.

Getting in that OU Frame of Mind
Tuesday, November 28, 2006



Here’s a story from the past that’ll get you fired up for Saturday. (As if you needed it).

Ya’ know, there’s a simple way to make sure these two teams play each other every year: just meet in the championship game.

Look Back At 1971 ‘Game Of Century’

Iowa State Gets its Man
Monday, November 27, 2006


Give Athletic Director Jamie Pollard a lot of credit.

1) He kept his hiring a secret until the day of the announcement, something that’s nearly impossible to do in this day and age of instant information.

2) He got what should be a fantastic head coach.

Gene Chizik – Welcome to ‘Clone Country

I don’t think the Cyclones could’ve gotten a better coach or a bigger name if they tried. Chizik is wrapping up his second season as the assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator at Texas. He previously was the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002-04. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest defensive minds in the country. If you watched any television broadcast of a Longhorn football game this season, you heard commentators talk about Chizik’s wizardry.

Chizik spent three seasons at Auburn (2002-04) and as defensive coordinator was named the 2004 Broyles Award winner, honoring the nation’s top assistant coach.

For an Iowa State team that seemed to have plenty of offensive firepower, but couldn’t stop anybody on defense, this hire makes perfect sense.

Chizik will be introduced at a press conference in Ames at 6PM CT.

Now That’s How You Keep a Secret

The speculation went from Jay Norvell, to Jim Harbaugh, to Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly. Norvell was declared out of the running last week, while Harbaugh’s agent said his client was no longer a candidate. Brian Kelly had been interviewed by ISU and Michigan State, and it was thought that Kelly would be the guy. But earlier Monday morning, the man widely speculated to be named coach said, “The best thing that I can tell you is I think they’ve got a press conference scheduled today for 6 pm, I’ll be at practice here at Central Michigan,” he said.

We know that Pollard held at least two of his interviews in Dallas. Maybe that’s because it was the closest big city to his number one target. Pollard should write a book entitled, “How to Keep a Big Hire a Big Secret.”

Steve Pederson should be the first in line to buy it.

Sunday Wrap-up
Monday, November 27, 2006

We’re just six days away from the Big 12 Championship Game in Kansas City. The Huskers meet with the media on Tuesday. Until then………………

Next-to-Last BCS Standings Released — Hard to Argue

I can’t stand the BCS. It’s better than the old system, but a new system will be better than this one. That being said, it’s hard to argue with the latest standings. Southern Cal crushed Notre Dame, solidifying its spot in the National Championship game. As long as they beat UCLA, they’ll face Ohio State on January 8th, 2007. If the Trojans lose to the Bruins… let the controversy resume.

1. Ohio State
2. Southern Cal
3. Michigan
4. Florida
5. LSU

Coaching Changes-a-Plenty (with Husker connections)

Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter names Sam Keller his starting quarterback in the pre-season. Then he changes his mind (translation: his players pouted) and goes with Rudy Carpenter. Keller transfers to Nebraska. Koetter’s team goes 7-5 with Carpenter at the helm, and Koetter is fired.

Then there’s Chuck Amato. His North Carolina State Wolfpack began the year 3-2, and lost the final 7 games of the season. He is also fired. The Nebraska connection? Former Husker quarterback Harrison Beck left Nebraska in the preseason, and transferred to NC State.

Along Those Same Lines…

Harrison Beck will only be a sophomore next season, but will have his third head coach. When Joe Dailey enters his last season with UNC, he’ll be playing under his fifth head coach. Frank Solich, Bo Pelini, Bill Callahan, John Bunting, Butch Davis. Is that a record?

Quick Thought on the Big XII Championship Game

I took part in a television interview with our sister-station KOCO in Oklahoma City on Sunday. I was asked about the acceptance of Callahan, the development of Brandon Jackson, and whether or not Nebraska is “back”. Afterwards, I asked my colleague about Adrian Peterson’s status. For now, it sounds like Bob Stoops is declaring the runningback “doubtful”. A lot can change in six days. Stay tuned. Either way, OU is a top-notch team, and will provide the Huskers with quite possibly their greatest challenge of the season.

With all due respect to the “North Title”…

For the first time since 2001, Nebraska is playing for a championship. Enjoy it.

Creighton Still a Work in Progress

The Bluejays took care of George Mason on Saturday, 58-56. The most surprising thing coming out of the game came in the final two minutes. Nate Funk, Anthony Tolliver and Josh Dotzler each turned the ball over, allowing the Patriots back into the game. You don’t expect that from your seniors.

After the game, I asked George Mason coach Jim Larranaga if he sees the potential for a post-season run in the Jays. “They’ll go to the Final Four, no question…. anything short of a Final Four is a disappointing season for the Bluejays,” joked Larranaga. His team made a magical run to the Final Four last season… are the Bluejays capable of making a run like that? They’re a long ways away from even thinking about that… but I think this group will be a different team in due time. There’s simply too much talent.

Nebraska Volleyball Home for at Least a Week

The Huskers were tabbed the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They’ll host first and second round matches this weekend at the Coliseum. If they advance, they’ll head to the Gainesville Regional. Volleyball is pretty funky. The number one team should never have to play on the road until the Final Four. Last year the Huskers were fortunate to play in Omaha for the regional. This year, they’ll have to win in Florida in order to return to Qwest Center for the Final Four. It’ll be interesting.

Nebraska-Colorado Reaction
Saturday, November 25, 2006


Nebraska finished off the regular season in style with a 37-14 win over Colorado. The Huskers left the Buffs in the dust, and will now leave for Kansas City.

Fool Me Once, Shame on You… Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me… Fool Me Eight Times…. mmmmm…

Have you ever seen more trick plays in one football game? Three half-back passes (one to a quarterback), a fake field goal with the help of a back-up quarterback, a wide-receiver reverse, a field goal attempt that turned into a pooch punt, a fake-punt-let’s-draw-them-offsides-then-walk-off-the-field-to-pretend-to-call-a-timeout-then-direct-snap-it-to-a-safety-play… this game had it all.

Callahan and company emptied the bag in Lincoln. They’ll have to bring a new bag of tricks to Kansas City.

Which Team Had More to Play For?

It looked like it was Nebraska’s bowl game, not Colorado’s. The Buffs were supposed to pour out the playbook… instead, the Huskers did. Against a 2-9 (now 2-10) team. Set up a mathematical proportion, and you can only imagine how many trick plays they should run against Oklahoma. They probably won’t run that many against OU, but relatively speaking it would only make sense.

One thing was clear, though: Callahan really wanted to beat the Buffs.

Sticking With B-Jax

Brandon Jackson struggled early, but Callahan stuck with him (even through a costly fumble) as B-Jax finished with a career-high 34 carries for 142 yards. I’m still amazed at how he has broken through this season. He was an afterthought in the pre-season. Now he has a chance for some post-season honors.

Restoring the Order

Nebraska swept its North Division games for the first time since 1999. The Huskers have restored the order in the division… now they have a chance to do it in the conference. It’s Oklahoma week.

Funny How That Happens

In the pre-season, most of the media (yours truly included) predicted Oklahoma to win the South. Once Rhett Bomar was kicked off the team, we penciled in Texas as the South’s representative. Once Adrian Peterson went down with a broken collarbone, we wrote it in permanent ink.

Get out the white-out.

Always stick with your first instinct. Some teams are just good enough to overcome the greatest of adversity.

Good Question

In the comments section of this entry, one viewer asked how it feels to be a Colorado alum working in Nebraska, covering the Huskers as they beat up on the Buffaloes.

Actually, it doesn’t bother me much. Honestly, it’s tough to see Colorado lose so many games, if for no other reason because it opens the door for incredibly well-reasoned smack talk from Husker fans. But covering Nebraska and getting to know the Husker players (and working with them in some funny stories), there’s no way I could root against these guys.

When I first started covering Nebraska back in December 2001, it was difficult. I was only three months out of school, and was working for KHGI (an ABC affiliate) in Kearney. I was in the stands for the 62-36 game… then one month later I was on a television set covering the Huskers as they prepared for the National Championship game. My then-new fellow anchors asked me to put on a Husker lapel-pin for the Rose Bowl post-game show. I felt ill doing it.

Five years later, I would rather watch a Nebraska game than a Colorado game.

it’s fun watching a winner.

Final Thought:

If the worst day as a Buff is still better than the best day as a Husker… then Colorado should be feeling great.