Published on 09-27-2012 06:20 PM
Number of Views: 4202
I could talk about the Idaho State game, but why? The Bengals from potato country were more like Pringles; a fragile, too easy answer to hunger for self-confidence. Idaho State was maybe the worst team I’ve even seen in Memorial Stadium and I’ve seen Pacific. The Bengals were so bad, they were Iowa without the pre-trial diversion program.
So speaking of the Big Bad B1G, which is only “big” because its sum of ten somehow equals twelve, but on the understated side of life, “bad” isn’t enough to describe how the B1G smells so far in 2012. When an entire conference’s only win over a ranked team after nearly 50 games is MSU’s 17-13 clubbing of then #24 Boise State, something isn’t quite right. Of course there was promise shown in Meatchicken’s near miss against #1 Alabama in a 14 - 41 squeaker.
NU threw its hat in the ring by allowing an unranked UCLA team to hang two and a half games worth of yards on them in a loss. However, after looking at the B1G’s overall body of work, that almost seems respectable. So the question that will be soon answered on the field is: Are the Huskers going to be part of the problem or the solution to the B1G’s seemingly already irreparable rep in the 2012 national landscape of college football?
The answer, should NU prove incapable of competing with the B1G’s “best” could be mutinously loud, whereas a smooth sail to Indy would suggest, at least, the Huskers can build on beating the teams on their schedule they should beat. After the L.A. meltdown, I don’t think anyone can say with any confidence what the coming weeks will reveal. The only thing that is known for sure is the name of NU’s opponents. The next five games could tell all that needs to be known about the state of the Huskers, so let's start by looking at the Big Bad B1G’s Best.
A lot has changed since drunken Madtown fans serenaded a shell-shocked NU visiting crowd with chants of “Big Ten Football.” Bielema lost six assistants, including Cryst, his highly regarded OC. Three too close games against directional schools and a loss to the Beavs caused Bielema to already enact the Lemon Law on his shiny new O-line coach, while Bret’s one-and-done QB strategy is resembling anything but Russell Wilson déjà vu in the form of Danny O’brien. Preseason Hypeman short-lister Monte Ball is dinged-up and the defense has become average after losing two starting D-linemen from 2011.
The key will be which defense can better disrupt the opponent’s QB, with both Martinez and O’brien being known to cough-up poise under duress. If the Husker O-line fails to keep this group of pedestrian Badgers from being a constant backfield disruption, it would not be a good sign of pipeline progress.
In light of Wisconsin’s steep decline and the beat down that went down last year, NU simply has to win this home game. A loss is unacceptable to show NU is minimally not regressing. Wisconsin looks to be maybe the 4th best team on NU’s B1G schedule.
At first gut check, a road win against this Bucknuts team feels improbable. Braxton Miller who, without blowing a tire was a mortal lock to put NU away last year, looks at least a year better. There’s no indication NU’s D has found a solid strategy to fluster dual threat QBs the quality of Miller, who averaged over nine yards per keeper against 2011’s Blackshirts.
The OSU D is expected to take strides this year under holdover Luke “The Waterboy” Fickell and a bevy of talented recruits; but after giving up 28 to Cal and over 400 yards to the UAB Blazers, they’re still a work in progress.
In a game that could easily become a track meet, I expect NU will need to put up at least 35 points, which is a possibility IF the Huskers are progressing on both fronts.
The purple NU from a few miles north of Chicago, or as I call them the NUrple are a wildcard testament to will. Pat Fitzgerald gets more with less than any other BCS conference coach. In KSU-ish fashion he turns lightly regarded, undersized QBs into legitimate dual threats. Kain Colter is that guy.
The wildcats have D playmakers on the front 7, but NU’s better passing game should expose Northwestern’s secondary weaknesses and win by at least two scores; but never rule out a close, Fitzgeraldian inspired performance. A repeat of last year’s NUrple domination however just won’t do. Expect classic Ryan Field to be half-scarlet in what will be and outstanding environment.
DC Greg Mattison’s magic D transformation has regressed with the losses of DTs Martin and Van Bergan, returning a porous look to the Wolvies run D and pass rush. Shoelaces Robinson also seems off-track after losing top targets Hemingway and Stonum. In a solo, five turnover performance by Robinson (4 picks and a fumble) against ND, Michigan was down only one score for ages, but UM never felt like a real scoring threat.
Perhaps more than any other 2012 game, NU needs to exercise demons from last year. If once again we see a Robinson and Maizenblue D resurrection against NU, after having previously looked very solvable, you’ll have to question NU’s role in making average teams look like world beaters. In a perfect world NU wins by two TDs by outscoring UM.
Whether it’s Kirk Cousins, Drew Stanton, or Jeff Smoker, MSU always finds an immobile QB that manages to get the ball downfield and win games. Sparty’s latest stationary target, Andrew Maxwell, has yet to find that same big, slow groove in East Lansing, but his receivers haven’t helped, dropping many of the few catchable balls. RB La’Veon Bell at 6’ 2”, 224 has the ability to make a lot of passing problems seem moot however.
On D, MSU should be the stiffest test of the year for NU’s offense and offensive line. DE’s Ghoulson and Rush are twin freight trains and the Spartans return the best LB trio in the B1G, with Bullough being a ‘bull’ in the middle and Allen being a guy that will crash in on Martinez. If MSU’s D shows up, it’s going to be a major test for Barney’s group.
Nebraska can win this game if the Huskers can smack the passing game out of Maxwell and then sell out on Bell. Even with as good as MSU’s D looks, NU should be able to score at least 24 which, depending on the NU D that shows up, might be good enough to win.
If memory serves, NU’s last trip to East Lansing was in 1995 where the Huskers put a 50-10 whipping on Nick Saban’s first Spartans team which featured Tony Banks at QB. Lawrence Phillips ran for over 200 yards in just over three quarters worth of work and the next morning Husker fans awoke to the news that Phillips had been suspended from the team.
So, the Big Bad B1G is pretty bad. It’s hard to imagine even the offensively challenged 2009 Huskers, with Suh anchoring the #1 scoring D in the country, having difficulty running this B1G table, so that’s what will be most interesting about watching these next five games. NU is being viewed nationally as just one of the B1G crowd headed in the wrong direction. Locally, many Husker partisans view their team as cusping on the potential of so much more. Whose perception is reality? Who knows? Just buckle in for an exciting five game adventure through the rickety, substantially flawed Big Bad B1G and by the end of the ride, everyone will decide if it was fun or scarily in need of repairs.