HUSKER DAN'S PRETTY PERKY PRE-SEASON PIGSKIN PROGNOSTICATIONS
After eight long, agonizing months, the Husker football season is about to begin! No more ESPNU reruns of last year's Husker nightmare games with Texas and Oklahoma. (Why do they always show Husker losses?)
Okay, are you ready for Husker Dan's predictions? I didn't think so, but I'm going to give 'em to you anyway.
1.) I've heard predictions from Husker fans from everything from a 7-5 season to actually winning a NC.
2.) But I've heard NO one saying jack about the Rose Bowl.
3.) I think the "Legends" and "Leaders" divisional names are dopey and if those weren't bad enough, now we have the dippy name of "Heroes" for the trophy (?) that will go each year to the winner of the Husker-Iowa football game.
4.) Who comes up with these goofy names? The Home and Garden network?
5.) I believe rivalries happen and aren't made up. It didn't work for the Colorado-Nebraska series.
6.) Quick, what was the name of the Husker-Sooner rivalry and what was the trophy given each year to the winner?
7.) Right. The rivalry happened because the winner was usually in a position to play for a national championship. That was the trophy.
8.) Will the Husker-Hawkeye games be exciting and will they mean a lot to both schools? Yes. But let's just say to the winner, you get a "W" and leave it at that.
9.) I'm calling the Nebraska-Iowa annual game, "The Hickoff Classic." (I don't care, I like it.)
10.) Quick. How did the Huskers finish last year in the national ratings? I didn't know either. (The answer appears at the bottom of this column.)
11.) It's great seeing my ol' buddy, Sam McKewon (me and Sam are just like this) getting a sports writing gig with the Omaha World Herald. Sam rocks.
12.) I'm glad to see that former Husker player and Husker radio color man and current co-host of NET's "Big Red Wrap Up", Adrian Fiala, has landed a gig on new radio sports talk show heard daily from 3-6 pm weekdays on Lincoln's KNTK ("The Ticket") 93.7 FM. Adrian's co-host is 23 year old Jake Bogus. I have ties older than that...
13.) Predictions about this year's record need to be tempered with a dose of reality. The Huskers haven't won a conference championship since '99 and haven't played in a BCS bowl game since the end of the 2001 season.
14.) Last year began with T-Magic and ended ignominiously (look that up in your Funk & Wagnall's) with T-Tragic. (Sorry Angry Dad for the T-words, but I just couldn't resist.)
15.) With Bubba Starling taking the money and Cody Green's defecting to Tulsa, the Huskers are very thin at the QB spot. Not something you want going into a new conference and facing a very daunting schedule.
16.) "Husker Insider" is a new Husker radio show will air live each Wednesday during the football season at the Loose Moose at 120th & Fort Street in Omaha. You can catch"Insider" with co-hosts Matt Schick and Dirk Chatelain from the Omaha World Herald on 1620 The Zone. The food is great. Come out on Wednesdays and be a part of "Insider." For more information about advertising on any of Great Plains' radio shows, contact Gerry Gray at http://www.greatplainsmktg.com/.
Here are what I think are the keys to the Huskers' football season.
1.) THE BLOCKSHIRTS
The success of the Husker "O" this year begins (and ends) with how well (or poorly) Barney Cotton's O-line guys play and how much talent and depth is developed. A weak O-line would make Taylor Martinez's life miserable. If he doesn't have ample protection, he may try to force plays, make bad decisions and would likely increase his chances of getting injured. Deja vu all over again.
And a weak O-line would also expose the inexperience of the freshman running backs who will be expected to take on the roll of backups behind junior RB Rex Burkhead. And a weak O-line would affect the receivers, too. That's the Domino Effect. (And no, that's doesn't mean free pizza.)
Why so much concern about the O-line? Maybe it's because Cotton's Crew looked like a M*A*S*H* unit the past two years.
The fate of the Husker O rests on the arm and wheels of #3, Taylor Martinez. The word out of Lincoln is that TM has healed from his injuries and has emerged from fall camp as a leader. Let's hope so. But TM is one play away from being out of the game, which would force RFr. "Neon" Brion Carnes to run the offense. BC is very gifted and shows great potential, but how would he fare at Camp Randall or Happy Valley? Scary.
3.) RUNNING BACKS
Last year, Husker running back Rex Burkhead was "Captain America". Defenses couldn't stop him, but for some unfathomable reason former OC, Sean Watson, would yank him from the game, opting instead to attempt 50 yard bombs that ended far too many drives. Let's hope that new OC, Tim Beck, will not make the same mistake. Newbies like Aaron Green, Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard are going to have to step up. The scary thing is the T-Rex is one play from forcing true freshmen to carry the load. Really scary.
4.) THE KICKING GAME
You don't replace four year starters like punter/PK Alex Henery or kickoff specialist like Adi Kunalic. What you do hope for is suitable, competent, consistent replacements. And then you pray a lot.
5.) PENALTIES AND TURNOVERS
If the Huskers are to be successful this year, mistakes are going to have to be significantly reduced from last year's high of 109 penalties and 16 lost fumbles.
It will be interesting to see if Bo tones down his sideline demeanor (emphasis on mean) with the Big 10 officials this fall. Bo enters the season with a clean slate. Let's hope the meltdowns are few. Remember, officials are short on patience and long on memory.
7.) THE BLACKSHIRTS
Now comes the good part: This very well could be Bo's best defense since he's been at Nebraska. If the offense can at least move the chains when it must and not commit stupid penalties and turnovers, a national championship wouldn't be out of the question for this crop of Huskers. Carl Pelini's defense has experience and depth at every position (save linebackers). The speed and athleticism of this group is amazing. The question remains, will the offense under first year OC, Tim Beck be up to the task?
1.) This fall, Bo Pelini will begin his fourth year as the Nebraska head football coach. Which of these former Husker football coaches won the most games in his fourth season?
A.) Bob Devaney
B.) Tom Osborne
C.) Frank Solich
D.) Bill Callahan
2.) Which coach holds the record for most wins in his fourth season in the history of Husker football?
A.) W.C. "King" Cole
B.) Frank Solich
C.) Dana X. Bible
D.) W.C. "Bummy" Booth
3.) Which coach holds the best winning percentage for wins in his fourth season in the history of Husker football?
A.) W.C. "Bummy" Booth
B.) Jumbo Stiehm
C.) Fred Dawson
D.) Frank Solich
Most Husker fans would consider not winning their division a big step backward for the program, especially in view of last year's season ending 1-3 record. Make no mistake, there is going to be a lot of pressure on Bo Pelini to take the Huskers to the next level. To feed the beast, the Huskers will need to win their division, win 11 games, win a Big 10 conference championship which would automatically put them into a BCS bowl. Of course playing for a NC and winning it would be every Husker fan's dream.
MY BIG TEN PICKS
TASTES GREAT DIVISION (I told you I don't like Legends and Leaders.)
Nebraska (6-2), Michigan State (6-2), Michigan (5-3), Iowa (5-3), Northwestern (3-5), Minnesota (1-7)
LESS FILLING DIVISION
Wisconsin (7-1), Ohio State (6-2), Illinois (5-3), Penn State (4-4), Purdue (1-7), Indiana (0-8).
With a win over Iowa in "The Hickoff Classic", the Nebraska will qualify for the first Big 10 Championship game in Indianapolis where they will have a re-match with the Badgers. The Huskers will lose two conference games-probably at Camp Randall and at Michigan. Rematches can sometimes stink (remember the OU-NU Orange Bowl after the 1978 season and last year's Holiday Bowl).
This week's game prediction:
Tennessee at Chattanooga at Lincoln at Memorial Stadium at 2:30 pm. (That's a lot of ats.)
The Huskers will score so many points that Cody Green will fly up from Tulsa to take a few snaps with his old teammates.
The (corn)Stalks will rock the Mocs 53-7
THE 2011 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON
For a list of all the college football games this season, click on the following link: www.premiercollegefootball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=111
The Huskers finished last season ranked #19 in the USA Today poll and 20th in the AP poll.
1.) c. Frank Solich with 11 in 2001 2.) b. Frank Solich 11 in 2001 3.) a. Bummy Booth went 10-0 in 1910.
If you'd like to give Husker Dan a piece of your mind, you may email him at HuskerDan@cox.net