Column: Nebraska's Way Out
"Am I supposed to make an opening statement after that?" Mike Riley said after watching the Huskers lose their first game of the year, a Hail Mary-capped affair with BYU. He soon recovered enough to vow that his team could fix all its problems, praising his players' competitive moxie. Little did he know, the Cornhuskers would lose not just one, but two more games in the next month in the final ten seconds or overtime.
Now the Huskers sit at 2-3, and things only get tougher in Big Ten play. Nebraska fills the role of host for Wisconsin this Saturday, then travels to Minnesota before hosting Northwestern on the 24th. It's a three-game stretch that has a risk of burying the Huskers season, with November games with Michigan State and Iowa still looming. Not only that, Mike Riley would have to go 5-0 in those games, and beat Rutgers and Purdue, to finish the regular season at Bo's trademark nine wins.
But, let's put that aside for a moment. Let's even put aside the most foreboding part of this, that 2015 wasn't originally expected to be a transition year. "Nebraska's set up for success," said Bill Connelly in the title of his season preview. "Can Mike Riley capitalize?" Well ... so far, that answer has been a resounding no, and that begs some interesting questions for a proud fan base that, in getting rid of Bo Pelini, risked consistency for greatness.
But let's put that aside, and instead look a little further ahead. After all, Mike Riley was always going to have a few seasons to right the ship, and one of Bo Pelini's bigger weaknesses - especially in his last few years - was recruiting. Recruiting is one way that Nebraska could regain some swagger, a chance to build a talent gap between the Huskers and all the various Boilermakers and Wildcats and Illini of the world. It's an area that a blue-blood like Nebraska, frankly, should dominate, and it makes development and production much easier down the line.
But unfortunately for Husker fans, they haven't been excelling at this, either, and that is almost more worrisome than a losing record over the season's first month.
This table looks at the proportion of blue-chip talent that Nebraska has pulled in with each of its classes, alongside that of its neighbor and longtime rival, Oklahoma. As you can see, as much as half of the recruits that the Sooners land in any given year are blue-chip players. For Nebraska, though, that number is consistently smaller.
And that makes sense, given that the Sooners are closer to Texas talent, they focus quite a bit on the state in their recruiting, and play there several times a year. Not only that, but the Sooners grab several other blue-chip players from surrounding states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arizona. Nebraska, meanwhile, has developed an awkward "national" feel - the 2016 class stretches as far north as Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to as far south as Texas, as far east as New Jersey, and as far west as Cali. So much for building rapport between recruits.
Riley would be wise to focus on Texas and California, two states that consistently produce amazing amounts of talent. He could offer players proximity to home while playing in front of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. He can draw in recruits with one of the best fan bases in the land - 343 straight sell-outs and counting. He should be able to point to five national titles, 46 conference titles, 3 Heisman winners, and 54 All-Americans. For goodness' sake, he coached the San Diego Chargers for three years. If anybody can open in-roads to California and generate excitement, it should be Mike Riley.
But Riley hasn't managed to pull it off. If Nebraska had a five-star QB from Cali right now, and a couple blue-chip wideouts from Texas, it'd be just a bit easier to explain away a poor start. 2-3, and so close to 5-0! Don't you worry, we'll get them next weekend! The table was all set for Riley when he arrived to Lincoln. But enthusiasm is starting to ebb away, and that was one of Riley's potential secret weapons. Instead, the program he inherited from 9-win Bo is stuck with more questions than answers.
Hitting the Links Is An Impact Freshman
Ohio State is looking a little bit thin on defense, which doesn't bode well for November.
If there's one match-up in Rutgers' favor against Michigan State, it is Carroo against the Spartans' secondary.
Fun fact: Michigan is 56-15-2 all-time against the Wildcats.
Another fun fact: Northwestern's secondary has given themselves the moniker, "The Sky Team." And yes, they're good enough to have a moniker.
Corey Clement had 949 yards last year, and was expected to get 1,200 or more. After five games, he has 19.
#Gophers coach Jerry Kill said they had about 20 players in no-contact injury jerseys Wednesdays, including a few players done for year.— Andy Greder (@andygreder) October 7, 2015
#Gophers coach Jerry Kill on the injuries continuing to mount: "Never seen anything like this in 32 years."— Andy Greder (@andygreder) October 7, 2015
Alexander Diamont was originally a low-three-star recruit out of Los Angeles, California. Nate Sudfeld was a three-star recruit out of Modesto, California. Tre Roberson was a three-star out of Indianapolis. Cam Coffman was a three-star out of Missouri.
Tevin Coleman was a three-star originally, too. So was Stephen Houston before him. So was Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn. Kofi Hughes, another star wide receiver under Kevin Wilson, was a two-star. It's a bit staggering what Indiana has done offensively without blue-chip talent.
The needle of advanced stats is currently pointing to a Michigan-Iowa Big Ten Championship.
This comes on the heels of a DK employee winning $350,000 on FanDuel. Major League Baseball, Jerry Jones, and Robert Kraft, among others, have a stake in Draft Kings.
Yep, that'll do it. Also, Tennessee's Pig Howard was dismissed as well for undisclosed reasons.
Pop quiz: following Michigan State's escape from Purdue, who leads the Spartans in rushing yards? That would be the 19-year old freshman L.J. Scott, who had 146 against the Boilermakers and leads the team in rushing yards and scores with a 6.2-yards-per-carry average.
This play summed up Ole Miss vs. Florida. Chad Kelly had shown a dangerous turnover streak before this season that he kept mostly under wraps up to this point. Florida's defense brought out his worst, though, as Ole Miss imploded against a great defense.
Oh, and the player who got the near touchdown? True freshman five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson.
Turpin may have stolen my heart away from my previous favorite Big 12 receiver, Jakeem Grant. Turpin had 138 yards and 6 catches against the Longhorns, and is now second on the team in receiving yards as a freshman.
Also, fun fact: TCU's Trevone Boykin and Baylor's Seth Russell share the lead for passing touchdowns among all Division-I quarterbacks. They have 38 total, against 8 interceptions.
Lions fans know the heartbreak of a touchdown pass that's ruled incomplete, and BC had one of those that would have won the game against Duke. BC had already held Florida State to 14 points and lead the nation in total defense.