If you’ve been keeping up with our previous opponent preview segments, welcome back. If you’re a first time reader, then we’re glad have you.
Kick back in that La-Z-Boy, pop a cold one and prepare for some insight (and mostly laughs) as myself, and the staff over at the Nebraska Cornhuskers SB Nation site, CornNation.com talk about everything from the 97’ disputed title, scary mascots and more.
Josh LaFond: Let’s start this off with a bang boys... you may answer yes or yes. Is Michigan the undisputed 97’ champion?
In 1997, Michigan had 4.2% unemployment and Nebraska had 2.6, so Michigan is the undisputed 1997 champion of not holding a job.
In 1997, 1,036,575 crimes were committed in Michigan, 70,982 in Nebraska, so Michigan is the undisputed 1997 champion of criminal activity.
In 1997, Nebraska was 10th in the nation in percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma, Michigan was 24th, so Michigan is the undisputed 1997 champion of ignorance. Which may explain this question.
Josh: I’m seeing sounds after reading that, sheesh.
Josh: Appreciate your thoughts, Husker Mike.
Nate M: Perfect one to start off. Technically since there was an entire other national poll which said that Nebraska was the 1997 National Champion then it would be impossible for Michigan to be the “undisputed” National Champion in 1997. There can literally be zero debate on that question. I was always told to answer the question asked.
Paul: All the narratives that Frost influenced the Coaches to change their votes, or the national championship was a retirement present don’t hold water. Frost certainly showed the kind of impassioned speaking that has made him a great coach, but the coaches voted that way because they watched NU systematically dismantle #3 Tennessee. The defense made one of the best college QBs in decades look like a scared high school student and the offense, after a slow start, ran downhill with the wind and Tennessee couldn’t do anything to stop it. Michigan, OTOH, had a ho hum surprisingly difficult time with #7 Washington State. So no, Michigan got the AP title, but NU got the Sears Trophy. Deal with it.
Andy: As soon as they quit dicking about and let the legendary Ryan Leaf run the Rose Bowl’s final play, I’ll be able to give a more informed answer.
Where does a potential clock error at the end of the Rose Bowl factor into this?— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) July 25, 2018
I do remember the next week, a national radio show host had the lead oddsmaker from Caesar’s give him lines for Nebraska - Michigan on a neutral grass field and artificial turf. The opening line was NU -7 ½ on the grass and NU -10 ½ on the turf. It was just fun thing on radio, but-
Oh, the phone calls. (You troll...I troll…)
Jon: The common narrative is that the coaches voted for Tom Osborne as a retirement present. It’s a cute concept - I did an entire bit on it back in 2007. If you turn the question around you could see it as a gift from the media to Michigan as well.
The rational fact is that they had to split the title. Now we get to settle everything on the field. I’m not convinced it’s better - it’s been a lot of fun complaining about split titles and who deserved it more over the years.
Josh: Very funny guys. Twenty-one years later and it won’t be dying anytime soon. Time for question numero dos: Is Scott Frost going to run through the Big Ten West in his first year, or is it something that’s going to take time to build?
Uglydog56: As great a fairy tale as that would be, the combination of a new system on offense, a new system on defense, and either a freshman or redshirt freshman quarterback is going to cause this rebuild to take a few years.
Nate M: I think he COULD run through the Big Ten West until he hits Wisconsin. That game is an expected loss in my opinion. They ran the ball 23 times, or close to that, in a row against us last year. You can live all the weights you want or get coached up all you want, that 2nd half against Wisconsin has to linger for those on the defense. If we can’t stop that run then we get beat handily.
Paul: NU has the tools to do a lot of damage in the West, but the B1G schedule gods hate Nebraska, so the East schedule is straight up awful. I think NU finishes #2 in the West behind Wisconsin.
Andy: I think they’ll do fine in the West with 1-2 losses, but that road schedule will kick their ass. Mike Riley did ungodly psychological damage to this program with his be my buddy, weight & conditioning optional, aw we’re losing gonna cross my arms & hang my head now crap. I don’t think a team brought that far down bounces right back in a matter of months. But there will be improvement.
Mike: Not in 2018. Gotta repair the tire tracks Minnesota left behind on the Blackshirts.
Jon: Like Mike says. You can talk a lot about a new coaching regime and new attitudes, but I was on the field for that Minnesota game last year. Our defense just gave up. I don’t think that’s something you can get over in a single season. You have to find the right guys to lead. That’s going to take some time.
Josh: Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. Michigan has been there in the past obviously. It takes time to build dominating consistency on the defensive side for sure. Let’s switch the beat real quick; Nebraska’s mascots Lil’ Red and Herbie Husker have been known to make children cry over the years. Are they the scariest mascot combo in all of college football?
Uglydog56: Mike the Tiger can literally maul and eat children. Is that not scarier? The combination of a drunk West Virginian, a firearm, and a burning couch seems rather unstable as well. Purdue Pete and his hammer? Hell, we’re not even in the running!
Nate M: Nebraska has a scarier mascot in it’s past actually. Google the Husker mascot called “The Corn Cob.” That might cause adults to have some nightmares.
Uglydog56: Okay seriously, there are some disturbing images here. Viewer discretion is advised.
Paul: Yes. Without a doubt. NU has a long and distinguished history of turning perverts and serial killers into mascots. Click the link Uglydog56 just gave for some poltergeist level horror.
Josh: Do I really want to do that, Paul?
Andy: Between live tigers, bison, steers and eagles (and definitely don’t screw with UGA), I don’t know if “scary” is the word. I think “creepy” fits perfectly. It’s like Georgia decided to go with one of the mountain rapists from Deliverance as a mascot. I mean, I know that a damn “Cornhusker” isn’t the easiest nickname to work with creatively, but if Alabama decided a “Crimson Tide” can be an elephant, then we should be able to make up something better than these serial killers.
Jon: I love Lil’ Red. I think he’s fairly unique. How could you be terrified of such a wonderful mascot?
Josh: Well, Jon, he’s been in my nightmares.
We kind of talked about this earlier, but let’s hit it head on now. Is the old school Nebraska Blackshirts defense set to make a return this season, or are they still building the foundation?
Uglydog56: Defensive backs, particularly cornerbacks, are really thin in both numbers and talent level. The team signed a 25 year old grad transfer defensive lineman (Vaha Vainuku) that can hopefully play nose tackle, but hasn’t even practice in two years. It’s some real Necessary Roughness stuff going on in Lincoln. What about a pass rusher; is Ole Miss transfer Breon Dixon going be an immediate impact player? These questions in the defense will hold off any comparisons to 2009 for awhile.
Nate M: I think the defense will definitely be improved over last year. And that is not saying much. They were essentially last in every national defensive statistical category last year. It isn’t hard to improve upon that. In fact, it would be down right difficult NOT to improve upon that. Are they going to be the 1997 Nebraska blackshirt defense, which was the defense on the best team in the country that made Peyton Manning look like Ryan Mallet? Probably not. But improvement is all Nebraska fans should be looking for.
Andy: I think the thing for fans to note here is that if, down the road, the offense starts throwing up 45 ppg, it’s not going to be doing it with 6 minute drives and a well-rested defense. It’s going to strike fast & furious and that Blackshirt D will be hitting the field gassed at times. They could give up 24 ppg, get stops and turnovers in crucial situations and it could be considered a success. I just know they better be hitting that cardio.
Mike: Minnesota just scored again on Bob Diaco. That’s a big hole to dig out of.
Josh: Oof x2.
Jon: No. “Building a foundation”... well, you have to have pieces to build with and that’s what we’re gonna find out this season. I am skeptical of how good a coordinator Eric Chinander is in the long run. I hope that he’s better than I expect.
Josh: Hopefully Frost’s offense can keep the defense off the field for big chunks, that’s got to help, right?
Describe how Cornhusker fans are feeling about their game against Michigan in Ann Arbor this coming season.
Uglydog56: The proletariat is surprisingly optimistic for the upset according to “sources”. The pre-season kool-aid is flowing! My read: It will be an interesting matchup of Scott Frost’s wide-open offense against Harbaugh’s suffocating lockdown defense and the Huskers’ shaky defense against the Wolverine’s rather pedestrian offense. Whichever of the latter improves the fastest will tell the tale of the day. Michigan in a closer game than expected.
Nate M: Nebraska fans should be worried about Akron right now, and especially Troy before even thinking about Michigan. But since this is the Michigan site...if we are 3-0 going into the Michigan game I’m sure Nebraska fans will be able to talk themselves into feeling confident about beating Michigan. I write a “Five Reasons Nebraska Will Win” article for every game and that is usually what happens by the end of the week for me. That is except for last year...last year was different. I’m looking forward to forgetting last year. Last year….
Paul: Devaney’s second game was at Michigan in 1962, and NU came out of Ann Arbor with a win and the dynasty was begun. A lot of fans are reading some kind of mystic significance about the trip to Ann Arbor this year...and they are probably going to be disappointed. Although I would not be shocked if NU won, I give NU about a 20% chance of winning.
Andy: I think Jim Harbaugh for the last three years has been a grandstander trying to star in his non-existent reality TV show. And it should also be concerning that a guy who people thought of as the Quarterback Whisperer is three years in with no hint of even mildly developing one of his own guys, preferring instead to bring in transfers annually.
But Harbaugh jabs aside, he has put out some serious lockdown defenses and if we hit Ann Arbor with our offense and frosh QB still “figuring things out with this new system”, Michigan will wreck our s**t bad in front of a wild crowd and khaki-clad coach who was none too happy about not being the darling of B1G Media Day for the first time. OK, one more jab.
Josh: And just like that you got all of our readers to hate you, Andy. Congrats!
Mike: As much as Husker fans want to believe in the Devaney/Frost parallels, Michigan is too solid to expect the upset.
Jon: My feeling is that I’m excited for us to be playing at Ann Arbor. I hope to get to that game as I have not yet been to the “Big House” and it’s one place I’d like to visit. Are we going to win? Probably not. What will be interesting is seeing how our brand new quarterback plays against your defense and whether our offensive line has actually started to re-learn how to block.
Josh: It’s a place like no other, Jon. Worth the price of admission for sure.
Ending this Q&A of sorts feels like breaking up with your high school girlfriend. You love her, but know it can’t last. So, fellas, let me ask one last question and I’ll keep it positive (somewhat).
Scott Frost, The Christ of the Corn State (you’re welcome in advance for the nickname) is obviously expected to deliver as we’ve alluded to. But realistically speaking, what’s a successful season for Frost in his first year?
Uglydog56: To me, a non-APR-granted bowl game is a successful season. No fifty-burgers. Anything above that would be as exciting and unexpected as a free Runza.
Nate M: A reasonable fan should be happy with six wins this coming season. I think seven wins or more then Nebraska fans should be very satisfied with the work this coaching staff has put in. The fact that this staff has brought in as many transfers, jucos and incoming freshmen who could start and/or make an immediate impact says two things. First, the overall talent level on this roster is well...weak to say it nicely. Second, the coaches aren’t waiting around. They want to compete right away. Those who were already on the roster better be ready for an increased level of competition. If they don’t want to compete then don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We wouldn’t want you to get hurt. It is the Nebraska way.
Uglydog56: You said reasonable fan. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Nate M: Speaking of sacrificial lambs, was Rich Rodriguez the Bill Callahan of Michigan football? Or was he Mike Riley?
Paul: Given the schedule...6-6...7-5 would be good. 8-4 would mean a win over an east team that we have no business beating this year.
Mike: .500 would be an OK season after 2017. Anything more would be great, but anything much more than eight wins would be worthy of canonization.
Andy: I’ll be honest. I’m hearing about the unreasonable fan, but I sure haven’t talked to him yet.
Give you an example - Iowa fan loves to rail about Nebraska fan who won’t shut up about five national titles. However, if you press them, the ones not shutting up are Iowa fans who blather on about imagined Nebraska fans going on about the titles.
I have only talked to one guy who said he was convinced we were going 11-1 and at least to a BCS bowl game. He was a bartender on a lot of cocaine who is no longer a bartender and everyone just looked at him like he was an idiot. Not exactly a mob scene of excessive expectations. I’m going with 7-5 and we stay competitive when the chips are down instead of going all Riley. That will be enough.
I want to give a very special shoutout to the guys at CornNation.com. All the guys who contributed — Jon, Paul, Husker Mike, Andy, Uglydog56 and Nate — all took time out of their schedules to make this happen and I appreciate that greatly.
For all Corn Husker takes centered around the Nebraska point of view on the 97’ title, sizzling big ten takes, and more, head on over to CornNation.com.