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State of the ‘Skers, 2010 Edition

Hard to believe that college football season is upon us. The first game is in two days, and my beloved ‘Skers take the field on Saturday night.

My goodness, has it been an eventful offseason, what with all the intrigue and backroom negotiations regarding conference realignment–specifically, Nebraska’s bolting to the increasingly inaccurately named Big Ten. Through a fascinating series of events (too complex to detail here), the Cornhuskers found themselves sitting on a powder keg, holding a match–and they lit it. Only a last-second dash of cold water thrown by the Big XII South schools prevented a detonation that would have wholly altered the entire college football landscape. The status quo won a reprieve . . . for the moment.

Personally, I’m ecstatic that Nebraska is joining the Big Ten. It’s a good fit athletically and philosophically, and it will even pay academic dividends. Perhaps even more important, it gets NU out of a very unstable conference that is still, despite the members’ public smiles and affirmations of commitment, on the verge of collapse.  Mark it down, people:  the Big XII is the walking dead.  If it survives more than five years, I’ll be surprised.

The Big XII’s unequal revenue sharing structure brought this on–and I say that as a fan of a school that has clearly benefited from the arrangement.  I can understand the reasons for it, but it effectively makes building up your football program that much harder, while cementing the positions of the powerhouses.  This is not a recipe for stability.  Credit Tom Osborne and Chancellor Harvey Perlman for picking up the warning tremors and evacuating before the ground opened up and swallowed them.

(Oh, and to all those Texas fans saying that the ‘Skers fled the conference because they couldn’t compete with the Longhorns?  Puh-leeze.  Granted, your boys own a decisive edge in the series, but let’s just remember that in the nine games UT and NU have played since the formation of the conference, six of them have been decided by four points or less.  Of those, two were won by Texas on late field goals, including one that was literally kicked at the last second.  Admit it, Longhorns:  you were on your knees praying at the end of last year’s Big XII championship game.  Not competitive?  Really?)

But back to the Big Ten.  Seriously, folks:  Nebraska-Penn State.  Nebraska-Ohio State.  Nebraska-Wisconsin.  Nebraska-Iowa.  How can you not love those matchups?

OK, enough of that.  Before we set up shop in the Big Ten, we have some business to take care of.

A lot of folks are high on NU this year–based largely, I think, on the team’s strong showing at the end of the season.  We took Texas to the wire, then utterly dismantled a good Arizona team in the Holiday Bowl.  (Oh, and there was that win over Oklahoma, too–a game I was fortunate enough to attend.  That was a sweet victory, I’m here to tell you.)  Some pundits–including, heaven save us, Lee Corso–even think we have a shot at the national championship this year.

What do I think?  Well, I can certainly see us winning the conference.  I’m not sure we get through unbeaten, though.  I’m particularly concerned about the Texas A&M game.  Pay attention to the Aggies, folks; that’s a team on the rise, and College Station is not an easy place to win.

No, I’m not overlooking the Texas game on October 16th in Lincoln.  It will be a good battle, but I see us prevailing there.  In fact, I’m thinking the ‘Horns will not be as strong a team as in years past.  They have a new quarterback who, while talented, doesn’t have Colt McCoy’s mobility, and I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to run the ball this year.  I don’t see them in the 2010 championship game, either.  Hard to get there when you have three losses in the conference–Oklahoma, Nebraska, and A&M.

I see a Huskers-Sooners matchup to decide the Big XII crown . . . and really, how cool would that be in Nebraska’s last year in the conference?

Will we miss Ndamukong Suh?  Undoubtedly.  He’s easily the most dominant defensive lineman I have ever seen.  But we have a lot of good talent on the D-line.  Consider:  between Jared Crick and Pierre Allen, whom do you double-team?  I’m actually more concerned about the loss of Phillip Dillard at linebacker.  The defense didn’t really jell until he earned a starting position.  Bo Pelini has wisely adopted a scheme that de-emphasizes the linebacker position, allowing us to maximize our tremendous secondary.  Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard are lockdown corners, of course, but here’s another name to remember:  safety DeJon Gomes.  Kid’s a playmaker.  Just you wait and see.

I expect marked improvement from our offense–but of course, that unit really has nowhere to go but up, after last season’s dismal showing.  A healthier line will pave the way for Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead.  Niles Paul is finally living up to his potential.  And pay no mind to all the mystery surrounding our starting quarterback:  it will be Zac Lee, and he will be much better than last year.

As for special teams–Alex Henery.  ‘Nuff said.

Add it all up, and it looks like a quality year for my ‘Skers.

Ah, football season.  Bring it.

2 Responses to “State of the ‘Skers, 2010 Edition”

  • Nebraska’s a team I’ve always respected, so I wish them well this year. And the Big 10 looks like a good fit for them.

    My BYU Cougars are also in their last year in their current conference, although they’ve got a tough road after as a football independent.

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