Preview 2017: Nebraska Needs To Be Better Than Nine Wins
A blueblood superpower of a program, isn’t it time for Nebraska to be a super power again?
– 2017 Nebraska Preview: What You Need To Know
– 2017 Nebraska Schedule Analysis
– Nebraska Previews: 2016 | 2015
Nebraska, enough with being fine. Enough with being okay. Enough with settling for nine-wins and a swag bag.
It’s time to be mean. It’s time for t-shirts that have the word Championship on them. It’s time to unleash that entitled jerkweed streak that fan bases at superpower programs are known for. It’s time to shake this thing up and demand greatness.
It’s time to bust out of its state of perpetual above-averageness, and it’s time to expect Nebraska to be a superpower again.
This is as blueblood and big-name a college football program as there is, with the history and expectations of an Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma or USC. But at those places, winning nine games and going to a bowl game is a lost year. Now, at Nebraska, that’s considered a step in the right direction.
But it’s not like Nebraska football has been awful – it’s actually been consistently solid. At most places, if you win nine games a year on a regular basis, you’re doing something right.
Bo Pelini hit the nine-win mark in four of his seven seasons at the helm, and ten in the other three, but because he looked and occasionally came across like a guy who might eventually put Steve Buscemi in a wood chipper, and his defenses couldn’t figure out Wisconsin, he was launched.
Enter Mike Riley – the anti-Pelini, as Nebraska went out of its way to hire the nicest guy possible. And he’s doing fine, overcoming a hard-luck aberration of a first season to put the program right back into its nine-win groove.
But this is Nebraska – Nebraska.
It’s supposed to be an automatic in the preseason national title discussion, but now, being merely competitive is the new norm. For anyone old enough to know what Y2K means, nine wins at Nebraska is supposed to be what happens before mid-November.
It’s been more than 16 years since Nebraska – Nebraska – has been anywhere near the national championship chase, and it hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999.
It’s ancient history now, but this is the program that won five straight conference titles from 1991 to 1995, was upset by Texas in an all-timer of a performance in the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game in 1996, and won again in 1997 and 1999.
Just imagine if you said that about Alabama, or Ohio State, or USC – there would be pitchforks and torches.
And now, Nebraska is just another school that plays football relatively well.
No matter how you believe the sausage was made back in the glory days, Nebraska doesn’t have the strength and conditioning advantage it used to own. It doesn’t have the brutal efficiency of a running game that was among the most consistently unstoppable machines in college football history, and more than anything else, now, it doesn’t have the players.
Again, this is Nebraska, and it didn’t place one player on the Coaches All-Big Ten First Team. Or Second Team. And it put just two player on the Third Team.
Unfortunately, that’s probably not about to change too much.
A Tulane transfer – Tanner Lee – is probably the starting quarterback. He’ll be fine.
There are decent running back options, but there isn’t a Rozier, Green or Phillips – in terms of talent – waiting to rumble. The running backs will be fine.
The receivers will be fine. The offensive line is a bit of a concern, but it’ll be fine.
The defense that made great strides and improved in Riley’s second year will be fine in the new 3-4 alignment.
The schedule isn’t a killer, with a few rough road games at Oregon and Penn State, and with Wisconsin and Ohio State at home. It’s a slate built to win eight games, and then go to a bowl game to finish with another nine-win season.
And it’ll be fine.