I listen to a lot of sports radio largely because I am a fan of the human experiment, and well, sports are part of it. The 2016 Nebraska football team has been called many things this season — by Husker Nation, and by outsiders with a different point of view. Inspiring, well-coached, and the worst 7-0 team in college football. That last one’s been getting more play lately and it’s understandable why.
The Huskers’ win over Wyoming looks like their best non-conference victory now thanks to Oregon’s tank job. Close Big Ten-style wins over Indiana and Purdue don’t impress many fans or pundits not wearing scarlet and cream.
However, the Big Red can only play the teams on its schedule. Thanks to the people who turn in their ballots, they are now ranked No. 7 by the Associated Press. This is actually quite appropriate considering the last time Nebraska was ranked as highly by the AP, the Huskers were the No. 5 team in the country in 2010.
This was before an eventual collapse against the Texas Longhorns, 20-13.
Much like six years ago, it’s time for the Big Red to find out what it’s truly made of while near the top of the charts. The offensive line may resemble a M.A.S.H. unit, but for better or worse, visits to No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 6 Ohio State await.
For now, let’s look back at how Husker fans saw this season playing out and see if the Big Red’s on schedule.
AP Poll – 7th
Coaches Poll – 6th
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) October 23, 2016
Just before the season began, I shot out an e-mail to a large number of Big Red backers that I regularly chat with. I wanted to gauge how they felt Nebraska’s year would go and which teams would provide the biggest tests.
Out of 40 responses, the average record predicted was 9-3. 8-4 was the most common prediction with 15 picks. 14 responders had the Huskers winning a double-digit number of games during the regular season while two people only gave Nebraska a shot at winning seven while dropping five.
32 sent in full season predictions which I always enjoy because that way, we can look back and call each other names where appropriate.
Only 59 percent felt Nebraska would beat Northwestern largely thanks to a combination of a theoretical emotional letdown versus Oregon win or lose and the Wildcats’ frequency of playing the Huskers tough.
Believe it or not, only 56 percent saw the Big Red visiting Indiana and leaving with a win. (I was not one of them.) In all, 53 percent give the visitors from Lincoln a puncher’s chance in Madison this weekend while we’re a pretty realistic bunch and only three pick a stunner over Ohio State.
Two went against the grain in predicting a loss to Minnesota, everybody thinks Maryland’s in the bag, and 72 percent see the post-Thanksgiving trip to Iowa City ending favorably for Nebraska.
I picked the Huskers besting the Badgers before the season began, but I obviously had no idea that the offensive line would be in such poor shape now. That said, I still feel that if Nebraska plays the same defense I’ve seen all year and keeps the turnover margin to minus-one at most, this team has a chance against Wisconsin.
The Big Red’s simply too beat up and isn’t ready for Ohio State yet. The depth isn’t there. What will be most important is to see how this team reacts to the expectations or lack thereof. Few expect them to win and honestly, if they make the Buckeyes truly earn a win, I feel that’s still something positive that can be built off of.
Minnesota’s won some slugfests, and I think it’ll be a toss-up considering Nebraska will be coming off two big-time road games. However, the Huskers return home and I’ll echo that I feel that this is a team the Blackshirts can help put away.
I don’t see Maryland being much of a threat, especially if tight end Cethan Carter has returned. He’s a major part of the running game as a blocker. Once he’s back, I think Nebraska will run the ball better.
Finally, Iowa is very similar to Minnesota to me in terms of what it can bring to the table. Whether Nebraskans or Iowans want to admit it or not, this is becoming a legitimate rivalry. I expect the best from both teams. That said, I feel this is a one-score win in the Huskers’ favor.
With offensive line injuries taking their toll, the remainder of Nebraska’s season is very much up in the air. I could see this Husker team going 4-1 just as easily as I could 1-4. This will come down to how much pain can be played through, how well the Husker coaches can work with what they’ve got, and whether or not Tommy Armstrong, Jr. is in at quarterback.
If he’s not, we’ll have a very different conversation.
I just knocked on wood again.