So where we at now, Nebraska? You shot into the rankings, even checking into the top 10 for a little bit there. Man, the Cornhuskers had us all fooled. Well, I guess not all of us but certainly a lot of people. They beat Oregon before we realized the Ducks were bad and Northwestern before the Wildcats got hot. Everything was coming up roses for Nebraska because the timing was right.
Then reality hit.
Once the Cornhuskers finally ran into a good team, things fell apart. Sure, the game against Wisconsin went to overtime but man that Ohio State game? Things were out of hand even before Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong got hurt. The Buckeyes even took their foot off the gas and still dropped 60.
Basically, once Nebraska actually played a good team, it crumbled. You know, it’s ok. That happens to a lot of teams. Once they come up against some resistance they just fall apart. Ask Iowa. The Hawkeyes know how that goes. They’re in such bad shape that I didn’t even want to pick on them this week.
Quite frankly, the fact that Nebraska got this far is kind of impressive. When your leading rusher only has 600 yards and your second-leading rusher is your quarterback who only trails by 200 yards, that not usually a recipe for success.
Defense is usually the calling card of the Cornhuskers and head coach Mike Riley made a point to improve on defense, but they’re still letting in a lot of points. Even if you wipe off the massacre by Ohio State, they were letting in a lot of points. They couldn’t even hold anemic teams like Illinois and Purdue to less than double-digits. For comparison’s sake, Michigan held Illinois to a garbage-time eight points and Purdue to negative ten. Ok, the Wolverines didn’t play Purdue but judging by what they did to Rutgers, that’s not an inconceivable result.
Now, Nebraska’s on a skid and Minnesota is on a run, having won its last four games. Nebraska’s quarterback is coming back from an injury while Minnesota running back Rodney Smith is starting to heat up. Smith has gone over 100 yards in the last four games, including 144 against Maryland and 154 against Purdue. The Cornhuskers gave up over 200 yards rushing to both Wisconsin and Ohio State. You do the math.
Sure Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner isn’t great in third and long situations but if your running back can keep you out of them, suddenly that doesn’t matter, does it?
Let’s be honest, Nebraska was playing way above its level for the whole season because they were playing off of emotion. They were still trying to honor their fallen punter Sam Folz. Eventually, that emotion was going to fade and what you’re left with is a team that isn’t as good as everyone wanted to think that it was.
If this was any other team but Nebraska, we wouldn’t be talking about how far the Huskers fell in the polls because they wouldn’t have even been in the polls. Nebraska got the artificial boost in the AP Poll simply because everyone still remembers the days that the Huskers were good. Pretty soon those days are going to fade and those boosts are going to fade. Then everyone is going to realize that Nebraska is exactly what it turned out to be: a team that has higher expectations than talent.