Tag Archives: Nebraska

Baby Buckeyes Growing Up Fast

The Ohio State Buckeyes were a dominating force in September and then the usual growing pains took over for what is one of the youngest teams in the nation. If Ohio State entered the Nebraska game as pre-teens, they left Ohio Stadium Saturday night as full-fledged adults. What a difference a week makes. It was just last week that Ohio State squeaked by Northwestern and preserved a 24-20 victory on its final drive. The offense had looked anything but explosive over the last month and we all wondered if the Buckeyes could get back to playing an elite brand of football.

And then Nebraska came to town.

If Ohio State’s 62-3 thrashing of Nebraska didn’t send shock waves through the college football universe, I’m not sure what will. Ohio State was a sleeping giant in October that just decided to take a little cat nap with all of its youth. Now, the Buckeyes are starting to grow up real fast. It’s perfect timing with road games at Maryland and Michigan State prior to an epic showdown with that team up north for a spot in the Big Ten title game and most likely a playoff berth.

Save it, Penn State fans. You’ve had a nice season and should see the Nittany Lions in a quality bowl game, but there will be no trip to Indianapolis this year. Michigan loves beating up on bad Big Ten teams so don’t think the Wolverines will be on upset alert come this Saturday. Iowa certainly qualifies as one of those.

For one Saturday night in the Horseshoe, Nebraska was the Wisconsin of 2014 that got blitzed by Ohio State 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game. How coincidental that the Buckeyes happened to record another 59-point victory in an effort that will surely impress the playoff committee. At least for Nebraska, it was a lot closer than that 62-3 score. Okay, not really.

When Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. suffered what looked to be a frightening injury midway through the second quarter, Ohio State already had the game won in convincing fashion. I’m sure that Armstrong could have put up a few more points on the board had he been able to play a full game, however, Nebraska was overmatched from the start.

Not only was Ohio State’s resurgence to the elite of college football the most impressive showing of the weekend, it may have been a statement that the Buckeyes could be the only team in the country that is capable of knocking off Alabama. We all remember who defeated the Crimson Tide in the playoff semifinals of 2014. Ohio State has done it before so why not?

Alabama has lost just six games over the last five years and they have all been against dual-threat quarterbacks in a spread offense. Personally, I don’t think teams like Michigan or Washington would stand a chance. Michigan’s pro-style offense would be an inviting matchup for Alabama any day of the week. Washington won’t see an opponent that is even half the caliber of Alabama and the Huskies would get exposed mightily. I would give undefeated Clemson a fighting chance. The Tigers did come close in the national title game last year, but Clemson isn’t operating at the level it was in 2015.

Ohio State is the only team that can beat Alabama at its own game. The Buckeyes have coach Urban Meyer, quarterback J.T. Barrett and the necessary talent to defeat the Crimson Tide in postseason play not once, but twice.

However, first things first. Ohio State needs to stay sharp in a couple of road tune-up contests before The Game returns to Columbus in three weeks. Meyer and company haven’t accomplished anything if they don’t finish the regular season strong, but Saturday’s performance surely put Ohio State back on the map. Nothing has changed in terms of Ohio State’s chances to wind up in Indianapolis or be included as one of the four playoff participants, but now the Buckeyes finally look the part.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo by Nik Bronder

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Ohio State Growing Pains Are a Reality

If there was any question about the legitimacy of growing pains for the Ohio State Buckeyes, last Saturday’s 24-20 “bounce back” victory over Northwestern proved those pains are as real as they get. Don’t get me wrong. Ohio State did get the win against a decent opponent in Northwestern, which may be the most improved team in the Big Ten since the beginning of the season.

Regardless, you should be able to beat Northwestern by more than four points at home following a loss. The key word is “should,” and let’s be honest, the Buckeyes are simply playing like a slightly above-average team at this stage of the season. Frankly, Ohio State looks like a team many of us thought they would be in September. A little over a month ago, Ohio State was right there with Alabama on top of the college football world after a dominating victory at Oklahoma. The offense was clicking on all cylinders, and it appeared the Buckeyes possessed two legitimate Heisman contenders in quarterback J.T. Barrett and H-back Curtis Samuel.

Now, the offense has regressed and has continued to sputter ever since. It makes you wonder, was it the Ohio State offense executing to near perfection early on or was it the lack of defense the Buckeyes faced with their opposition? For example, in six games (not including Louisiana-Monroe or Kansas), the Oklahoma defense has surrendered 40 points per game. That’s hideous, but it’s the Big 12 in a nutshell.

Remember when Noah Brown hauled in not one, two, three but four touchdown passes from Barrett? It seems like months ago. We all know that aside from Brown, the receivers are gaining absolutely no separation, which is contributing mightily to the lack of a downfield passing game and a lackluster offense as a whole. There is no Devin Smith on this team and there probably isn’t going to be one, at least not this season.

With Nebraska on-deck in the lone night game at the Horseshoe this season, the atmosphere should be just right for Ohio State to once again look the part of a playoff contender. We will know very soon whether these glaring issues are correctable or not. Nebraska is an obvious upgrade from Northwestern all across the board, and the passing game will undoubtedly need to be improved in order to deal the Cornhuskers their second consecutive defeat.

If the Nebraska game was a noon or 3:30pm kickoff, I might be a little worried considering the product we have seen from Ohio State over the last month. But this is a night game in the Horseshoe. Now, it won’t rival a white-out in Happy Valley, but the setting itself will cause havoc for what I would call a slightly overrated Nebraska team.

I fully expect the Buckeyes to play one of their best and most complete games of the season, aside from Oklahoma. While Ohio State isn’t going to rack up 600 yards of total offense, you can expect coach Urban Meyer and Barrett to at least make enough improvements to the offense to come away with a fairly convincing victory in front of a national audience.

It should be mentioned that while the offense has absorbed most of the blame over the course of the last few weeks (and deservedly so), the defense has also taken down its play a notch. Where have the ball-hawking Silver Bullets been that specialized in forcing turnovers through the first three games? The Buckeyes have managed to force just three turnovers over the last five games. While the defense has been fine in general, it is not operating at a championship level and I also expect that to change Saturday night.

The Game is still a month away and that should be very comforting for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are not ready to compete with that team up north just yet, even though the Wolverines have dominated against inferior competition. It seems like everyone wants to compare the 2016 Buckeyes with the 2014 group. In 2014, it was the Michigan State primetime performance in East Lansing that catapulted Ohio State to be mentioned with the nation’s elite and ultimately land a national title. Can the Nebraska game be that defining turning point for Ohio State on Saturday?

I’ll say this, you can expect a lot of “Where has that been all month?” The initial playoff rankings are set to be released tonight and we obviously won’t be seeing Ohio State in the top-four. Championships are not won in November, but they surely can be lost. November is not the time for growing pains, as they should be long gone. And the Nebraska game should certainly tell us if it could be the start of a special month for Ohio State.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Paula R. Lively

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The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Lawrence Phillips

Former Nebraska and NFL football star Lawrence Phillips, who was facing a murder charge was found dead on Wednesday morning at Kern Valley state Prison. Lawrence had some good, bad an ugly times in his life but he will be missed by many. He was 40 when he died.

The Good

Lawrence was the star running back on the University of Nebraska’s National Championship team in 94 and 95.  In 1993. His freshman season he gradually worked his way up the player ranks. His biggest game that season was the PAC-10 Championship against UCLA where he rushed for 137 yards. By his sophomore year he became the main offensive player for the Huskers, since they had quarterbacks who were hurt. Lawrence tied a school record by rushing for 100 yards or more in 11 straight games. During the regular season Phillips ran for 1,722 yards, and still hold the record at Nebraska for a sophomore. Phillips performance that year was key for Nebraska’s undefeated National Championship in 1994. He finished 8th in the Heisman voting in 94 and was a front runner going into the 95 season.

The Bad

Two weeks after Phillips led Nebraska to a national Championship in 94 he pled guilty to charges of assault and vandalism. During the 95 season Phillips was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and was suspended by Tom Osborne. Despite pressure from the media Osborne reinstated Phillips later in the season. Osborne decided to name Phillips a starter for the Fiesta Bowl (National Championship) that year. In the game he rushed for 165 yards and led the Cornhuskers to a victory. This boosted Phillips NFL stock, but it would cause a lot more trouble in the long run. Phillips was a first round, sixth overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. He was in and out of trouble all of his years in the NFL and it showed. He played in the NFL for three years and played for the Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers. He also played in the Arena Football League and the CFL. His numbers were really poor in the NFL. While on the Rams he rushed for a total of 376 yards, on the Dolphins he rushed for 18 and on the 49ers he rushed for a total of 30 yards.

Ugly

During the investigation of his death authorities are thinking it was a possible suicide. The prison guards were doing a check early on Wednesday morning and found Phillips unresponsive in his cell. Lawrence Phillips has been in prison since 2008, where he was serving a 31 year sentence on various charges including inflicting bodily harm including domestic violence, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft. He was also on trial for the alleged murder of his former cellmate and if convicted he would have faced the death penalty.

A Big Ten Christmas – They’re Kind of a Big Deal

The Big Ten. They pride themselves on the AAU status of their institutions. They wear their AAU membership pins the same way a mid-1980s bachelor wore his Member’s Only jacket. That’s right. Like a straight up pimp.

During conference realignment, AAU membership was a big deal to the Big Ten. In order to be considered for junior membership into their prestigious conference, the new school had to be a member of the AAU.

Yes, you read that accurately. Junior membership is what was on the table. Not full membership. How “members only” of the Big Ten.

Nebraska was one of the first schools that the Big Ten accepted during conference realignment. Nebraska was feeling pretty good about themselves. They weren’t only a fine athletic institution, but they also had their member’s only card. Without it, the Big Ten wasn’t going to let them into their club.

Soon after being granted junior membership into the Big Ten, Nebraska was quickly booted out of the AAU.

But don’t worry! The Big Ten allowed Nebraska to remain in their now not so member’s only conference.

The idea is that the Big Ten is about academics before anything else. Their schools stand on top of the mountain of academic prestige. It’s a member’s only mountain top, you know. Well, except when it isn’t a member’s only mountain top. In that case, a school like Nebraska can stick around due to its championship pedigree.

Hey Big Ten. I see you selling out.

If the Big Ten’s treatment of Nebraska is any indication, the academic badge of honor that the conference wears is not made of forged steel, but is made more of construction paper with a safety pin.

The Big Ten is the Ron Burgandy of conferences.

I imagine the Big Ten looks down upon everyone else as they say:

I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.

And here is where we get to the Big Ten’s Christmas present. Books. They get leather-bound books because that is the only thing to get the academics that reside in the Big Ten.

Leather-bound books are also the only thing to get for a conference that is drenched in self-importance that reeks of rich mahogany.

The Big Ten’s aura of self-importance goes beyond academics. Their aura of self-importance runs deep within athletics as well.

Ohio St. won the national championship last year. Well done. You guys deserved it. The championship was great for Ohio St. and the conference as a whole. And perhaps even more important than the championship itself to Ohio St. and the Big Ten was the school and conference that they beat.

Alabama and the SEC.

Well done Buckeyes. Since 2000 this was the Big Ten’s 2nd championship. And how many championships has the SEC won since 2000? 8. The SEC has won 8 championships since 2000.

Care to go back another decade and look at the 1990s? The Big Ten won 1 championship compared to 3 for the SEC.

But please, Big Ten, keep beating that drum.

Perhaps one of those leather-bound books will be a book on college football history.

I can imagine it now. All of the Big Ten teams huddled up around the fireplace with the smell of rich mahogany in the air as Jim Delany reads stories of football history from the pages of leather-bound books.

We know, we know, we know…you’re the Big Ten and you think you’re kind of a big deal.

Photo: Adam Ross/Flikr

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

College Football: Week 1 Features Ohio State’s Embarrassment of Riches

It only took five days, but our first weekend of College Football is in the books. We had a lot of chalk and some disappointment, but it was the “Wow!” moments that really jumped off the page. The bar was really set high for the individuals that the consensus expects to be in the running for that big heavy trophy, and for the schools interested in playing in that little tournament, well, they just had to win.

From the home of the Belk Bowl to the campus of the last program to slay the dragon that Urban Meyer built in Central Ohio, it was an extended weekend of debuts, vengeance, and perhaps an introduction to some new contenders. We’ll start in Blacksburg, where the first unanimous Preseason AP #1 team in the country took on Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies, seeking their pound of flesh for what took place in Columbus a year ago.

Ohio State 42 Virginia Tech 24

The story has been told, time and time again. Cardale Jones has never started a game in his own stadium for Ohio State, and on Monday night, he earned his first regular season victory, so it’s long past the time we stop referring to him as the Buckeye’s 3rd-string quarterback. In case you felt his previous three performances were some type of sorcery on the part of Meyer last December and January, the junior from Cleveland showed the magic is still there on Ohio State’s first possession, hitting Curtis Samuel on the money with a throw off of his back foot, good for a 24-yard touchdown. The next time the Buckeyes snapped the ball, Ezekiel Elliott went 80 yards to make it 14-0 in favor of the defending champs, perhaps making fans in Tuscaloosa feel better about things, but likely not.

It appeared the Buckeyes were going to roll, but misfortune, the type that goes beyond taking the field at Lane Stadium without Joey Bosa or Jalin Marshall on the field, struck, and the Hokies ripped off 17 unanswered, taking a 17-14 lead into the break. A missed Ohio State field goal gave the home team some momentum towards the end of the first quarter, but all of the credit in the world goes to Virginia Tech for designing a wheel route to full back Sam Rogers, who was all by himself on the left sideline. The big man had to hustle, but Eli Apple stood between him and the goal line and he shook the Buckeyes’ the third-year corner out of his shoes to cut the early advantage in half. Without the services of Marshall, Meyer had Elliott back returning punts, and call it inexperience or whatever, but the All-World running back struggled to field AJ Hughes second punt of the night, and four plays later, another nicely designed throwback to Ryan Malleck on third down gave the Hokies the lead.

Anyone remember Braxton Miller, the forgotten head on the three-headed monster of Ohio State’s open competition for the starting role last spring? They gave him a new number and a new position, and it only took him about a half of football to get his sea-legs beneath him. He did have a couple of rushing attempts and a nice diving 24-yard catch in the first half, which I think showed us he’s still a legitimate player, even when not behind center. On the third play of the second half, he took a pass from Jones and tip-toed by the Hokie defender, down the right sideline for 54 yards and the score. On the Bucks next offensive play from scrimmage, he gave the Scarlet and Gray their first Wow Moment of the season with a spin move that you can, yeah, only do on video games. From there, the rout was on.

https://vine.co/v/etJnO1lvnKm

Give Beamer and company some credit; they nearly made Mark May look smart. While the final score really was indicative of the game we watched, they did some really good things to take the straight-up running game away from Ohio State, despite big plays from Elliott and Miller, and they found enough vulnerabilities in the defense to put some points on the board and make this prime time affair interesting into the late night hours of Labor Day. The game really didn’t get out of hand until Brenden Motley had to spell starting quarterback Michael Brewer.

Unfortunately for Brewer, we live in a world where what you say with a certain expectation of privacy is subject to “going viral”. He was caught on camera, and yes, it’s likely he knew it was in his face, spouting off some one-liner about how it’s going to take a lot more than a fairly brutal hit he took on the Hokies last drive of the half to knock him out of the game. You can’t blame the kid; he was talking to his teammates in the locker room, more so than the national television audience through the lens of ESPN’s camera, but people are going to talk about karma. To that, I say “whatever”.

It’s widely believed that this is Ohio State’s last real test before Michigan State visits Columbus in November, and it’s hard to disagree. Up next, the Buckeyes get Hawaii, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan at home, and then a relatively simple conference slate, though I’m not ready to overlook Minnesota’s visit to the ‘Shoe on November 7th. For the Hokies, don’t expect the season to instantly go down the toilet after this acceptable performance. Last year, East Carolina beat Virginia Tech on their home field a week after they stunned Ohio State. Don’t expect Furman to follow suit; in fact, I’d say you can expect the Hokies to get their own pound of flesh from ECU on the road in a couple of weeks, and for them to be competitive in the ACC.

Marshall 41 Purdue 31

It was tough sledding for Darrell Hazell and Purdue in the only game on the slate for this pre-NFL Sunday. If Hazell and his signal-caller Austin Appleby never see Tiquan Lang again, it will be too soon for the both of them. Though, I’m very open to the possibility that Appleby never saw Lang at all, yeilding two pick-sixes to the Thundering Herd’s junior safety, which were good for the first and last scores of the game.

On the game’s very first play from scrimmage, Lang stepped in front of the intended receiver, and went 30 yards untouched to give Marshall the early lead, but there was still a good 59 minutes and change of football to be played. Purdue was able to recover on a DJ Knox touchdown run, on his way too a 100-yard day on the ground, but the game went back and forth all afternoon. The visiting Boilermakers led for most of the first half, until Devon Johnson put Marshall back up 34-31 with a 6-yard score, but Appleby had one more chance. After timeouts by both teams, it appeared the Purdue junior had too much time to think about it once again. And once again, an ill-fated pass attempt fell into the hands of Lang, who had to work harder on his second return, cutting across the field for a 55-yard score to put it to bed.

Given their early success in making the jump from Division I to Division I-AA with Chad Pennington and Randy Moss nearly twenty years ago, it’s difficult to believe Sunday’s win, in front of a home crowd of nearly 39,000 in Huntington, was the school’s first win over a Big Ten program, but the Boilermakers seem to be giving a few mid-Majors that milestone in recent years.

Alabama 35 Wisconsin 17

Hey Badger fans, I think Derrick Henry just scored again! Okay, maybe not, but the Alabama junior running back averaged 11.3 yards per carry, en route to three touchdowns on the ground at “The House That Jerry Built” in North Texas on Saturday. It probably would have been more, but the end zone kept stopping him. If there’s honestly a debate about the quarterback position at Alabama, and I don’t think there is, we gained no clarity about it on Saturday night. My gut tells me Nick Saban will let Jake Coker assume the role, unless his poor play forces his hand or Cooper Bateman takes things to a new level in the time he’s getting.

So, I know Gene Chizik was 5-19 at Iowa State before being awarded the Auburn job, where he landed the services of Cam Newton and won a title in his second season, so maybe I don’t read too much into Paul Chryst’s 19-19 mark at Pittsburgh. Seriously though, in Chryst’s debut with the Badgers, he wasn’t just behind the curve with the X’s and O’s, that Big Ten size and strength, which is supposed to be their finest asset in Madison, it’s not there. I’ve long thought that Barry Alvarez was the reason Gary Andersen chose a new gig in Corvalis over what he’s built in Madison, but he might have just seen the writing on the wall with what he wasn’t able to recruit. Sorry, but 16 yards on 8 carries for Corey Clement just isn’t getting it done; Melvin Gordon III isn’t walking back through that door and head coaches will dare Joel Stave to beat them all season.

Texas A&M 38 Arizona State 17

Is it possible to lose a game by more than just the numbers on the scoreboard? In being picked apart by Scottsdale, Arizona’s Kyle Allen and Christian Kirk, the very successful head coach of the Sun Devils, Todd Graham, was exposed for losses to the state of Texas in the recruiting game. Allen, the sophomore quarterback fighting off highly touted freshman Kyler Murray, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but Kirk was the star of the show. You get sick of hearing about video games when you’re discussing actual human athletes, but between his 79-yard punt return that put the Aggies up 14-0 early and his 66-yard touchdown catch and run, that status quo had cheat codes on their mind. I’d reference the Game Genie here, but it would be lost on everyone not born between 1975 and 1985.

After A&M’s season went downhill after their big win in the opener against South Carolina a year ago, Aggie fans can only be cautiously optimistic about Kevin Sumlin’s squad’s chances in the SEC. On the other hand, after watching how hapless the ASU offense was in Houston, there has to be some concern about senior quarterback Mike Berovici, a guy that wasn’t spectacular in his understudy role in 2014, despite the team’s success in games he started.

This neutral site game was the only game of any sort on the 2015 schedule that paired a Pac-12 school against a team from the Southeastern Conference. If you’re an SEC honk, you want the Sun Devils to dominate their conference. If you support a Pac-12 contender that isn’t Arizona State, you’re probably hoping your program isn’t basically a coin flip for that fourth playoff spot with a member of the SEC in December.

Northwestern 16 Stanford 6

We should probably acknowledge this battle of Academia that took place in Evanston, the most watchable matinee of the day on Saturday. Was this more about Kevin Hogan and Stanford being inept on offense, or does Pat Fitzgerald have a great defense at Northwestern? I fear David Shaw may be on the decline, the more we see time separate this program from the days of Jim Harbaugh.

One thing I’m hearing and I don’t agree with is that Stanford is suddenly too slow. Sure Hogan isn’t a runner on the level that Andrew Luck was, and Ty Montgomery is gone from the offense and special teams, but Michael Rector isn’t slow and we should see more of Christian McCaffrey in both the running and passing games. My guess is the offense works it out, but I don’t know if the glass is less than half-full when I look at that defense. The departing talent hasn’t been replaced, or the newbies haven’t been developed, but Northwestern owned the line of scrimmage when they had the ball. That’s going to be a problem for the Cardinal all year.

The victory in the trenches translated to a good game for running back Justin Jackson, who ran for 134 yards. However, it was quarterback Clayton Thorson’s 42 yard run, on what looked like a designed draw play, that represented the only touchdown of the day. The Wildcats will host an FCS team next week, and visit Duke in a few weeks, but expect them to finish non-conference play 4-0, setting up a big match up with Minnesota, on October 2nd at Ryan Field.

Ole Miss 76 Tennessee-Martin 3

Yuck, just yuck. Hugh Freeze, you’re in the SEC, and I know you want the home game at whatever price, but playing FCS foes is totally beneath you. Indiana got lucky doing this, but Wyoming, Washington State, and Kansas were not. Shame on everyone who partakes in this practice, even you Arizona State, where I’ll watch you rebound against cal-Poly, but still, Yuck!

Michigan State 37 Western Michigan 24

Kudos to the AD’s in East Lansing and Kalamazoo for making this happen, with the mid-major hosting the high major. PJ Fleck, your Western Michigan program isn’t quite there yet, but they didn’t look out of their element with a big boy from the Big Ten in town.

Michigan State might want to work on kick coverage this week, while the Broncos shouldn’t change a thing. Row your boat, fellas.

Charlotte 23 Georgia State 20

This game kicked off at 12:30 PM, during my work day on Friday. I caught the end on the ESPN app in my office. It was fourth College Football game I’d watched with some interest in a 24-hour span; yeah, I need help.

For the 49ers, it was their first game as an FBS program, and obviously also their first victory, but the Panthers of Georgia State made it interesting in the end.

TCU 23 Minnesota 17

I don’t know if I just don’t like the idea of B being a Heisman candidate, or if I have the bar set too high for him and, really, the rest of the Horned Frogs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think TCU is phenomenal when they have the ball, and that’s where the expectation comes from, but they just didn’t seem to have it, despite a nice victory over an underlooked Minnesota team on Thursday night at TCF Stadium.

He’s got weapons all around him, most notably Josh Doctson, and 246 passing on a day he rushed for 92 is far from underwhelming, but in real-time, I didn’t think he was anything special. That just tells me we haven’t seen anything yet from the offense. Based on what SMU was able to do to Baylor for 30 minutes on Friday, they might make for an interesting opponent for Gary Patterson’s defense, still a question mark for me after Minnesota had many opportunities Thursday.

Jerry Kill has a nice little team in Minnesota. They hung around the entire game, even if TCU did adjust better at the half. Rodney Smith seems like a good find; the freshman had 88 yards on 16 carries, but a lot of it that offensive line. Junior quarterback Mitch Leidner needs to be more efficient or throw the ball less, but I don’t know how much less he can throw it, considering he was sacked 20 times a year ago.

That Ref Deserves a Hug

Sometimes, I just can’t get over how the universe can even itself out. Two years ago, going left to right across the Big Red “N” at midfield in Lincoln, a backup quarterback heaves up a prayer. You know the rest, Jordan Westerkamp is on the receiving end for the touchdown and the win against Nebraska. Redemption is spelled R-O-N (Kellog).

Fast forward to Saturday, BYU down 28-27, 1 tick on the clock for Tanner Magnum, on in relief of the injured Taysom Hill. Mitch Matthews hauls it in for the win, but #11 Terenn Houk is the star of this Vine.

https://vine.co/v/eTVKrzL5T0E

…and the rest.

These are all of the items that are too short for a capsule of their own.

  • Penn State, I’m glad you went to Philly to play Temple, but how did you lose that game?
  • Michigan, you can’t run the ball and don’t have a real answer at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh isn’t saving you right away.
  • Between the Cactus Bowl and Friday’s somewhat awkward return to Boise for Chris Petersen, I’ve now bailed on Washington at halftime in consecutive games, only to learn the second half was interesting, the next day. Show up in the first half, Huskies.
  • Nicely done, Josh Rosen.   What a performance for the true freshman; he came with a lot of hype, but lived up to it.  UCLA wasn’t playing an FCS school on Saturday, they were hosting a Power 5.  It was Virginia, but still.
  • Northern Illinois, that’s two years in a row that you’ve dominated UNLV, but let them hang around. A MAC rival will take advantage at some point, just watch.
    We’re so spoiled with digital options for viewing, that it was aggravating that CBS Sports didn’t have an option and I’m told didn’t regionally switch to the UNLV-NIU game in DeKalb, while overtime was played in Tulsa.
  • By the way, way to finish your win over Florida Atlantic, Tulsa.
  • So, Auburn is pretty good.  Louisville might be too, but not based on their play Saturday.  Either way, good to see Verne and Gary on CBS in Week 1. (They called Ohio State-Navy for CBS Sports Network to open the 2014 season)
  • Play-by-play announcers and color analysts, it’s okay to punt in College Football. Not every opponent is Oregon, and not every situation near or behind midfield equals four-down territory. Our game is about field position, and you win it by punting when appropriate.
  • Adults that paint their bodies and dedicate their lives to “me time” on camera for their favorite College Football team don’t deserve the air time.
  • I’d rather get neutral site games than no game at all, but there’s something about the games being played on campus. Steve Spurrier, that atmosphere sucked with all of the empty seats in Charlotte. Go to Chapel Hill or have Larry Fedora bring his team to Columbia, and stop trying to do too much.
  • Nice touchdown reception, Robert Nkemdiche.  We’ll talk more about the two-way play of the Ole Miss pass-rusher, when they play an FBS foe.

Lastly, I think I underestimated how cool Scott Van Pelt’s midnight Sportscenter would be, because I was mostly upset about losing his radio show on my mid-day drives. I’d planned on getting straight to my writing room when the game ended, but I stuck around. It’s a shame the technical stuff had to be difficult in Virginia, I really would have loved to see him interview Braxton Miller.

Back on Sunday to discuss Week 2…61 hours until Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky kickoff.

Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri; Historical Perspective on Conference Realignment

You will never guess what topic reared its dysfunctional head this morning. Realignment reared its head in The Omaha World Herald with Lee Barfknecht’s Sunday morning column.

Looking back 5-6 years ago, conference realignment talk was sweeping the college landscape. Numerous teams were peddling their brand to whichever conference offered the best deal. Times were changing and the only certainty was change itself. The best thing any team could do was look out for itself.

Some teams embraced all of this with personal responsibility and owned their decision. Others, such as Nebraska, made every attempt to blame other institutions for their flirtations with other conferences. At the time of Nebraska’s courtship with the Big Ten and subsequent move to the conference, Harvey Perlman and Tom Osborne were quick to blame Missouri for their decision.

Reading Barfknecht’s column, one gets a completely different representation of the situation that Nebraska placed itself in. According to the column Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa St. were in discussions to join the Big Ten. So what were the road blocks to the deal? Glad you asked:

The feedback from Big Ten school officials was positive, both sources said. The sticking point was devising a revenue-sharing plan to satisfy all. It would have taken at least three to four years for that many incoming schools to hit the financial payoffs sought for moving.

From the standpoint of Nebraska, this is just too rich…pun intended. You see, Nebraska not only cast Missouri has the grim reaper of conference realignment, but they also presented themselves as bringing significant financial leverage to any conference that was willing to grant them membership. Retrospective truth be told, it seems that neither self proclaimed truth was actually a truth.

As we all know, Nebraska left for the Big Ten in June 2010 with Missouri leaving for the riches of the SEC one year later. Again, Nebraska was hell bent on blaming the school that left the Big 12 a year after they did for the demise of their former conference.

And how about Kansas being mentioned in this column? How about Kansas?!?!

It is no secret where Bill Self and many, if not all of the heavy hitter KU boosters stand on playing Missouri. They are dead set against it. In their mind, Missouri is the devil for having turned their back on a floundering conference in favor of one that was and is more stable.

For a well balanced perspective on Kansas, Missouri and realignment, check out this June 26, 2013 blog entry from local Kansas City media personality, Hearne Christopher Jr; Bill Self Sticks It To Misouri…Again.

Now consider the reality of conference realignment and where the Big 12, Missouri and Kansas fit into that reality. The fact of the matter is that Kansas was shopping its brand right along with everyone else. Again, in retrospect, Bill Self comes off as hypocritical and the Kansas fan base appears to have been put in its place.

Hearne Christopher relies on Craig Glazer as the voice of the Kansas fan base. Glazer is a well connected and influential Kansas Citian. Locally his opinion carries considerable weight. That does not, however, mean that what he says should be taken as sports gospel.

Take for example this comment he made to Christopher:

“KU is the No. 1 sports franchise in the Midwest, including the pro sports teams, and MU screwed the Big 12,” Glazer says. “And the school that almost got damaged the worst was Kansas, because nobody really wanted Kansas. KU and Self were almost a man and a team without a home.

Glazer seamed to prove himself wrong in one long breath. IF Kansas is the No. 1 sports franchise in the Midwest, including pro teams, how could little old Missouri screw them? Again, IF Kansas had the kind of market value Glazer contended then Missouri would not have had the real or perceived impact to Kansas. Kansas appears to be legends in their own mind even as they were left at the alter in conference realignment.

When all of the realignment talk was in full swing and the dominoes had yet to fall, local Kansas City sports personalities from radio, print and blogs engaged in an all out war with credibility being the ultimate prize. Since I have focused my column on teams that are considered to be geographically local to Kansas City, I leave you with an old, but comprehensive account of what was going on in Kansas City sports media at the time of realignment. This is courtesy of Greg Hall. Enjoy this compilation from The Landmark.

*feature image courtesy of unbiasedsportsreporters.wordpress.com

42-45 Loss to USC Marks End of Bipolar Husker Season

Lay off the Xanax, Husker fans, the season of crazy ups and downs came to an end last Saturday. The Nebraska bowl game against USC was no less full of craziness and I am certain it left many feeling rather drained.

Let’s recap. After the 1st quarter, the score was 17-10, Nebraska. Big Red promptly laid an egg in the 2nd quarter while USC put up 14, putting the score at 17-24 at halftime. The 3rd quarter saw its share of points as both teams combined scored 38 (defense, I am looking at you here). Nebraska was down 34-45 at the start of the 4th quarter. In most exciting fashion, Big Red got a touchdown and the needed 2 point conversion and there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Alas, the impressive efforts did not outgain USC and the final score was 42-45.

The Huskers fought tooth and nail for every point against a very good USC team. They even paid attention to a couple of my keys to victory (the kicking game and get the ball to DPE were vital!). The crazy season ended, and I was proud of the effort and the comeback. Not only did the team almost win, there was no predicted blowout, proving that Nebraska can perform against good teams. May not be to the point that the Ls turn into Ws but as everyone knows this is a continuing work in progress. At the end of the game I was indeed disappointed that the comeback fell short, but I was more disappointed by the fan base reaction on Twitter. Now maybe I should not read much into a bunch of uninformed fair weather fans running their mouths, but it was hard not to shake my fist at them in disgust. There were the people who mocked that at least the Huskers weren’t losing 55-0. There were the people who were so glad to see this season end and so on and so on. There were doomsday and naysayers all around, the “us against the world” mentality was strong.

It is my firm belief that the people who will turn on you first are your least supporters – this belief applies to all types of situations, not just college football. These are the fakers, the fair weather “I want to bask in the glory” turning into “I’m embarrassed to be a Husker football fan” after a struggle. If this person is you, I will simply unfollow you on Twitter, so by all means, continue your bitchfest – but consider very hard what exactly it is you think it means to be a Nebraska football fan. If it means winning and that is it, you may as well pack your red things away.

As for the rest of Big Red Nation who hold their heads high and KEEP THE FAITH, I truly salute you and your fandom speaks volumes. This program isn’t one that I will ever trash, not the players, not the coaches. I will constructively and intelligently analyze what information is readily available and what my own eyes can see. Y’all wanna go Skip Bayless and be a laughing-stock, go ahead. The rest of us know better.

Relax, Big Red. Focus on the future. Keep expectations reasonable. Stay calm and stay respectful. Wear your red in the sun and wear more of it in the rain.

GBR!

First Impression

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You know what? I dig Oregon State and I always have. Maybe it was the orange uniforms, maybe it was being an underdog in the Pac 12. Before yesterday, I could not have told you who Mike Riley is, nor could I have told you how Oregon State was faring this year – I could only have told you of my general Beaver fondness and that they are not ranked and are rarely on my radar unless I’m picking the Oregon/Oregon State rivalry. Like much of Husker nation, I saw the breaking news and went straight to the internet to find out who in the hell is Mike Riley. Okay, he’s Oregon State’s guy and has been for a while – that is literally it for facts that are going to be relevant to his transition to Nebraska. He’s done his press conference, he’s said the right things. Now it’s a waiting game, one that will feel like a lifetime.

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One does not spend 16 years in a head coach position while producing lukewarm seasons for no reason. There is more to this Mike Riley than meets the eye. Heck, he won more games at Oregon State than any of their prior head coaches. The guy must be doing something right. I’ve seen some comparisons to Tom Osborne – and no, not just because Riley is old. Riley is well-respected, now, for Christ’s sake, let me finish without immediately assuming we’re debating Riley and Pelini. If one is to believe Harvey Perlman, Nebraska’s Chancellor, no other candidate was offered the position – no one else may have even been considered. Is Riley that awesome? He has had past big time coaching offers, USC being one. So why did the guy stick it out so long in Corvallis, Oregon? For one, that’s pretty much his home town where he was a high school football hero, for two, his dad coached at Oregon State. I like the loyalty and the commitment. Riley said Nebraska was an amazing opportunity and he can’t wait to start. If he’s excited, so am I. The argument can, and will be, and has been made that Riley could only do so much with Oregon State, and that what he did accomplish is impressive. My advice? Throw his 93-80 overall record at Oregon State out the window.

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Players and fans should not throw Riley under the bus simply because he has been chosen to replace Pelini. I’ll let it slide with the players, but honestly, welcome to this little thing called life. If someone wants to hang up their Big Red fandom, well, be my guest, good riddance and happy trails. Nothing is more disappointing than to hear this venom spit out by lifelong fans – Riley hasn’t even had a chance! C’mon, Husker Nation. That slack-mouthed look of shock and disbelief is really unflattering.

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Welcome to Nebraska, Coach Riley! Is it next season yet?

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The College Quickie: Rivalry Week Edition

That time of year is once again upon us. It is rivalry week. Throughout this week, cfbroundtable will be featuring key rivalry games. To get you in the mood, this week’s college quickie will serve as your rivalry week primer.

ARIZONA STATE/ARIZONA

Look, I told everyone a few weeks ago that the Pac 12 was for real. Well, one division of the Pac 12 is at least, the Pac 12 South. Consider them the west coast edition of the SEC.

Rivalry week offers a marquee Pac 12 South matchup in Arizona St./Arizona. The winner stands to get a shot at Oregon. For Arizona St. it would be their first crack at the Ducks. The Wildcats on the other hand would be looking for the sweep.

What happens in this rivalry game and the eventual Pac 12 championship could have surprising ramifications. Stay tuned, the Pac 12 is in position to surprise some people.

OREGON/OREGON ST

I think enough of the Pac 12 that I have decided to stay on the west coast for rivalry number 2.

While I do not anticipate a Beaver win, I do believe they are dangerous; just ask Arizona St. There will be plenty to watch in this game. Oregon stands to make a statement and build momentum going into the Pac 12 championship game. Oregon St has an opportunity to showcase their top tier quarterback, Sean Mannion.

Michigan St left Autzen Stadium with the loss, but Connor Cook passed for 343 yards and 2 TD. Mannion is every bit as good as Cook, if not better. Expect Mannion to use this game as an audition for the NFL draft.

ALABAMA/AUBURN

Ah yes. The Iron Bowl. Last year’s edition was epic and just served as a continuation of Auburn’s magical season. This year shouldn’t have the excitement of last year’s game, but there is plenty on the line for Alabama and the SEC.

A win just keeps Alabama humming along their path to the playoff. It also keeps the SEC on the path to the playoff. If Auburn wins, there will be chaos in the SEC and potentially the nation. The door that it would open could allow some surprising participants in the playoff. Will those surprises include an additional Pac 12 team? Possibly Ohio St.? Or would it offer a poster child for the SEC bias crowd and usher in a team like Missouri?

MISSOURI/ARKANSAS

And with that prior sentence, I will present my black and gold tinted offering to this college quickie; Missouri versus Arkansas.

Please, don’t get me wrong, this is not on par with the established rivalry games.,,yet. The teams have played a few times in bowl games, but it has been ages since the schools met in the regular season. This has the makings of a great rivalry. The states share a border and Kansas is in Arkansas’ name.

For Missouri, it’s simple. Win and they can book their reservations for a return trip to Atlanta. Yes, the unimaginable could happen. The new guy on the block is in position to make back to back appearances in the conference championship game.

And for Arkansas, maturation and credibility is on the line. Coach Bielema has done a masterful job this year, just as Damien Bowman wrote about earlier on cfbroundtable. The Hogs took baby steps earlier in the year and now they are walking. Win against the Tigers and they become bowl eligible and generate a nice buzz going into next year.

NEBRASKA/IOWA

This budding rivalry game does not have nearly as much on the line as the games previously presented. Nebraska made sure of that when they lost to Minnesota last Saturday. What this game does offer are two coaches who may or may not be in the process of over staying their welcome at their respective schools.

Kirk Ferentz. Head coach for the Hawkeyes since 1999. His overall resume is impressive. 115-83 to go along with some nice bowl game wins. His stock has been high enough over the years that his name was at least thrown around as a possible candidate for NFL jobs.

The problem with Ferentz is that his 9 and 10 win seasons have been few and far between. It has been 5 years since he has won at least 9 games and 10 years since he had back to back seasons of 9 wins or more. Lose to the Huskers and he is 7-5. Win and he is 8-4. Not good in a watered down Big Ten. Can Iowa afford to give him a 6th rebuilding year?

Bo Pelini is finishing up his 7th year as the head coach for the Huskers. In his 6 full seasons in Lincoln, he has averaged 9.5 wins. He has never won less than 9 games. A win against Iowa puts him at 9-3, par for his course. Lose and he slips to 8-4, his worst year as a head coach.

This game won’t provide influence at a national level, but it does have the possibility of being a program changer for the loser.

LET’S GET IT ON

Ohio/Miami (OH) get us warmed up tonight. Thursday evening presents an intriguing matchup between Texas A&M/LSU along with Texas/TCU. Then, on Friday, things hit full speed and we not only begin to get answers, but also a little more excitement for the 2014 season.

The Crossroads: Will the Real UCLA Please Stand Up?

ESPN Gameday will be at an Ivy League game this weekend.

Despite the fact Harvard is undefeated, that’s a good indication this week’s slate is lacking. It sure doesn’t help that the SEC uses the week before Thanksgiving as a late-season bye and other conferences have followed suit. This feels like the sixth year in a row Ohio State has warmed up for Michigan by pounding on Indiana.

This is college football, so the laws of the sport mandate that Saturdays void of great matchups provide one surprise after another. While we may need to seek out the excitement, there is one game guaranteed to have an impact on, well, everything.

UCLA

Before the season, UCLA was a Pac-12 contender and a playoff dark-horse. After 10 games, UCLA is a Pac-12 contender and a playoff dark-horse. It’s pretty remarkable nothing has changed after their roller-coaster season, which many viewed to be a huge disappointment after the home losses to Utah and Oregon.

Yet with wins over Arizona and Arizona State, UCLA controls its Pac-12 South destiny. Who knows what could happen if they run the table, including a revenge win against Oregon. Still, they need to beat their crosstown rival to make all of that happen. And USC has been looking mighty good offensively this month.

UCLA has been very impressive the past two years against USC – can they make it three in a row? If yes, the sky is the limit for the Bruins. If not, they can make holiday plans for a mid-level bowl game. I would call that a Crossroads game.

Duke’s ACC Title Hopes

Because they finish with a horrible Wake Forest team, Duke is essentially playing for the ACC Coastal crown and a date with Florida State when they host North Carolina on Thursday night. It’s a fascinating game for many reasons.

Duke is coming off of a brutal home loss to Virginia Tech, reducing their margin of error down to nothing. UNC is 5-5 after an awful 2-4 start and is one win away from a much-needed bowl berth to get extra practices. In fact, with NC State next week, UNC could even run itself to 7-5 and play in a decent bowl. It’s a big game for both, yet not even the biggest game of the night.

Kansas State’s Big 12 Title Hopes

You remember Kansas State, right? They’re tied for the Big 12 lead. They’re 7-2. They still play Baylor to end the season. If TCU slips up on Thanksgiving night at Texas, the Wildcats could win out, win the conference, and play in a really big bowl game.

Of course, for that to remain an option, they need to beat West Virginia in Morgantown on Thursday. Ask TCU and Baylor about that. West Virginia should be highly motivated – the last-second loss to TCU begat a poor performance against Texas. They will want to make a statement about their season of improvement. Kansas State will need a Grade A effort to win this one.

Melvin Gordon’s Heisman chances

With the total flameout of Dak Prescott against Mississippi State, the Heisman Trophy race is basically down to Marcus Mariota and Melvin Gordon. I don’t need to rehash how Gordon burst into the race with the single best rushing day in the history of college football. He was incredible.

However, there will be a much brighter spotlight this week when Wisconsin plays at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have only the 46th-best rush defense in the country, surrendering 147.8 yards per game on the ground. Iowa will be focused in on stopping Gordon. Can they? The answer to that question may determine the Heisman front-runner going into the last two weeks of the season.

Nebraska’s run defense

Do I need to write anything here? They gave up a bazillion yards to Melvin Gordon. This week, they host Minnesota and RB David Cobb, who has already rushed for 1,350 yards. It would behoove Nebraska to win this game and, ya know, stop someone. If not…hello, irrelevance.

Kyle Flood

Do you know the last time Rutgers beat a team that finished the season with a winning record? Nope, it’s not anyone they beat this year. Nope, it’s not anyone they beat last year. Yep, you have to go back to Nov. 17, 2012 – more than two years ago – to find Rutgers beating a good team, when they took down 10-3 Cincinnati.

Last year, Rutgers lost to all the bowl-bound teams it faced. This year, it’s only hope to notch a win over a bowl bound team is for Navy or Michigan to climb to six wins. Both teams are currently 5-5 and not exactly world-beaters.

Is this what the Big Ten wanted from Rutgers? Is this what Rutgers wanted from the Big Ten? Their last two road games have been no contest beatdowns from Ohio State and Nebraska. This week, they play at Michigan State. Can they keep it close? If they don’t, I think Rutgers needs to seriously evaluate whether Kyle Flood is the guy. Or if they want to accept 6-6 records every year.

Ole Miss & Arizona’s dream seasons

The two best wins this season are Arizona’s triumph over Oregon and Ole Miss taking down Alabama. Both teams are alive for conference titles and in the thick of the New Year’s Six bowl hunt. Both teams play in-state rivals in mega games over Thanksgiving weekend. Both teams have incredibly tough road tests on Saturday.

Ole Miss plays at Arkansas. Arizona plays at Utah. If they win these games, they will have everything to play for next weekend. If they lose, they will regret it for years to come.

Notre Dame’s defense

Lost in the Everett Golson’s turnover party and Brian Kelly’s idiotic game management has been the truly putrid performance by the Notre Dame defense. The loss to Florida State was excused; rightly so, because Jameis Winston is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and played out of his mind in the second half of that game.

But against Arizona State, the Irish put up little resistance to Arizona State, especially after turnovers. Last week, the team embarrassed itself by giving up 43 points to a bad Northwestern team. The final drive by Northwestern to tie up the game was so easy that the Wildcats would’ve scored a touchdown if given 15 more seconds.

This week, Notre Dame hosts Louisville. They need to win this game and the defense needs to figure it out in a hurry with USC looming or a possible playoff season is going to end in total disaster.

Northwestern & Illinois

With both sitting at 4-6, only one can make a bowl game since they play next Saturday. Could it be the ultra-rare bowl game playoff? Personally, I’m rooting for a matchup of 5-6 teams going toe-to-toe for a Quick Lane Bowl berth. To make that happen, Northwestern has to win at Purdue (reasonable) and Illinois has to win at home versus Penn State (reasonable).

Tennessee’s renaissance

It’s been a dark few years – heck, a dark decade – for the Tennessee Volunteers. As a child of the 1990’s, Tennessee was one of the elite programs, mentioned in the same breath as Nebraska and Miami as….holy cow, how long ago was the 1990s?

Regardless, it feels like Tennessee has finally turned the corner. Tough losses to Georgia and Florida, along with respectable performances against Oklahoma and Alabama, showed the young Vols were getting closer. Enter Joshua Dobbs, a stirring comeback against South Carolina, an absolute thrashing of Kentucky and suddenly, Tennessee is hot again.

Will it last? Vegas believes – the Volunteers are favored at home against a Missouri team that needs to win out for the SEC East title. If Tennessee comes through, they will likely be 7-5 and one of the most sought-after bowl teams. If they don’t, they will likely end up 6-6 and be a good story.

In short, the prism through which we viewed the Vols’ season will be determined by its result Saturday. That, my friends, is the definition of the Crossroads.