Nebraska Football: Assessing and Power Ranking the Cornhuskers’ 2018 Alternate Uniforms

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They’re heeeeeeeere …

Nebraska announced that it will be wearing its annual alternate uniform on Nov. 10 against Illinois on Veteran’s Day weekend. The uniform is intended to honor the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, as well as celebrate Memorial Stadium.

While there are any number of metrics available to grade uniforms (Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity does a great job with his), I’m a fan of the UniWatch Blog system. It’s very simple: Good or Stupid? Clear and gets right to the point. So, on to the analysis.

JERSEY

2018 jersey

This is gorgeous. The stripes on the front and back were very common sights on football uniforms at the time. The numerals call attention to the Stadium Clock, which you can see inside the stadium and is a true hidden gem of Nebraska lore. Plus, it’s really close to the uniform idea that a smart and particularly handsome analyst had. And the “In the Deed the Glory” reprinted on the back is truly fantastic, especially since the original inscription has been covered by the new East Stadium façade.

Good or Stupid? Really, really good.

PANTS

Hard to tell, as we really didn’t get a good look at the pants. Adidas refers to them as “buff” and supposed to resemble the original façade of Memorial Stadium. That likely means they’ll be some kind of tan. As long as it’s not too garish – and given that we didn’t see them at all, it’s likely there’s not much there to see – then they’ll be just fine.

Good or Stupid? Too early to tell, but probably good bordering on meh.

HELMET

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OK, so bonus points for trying to take the premise to its logical conclusion. And if your goal is to recreate a 1923 uniform, then I guess trying to make your helmet look like a leather helmet is admirable as a concept.

But, seriously. No one is going to be giving you bonus points for historical authenticity. It’s ridiculous when the Green Bay Packers do it with their faux-leather pants. And it’s going to be ridiculous when Nebraska does it. The throwback is supposed to be an homage to 1923, not a slavish recreation. Heck, even looking at the 1923 University of Nebraska yearbook shows plenty of gorgeous art deco designs that could have been incorporated onto a helmet design.

Instead, we’re going to see eleven of those on the field. At the same time. Playing modern football. Slamming against Illinois’ blue-and-orange helmets. That’s … going to mess up the historical authenticity.

Good or Stupid? OH GOD THE STUPID IT BURNS!!!!!

OVERALL

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Well, the replica jersey is going to look amazing, and will likely be tops on my list of alternates to wear. The jersey is what most people are going to remember, and so the grade is going to be weighted heavily in favor of its sweet, sweet historical goodness. It’s going to stay in the Good category … but barely, given how ridiculous the helmet is.

Good or Stupid? Good, but just barely.

NEBRASKA ALTERNATE UNIFORM POWER RANKING

Images courtesy of the Lincoln Journal-Star

  1. 2014

2014

The infamous trash bag uniforms, which had numerals which literally couldn’t be read from the stands. The two-toned helmets were pretty cool, but overall the unis were a disaster.

  1. 2015

2015

Mystifyingly, adidas took its disastrous 2014 concept and made just a slight tweak, putting it on a black background instead of a red one, and made the uniform only marginally less horrific.

  1. 2012

2012

These original throwbacks get far more hate than they deserve, especially how well they combined with Wisconsin’s to make a truly memorable spectacle. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, Wisconsin had the better unis that night.)

  1. 2016

2016

The only road alternates Nebraska has (yet) worn ended up making good use of the trash-bag  silver, working them into an ice concept that ended up very sharp.

  1. 2017

2017

The concept was brilliant, to pay homage to the 1997 team by replicating the mesh uniforms. And while it came out great, it was also hard to tell the unis apart from normal ones on the field during the game.

  1. 2013

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Even early in the process, adidas got this one right. The basic black uniforms, the different-but-legible stencil numerals, and the overall simplicity gives this one a place of honor in the Nebraska alternate uniform pantheon.

  1. 2018

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Fine, call it recency bias. But anything that involves old-school numerals, a shout-out to the Stadium Clock, and the full In the Deed The Glory inscription is going to be hard to beat.

HONORARY MENTION

hm

I’m not sure where the curly-Q numeral jerseys would fit on the above power list, but I’m telling you that it’d be way closer to one than seven.

GBR, baby.

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Nebraska Football: How Cornhusker Fans Should Respond After 0-6 Start

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Now what, Husker Fan?

Nebraska is now 0-6, after dropping a gut-wrenching 34-31 overtime loss to Northwestern, after having a two-score lead with two minutes left to play in the game. Even a faint flicker of hope for a bowl game was snuffed out by the loss, and the remainder of 2018 is a game-by-game prospect, with tangible achievements postponed until 2019 and beyond.

Head coach Scott Frost said he was “running out of words” to tell the team after their sixth straight loss of the season and tenth overall (according to Parker Gabirel of the Lincoln Journal-Star). Even more disturbingly, Frost said this about Nebraska’s defensive scheme at the end of the game (as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald):

“One, I don’t call the defense and two, make a play,” Frost said. “One more play.”

Now, after Northwestern’s 99-yard drive in under two minutes – with no time-outs – to tie the game (a drive which bore haunting resemblance to Nebraska’s 2015 late-game collapse against Illinois), Frost’s frustration was understandable. And nothing in Frost’s quote is factually incorrect.

But some also read Frost’s quote as him trying to distance himself from the loss, to blame defensive coordinator Erik Chinander or the players for letting him down. To be clear, that is not a necessary interpretation of what Frost’s quote, and would run counter to the culture of accountability Frost has said he wants to create in Lincoln.

Having said that, it’s not the first time Nebraska fans have heard a coach say and mean something like that. And after absorbing Nebraska’s tenth (!!!) straight loss, it’s only natural for despair to kick in and color perception to see the seams unraveling on the entire Nebraska program. After a knife-to-the-soul loss like Saturday, Nebraska fans were primed and ready to descend into a very dark, very hopeless place.

And yet …

There you were, Husker Fan, applauding the team – both teams – after that loss. Sure, not all of you. But that core is still there, the ones who measure your fandom in generations, who pledge to cheer the scarlet and cream come in all kinds of weather – and mean it.

(By the way, don’t read the comments after Heady’s Twitter post. Like pretty much all internet comment threads, they’ll make you doubt your faith in humanity.)

You’re going to be tested, Husker Fan, even more than you have. Wins may be elusive this year, and perhaps even beyond. You’ll be mocked and trolled by fans of teams who hate Nebraska (looking at you, Hawkeye Fan, and a locked beer fridge is neither “Iowa nice” nor at all original).

You have faith in Frost to succeed, and that faith is still well-founded even with how 2018 has unfolded. He’s not perfect, of course – his oddly-conservative play-calling on the drive before Northwestern’s 99-yard march and game plan as a whole against Troy being examples of mistakes. But he still gives Nebraska its best chance to take its place amongst college football’s national powers.

A chance is not a guarantee, though. While all the signs point to Frost righting the ship, there’s no promises that Frost can be successful, at least on the time frame that fans were initially expecting when he arrived in Lincoln.

So you’ve got a choice, Husker Fan. You can surrender to despair and bitterness. Or you can choose a different path. You can choose to enjoy the spectacle of the game without expecting the luxury of a victory.

This doesn’t mean you accept failure, of course. It doesn’t mean you don’t agonize at the losses and rage against the mistakes and poor decisions that snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Demanding excellence and that the program be on the path to achieve it is one of the prime distinguishers between Nebraska and other programs.

What it means is that you don’t quit showing up. You don’t quit wearing your colors – flying your Husker flag – with pride. You don’t turn on the players – a collection of college kids – ever. And you don’t turn on a coaching staff until they’ve given you no choice but to do anything else.

In other words, you don’t stop believing.

I know, I’m beating this thing into the ground. But remember when, at the start of the year, we thought the biggest question to answer was what song should replace “Sirius” for the Tunnel Walk?

In my mind, there’s no doubt as to what the theme song of this year – and of this fanbase, in general – should be.

Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’

Don’t stop believing, Husker Fan. Now more than ever.

(And, seriously, HuskerVision bigwigs, make the Journey singalong A Thing already, wouldya?)

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Husker Fans Need To Make a Leap of Faith After Michigan Loss

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

When Scott Frost returned as Nebraska’s head coach, games like this weren’t supposed to happen. Nebraska wasn’t supposed to be embarrassed on a national stage. Nebraska’s wasn’t supposed to be the butt of the joke from a fast food franchise.

And, yet, here we are. Before the Michigan game, Frost said that things might get worse before they get better. After the game, he said that Nebraska had hit rock bottom.

How did this happen? How did a Michigan team that struggled at times against SMU the week before so thoroughly dominate Nebraska?

There’s plenty of potential reasons, of course. Michigan has better talent than Nebraska (although, according to the five-year recruiting averages, only three spots nationally better). Nebraska is in year one of a rebuild, with freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez still limited with a knee injury. And apparently Michigan players still had a burr under their collective saddle for Frost saying that UCF outhit Michigan when the two teams played in 2016.

But I thought what might have been the most insightful was a quote from linebacker Mohammed Barry (from Parker Gabriel of the Lincoln Journal-Star):

“The only [players] we would lose are the ones we never really had,” he said. “That’s probably better in the long run. … The guys we are going to actually win with and win championships with would never do that.”

“Let’s just be truthful: There are some people that want it and some people that don’t. That’s why we’re playing the brand of football we’re playing right now. We’re going to get there and it’s all positive, but I hope that if people have any doubt in us and our team that they make their exit now and we get better from here on out.”

Frost had a similar message to the team after last week’s loss to Troy (from Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald):

“I just got done telling the team that, when things get tough like this, you have two choices: You fight back and you work even harder or you give up,” Frost said. “I also told them if anybody doesn’t want to stay on board with this ride with us, let me know now and get off. Because I know where this is going. We just haven’t had the results early.”

After Tuesday’s practice before Purdue, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander added to the consideration the quote that the team needs “105 guys who love to play football, period” (according to HuskerMax). Read between the lines and it’s hard not to conclude that there’s a problem in the locker room with players who aren’t fully invested in Frost and his system. If that’s true, it would explain a lot of what we’ve seen at the start of this season.

Football isn’t a game you can play halfway, certainly not at the level of a major college football program. Football is hard. It’s a game of fine margins. At this level, players on both sides of the field are amazingly talented and athletically gifted. Except in the most extreme of physical mismatches, the difference between winning and losing is about which team is best able to work together and commit to its process, and which team is confident enough in its ability to be successful.

Given the quotes from Frost and Barry, it’s certainly plausible to conclude that there are parts of this Nebraska squad that aren’t all-in on Frost’s process. Don’t forget, the elder statesmen of this team are on their third head coach, including one who all but told the team they were justified in bailing on the program on his way out the door.

And as for confidence, well, it’s hard to see how this Nebraska team wouldn’t be reeling. Nebraska hasn’t won a game since October 28, 2017, when it went on the road to beat – Purdue. Since then, Nebraska has lost seven straight, and surrendered 50 or more points five times (including, weirdly, three straight 56’s being hung on the Blackshirts). Nebraska has come close twice this year but couldn’t get over the finish line, then got curb-stomped in Ann Arbor.

So when things started to go badly at Michigan, it’s only human that all those previous losses would come crashing down around the confidence of Nebraska’s players. Just ask Michigan safety John Metellus after Nebraska’s first offensive series ended in an interception (as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald).

“After that first series, when we went back out there, we just knew they wanted to give up,” Metellus said. “You could just see it in their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear. Nebraska didn’t quit. Nebraska fought and tried its best against Michigan, start to finish. But trying your best also means summoning whatever confidence you can that you can be successful at something, especially something as hard and physically demanding as top-flight college football. Without that confidence, “your best” is still some percentage less than your potential.

And that’s what Nebraska is facing now. A crisis of confidence in a group of young men that wants desperately to be successful, but hasn’t seen that hard work pay off in almost an entire year.

Which brings us to Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers are 1-3, but coming off an upset of nationally-ranked Boston College. Purdue is going to arrive in Lincoln thinking it can beat Nebraska. The bookies agree, making the Boilermakers a three-point favorite.

All of a sudden, the Purdue game has become one of the most consequential games in recent Nebraska history. A win puts Nebraska at 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the B1G. But more importantly, it lets the team remember what winning tastes like, and gives them tangible proof that all the blood, sweat, and tears they’ve been expending has a payoff. A win gives Nebraska a legitimate, if narrow, path to six wins and a bowl game.

A loss, on the other hand, would make that albatross hanging around the neck of the Nebraska football program that much heavier. A loss to Purdue could put a catastrophically-bad season – 2-10, maybe 1-11 – on the table.

We will see on Saturday how much confidence Frost and his coaches can inject into Nebraska as a football team. But we will also see how the Nebraska fanbase responds to what feels like the other side of the college football looking glass.

This dope worried that a blowout loss to Michigan could start to turn Nebraska fans against Frost and the program and, if that happened, could start a cascade of events that could sink Frost’s chances of being successful. To their great credit, Nebraska fans have not done so (with very few exceptions) and have held fast to the faith that Frost will eventually right the Big Red ship.

There are a number of objective reasons for holding fast to that faith. Frost’s pedigree – learning from coaches as varied as Tom Osborne and Chip Kelly – suggests he has the experience to know what he’s doing, particularly on offense. His success at UCF is undeniable. His time both as a top-level college player and an NFL veteran gives him his bona fides. And his charisma and connection to both players and recruits keeps people listening to what he has to say.

But, let’s face it, Husker Fan. Part of the reason you’re continuing to believe is because you kinda have to. Giving up that faith condemns you to despair for the foreseeable future. Despair that the Nebraska team in which you’ve invested your passion (as well as your time and money) will never be more than the butt of a snarky social media manager.

You have the experience of recent Nebraska football history, from Frank Solich’s fumbling of Osborne’s mantle, to the experience of Bill Callahan and Steve Pedersen, to the plateau and drama of Bo Pelini, to the jovial mismanagement of Mike Riley, to 0-3 in 2018. Balanced against that, you have all of the legitimate reasons to believe in Frost’s ability to resurrect Nebraska as a national football power.

None of us know the future. So Husker Fan, you’re faced with a choice given those competing arguments, as to how you respond. And many of you are making the kind of choice we saw the android chief operations officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise face in Star Trek:The Next Generation.

Lt. Commander Data: Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android – nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form. However, I realized that if I was simply a machine, I could never be anything else; I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept. So I chose to believe… that I was a person; that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold.

Lieutenant Worf: How did you come to your decision?

Lt. Commander Data: I made… a leap of faith.

Star Trek:The Next Generation, “Rightful Heir” (S6:E23), quote courtesy of IMDB (emphasis added).

That’s what you’re doing now, Husker Fan. Certainly if you’ve made it this far, you’re choosing to make that leap of faith, choosing hope over despair even in the face of current evidence.

You may be doing it in part for your own history, honoring your forebearers who introduced you to Nebraska football. For me, that’s my dad, with his comically-trinket-ladened Nebraska hat, taking me down to a frozen Astroturf field after Nebraska’s Halloween evisceration of Colorado in 1992 to throw around a stocking hat like it was a football. It’s my mom, who still comes to the home games with me to share the experience (and to sneak in a little time to spend with each other). I suspect many of you who have read this far have a similar story as to why Nebraska football is important enough to expend this energy.

And even if there’s not a sentimental attachment, don’t lose track of one very important thing – this is supposed to be fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a football game. No one is going to lose their life or their freedom as a result of a college football game.

That blessed silliness is what makes an emotional investment in a sporting event so powerful and so liberating. As fans, we can wrap ourselves in the minutiae of the game and the roster, and surrender our emotions to the highs and lows of the contest. We get to feel those intense, authentic, irreplaceable feelings of joy and sadness that only come from following a game over which we have no control of the outcome.

And, win or lose at the end of the contest, life goes on around us. We can invest fully, experience those emotions fully, and walk away at the end of it with nothing lost outside of the feelings we chose to put on the line.

If that’s why we all get on this ridiculous roller-coaster in the first place, then why not choose hope? Why not make that leap of faith and believe in the possible, especially when there are still good reasons to think those dreams could come true?

A smart and particularly handsome analyst suggested that a particular song should be sung at Memorial Stadium by the whole crowd every home game. At this stage in the life of the program, it seems like we need it more than ever.

Don’t stop believin’, Husker Fan.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Make The “Don’t Stop Believing” Singalong A Thing, Already!

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Nebraska was supposed to open its 2018 campaign — and welcome new head coach Scott Frost — with a game against Akron on September 01. Thanks to a lightning storm, the game never happened, which has caused all kinds of distress.

But there definitely was one very good thing that came from the lightning delay.

For those of you that didn’t click the video, that’s 90,000 people all singing “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Not just the chorus.

The. Whole. Song.

It was amazing to be part of, and legitimately one of the most fun experiences I’ve had a chance to be part of in Memorial Stadium. (Although, given that Nebraska is in the midst of a six-game home losing streak, including losses to schools from the MAC and the Sun Belt, that might be setting the bar low).

Just because it was so much fun, I was all on board with Nebraska finding a way to do this singalong on a regular basis after the Akron non-game. But as this season has unfolded, I’ve thought about it more. There’s a deeper reason why a Journey singalong should definitely Become A Thing on gameday.

Look at the lyrics.

Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’

Tell me, Husker Fan, that those lyrics don’t describe being a Nebraska fan right now.

Nebraska is 0-2. Nebraska has lost seven of its last eight games. Nebraska will go a calendar year without having won a home game.

And yet fans still, almost to a person, still have faith in Frost. Fans keep showing up to cheer on the Scarlet and Cream. Fans still believe that Nebraska can and will return to national prominence as a football program. And that continued faith — dare I say, belief — is what keeps the possibility of that return alive.

After all, as a smart and particularly handsome analyst has observed, the biggest danger to Frost is a traumatized fanbase turning on him if success doesn’t come quickly enough. With a daunting schedule to come, 2018 could be a very rough year for Nebraska.

If that’s the case, it is incumbent on the fanbase to weather the storm (both metaphorical and actual). Or, as the lyrics to a slightly-less-catchy song would say:

There is no place like Nebraska,
Where they’re all true blue.
We’ll all stick together,
In all kinds of weather,
For dear old Nebraska U.

We’ve seen all kinds of weather lately, haven’t we, Husker Fan? So why not find four minutes and ten seconds in the gameday experience to let the Sea of Red raise its voice as one and celebrate its faith and perseverance?

Don’t stop believin’, Husker Fan. Hold on to the feelin’.

GBR, baby.

 

 

Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Troy 24, Nebraska 19

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cognitive dissonance (cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance)

noun – the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude changes

In Nebraska’s first two games under head coach Scott Frost, NU is averaging outgaining its opponent by 140.5 yards per game.

Nebraska is 0-2 on the season.

After an unprecedented level of excitement surrounding the arrival of a new coach, Nebraska’s self-inflicted wounds have left the team in a dangerous position and the fans puzzled as to how they should respond. There’s still plenty of belief, and plenty of things they’ve seen on the field to inspire belief.

Still, 0-2 is 0-2. Losing still hurts. So in picking up the pieces after Nebraska’s 24-19 loss to Troy …

The Good

More Mo. In Frost’s offense, Nebraska is always going to rotate running backs, so don’t ever expect to see a bellcow back that will get the majority of the carries. Having said that, at least over two games it looks like Nebraska’s best running back may have emerged.

Against Troy, Maurice Washington got 14 carries for 92 yards, and added in three receptions for 14 yards. Washington, a true freshman, showed lateral quickness to evade tacklers, power to run between the tackles, and speed to get away from pursuit.

Taking a Punch. In two games, Nebraska has found itself down 10 and down 17. Now, obviously, that’s not a good thing. But it’s also given Nebraska an opportunity to show that it can handle adversity and respond positively.

And boy, did Nebraska show that. Against Colorado, Nebraska came all the way back to take the lead, surrendering it only after a backbreaking penalty that kept Colorado’s game-winning drive alive. Against Troy, Nebraska was never quite able to get over the hump, but had the ball with an opportunity to drive and win the game.

Sure, it’s a much better scenario if Nebraska isn’t digging itself out of a hole. But particularly for a team coming off a 4-8 season, having the will to fight back from a double-digit deficit is an important demonstration of character.

Nothing. There Is No Third Thing. You guys, Nebraska just lost to Troy. Not Troy, your neighbor with the cute dog he walks on Thursdays. Troy, the Sun Belt team. In two years, Nebraska has lost home games to a Sun Belt team and a MAC team.

Yeah, that’s probably unfair to Troy, a very good team who now has wins over LSU and Nebraska on its resume. Still, this is Nebraska, and that is Troy.

The Bad

Déjà vu All Over Again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Nebraska had three turnovers and double-digit penalties, and because of that NU was unable to overcome a slow start and dig out of a ten-plus-point early deficit.

The cliché is that a team always gets better between week one and week two. That might not have been entirely fair for Nebraska given that it had to start a walk-on at quarterback. But still, seeing a repeat of the mistakes that cost Nebraska a win over Colorado had to leave fans wondering how long it will be before NU runs out of feet in which to shoot itself.

Walk-On Woes. Bunch gave this game everything he had. Especially early, he was keeping plays alive rather than throwing the ball away – sometimes to his detriment. And while Bunch certainly has skills that most walk-ons don’t, at the end of the day he’s still a walk-on quarterback brought in to run Mike Riley’s offense.

That’s not to say Bunch couldn’t have been successful against Troy, he certainly could have. But he needed help, and Nebraska’s own errors were too much to ask Bunch to make up.

Close but No Cigar. Once again, this was a game that didn’t require to avoid all of the mistakes it made. Indeed, even with everything else, had Nebraska just cleaned up two pieces of execution – Pickering hitting a makeable field goal and Nebraska cashing in for six after getting a muffed punt at the Troy 8 – NU wins this game.

Once again we saw a team that was 4-8 last year being in position to win a game, but not knowing how to get out of its own way. It’s maddening, of course, and there’s only so many chances Nebraska will get before the season gets away.

And the Fragility of Faith

Football isn’t fair. For so many reasons, fans can see that the football being played by Nebraska is demonstrably better than it was over the last couple of years.

And yet, Nebraska is 0-2, the first time it has started this poorly since 1957. Coming up next for Nebraska is a trip to Michigan. Stranger things have happened, of course, but if Nebraska doesn’t pull off an upset in Ann Arbor it will be facing a scary high-pressure game at home against Purdue.

That’s … a lot to ask a group of college kids, particularly a group that just endured a 4-8 season a year before. Frost has been blunt with his team as to how he expects them to respond (as reported by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald):

“I just got done telling the team that, when things get tough like this, you have two choices: You fight back and you work even harder or you give up,” Frost said. “I also told them if anybody doesn’t want to stay on board with this ride with us, let me know now and get off. Because I know where this is going. We just haven’t had the results early.”

Frost’s comments might as well have been to the fans. We’re two games into the season, and we’re already starting to see rumblings of discontent.

Of course, that’s not a representative sample. And, it’s Twitter, so it’s best not to take anything seen there all that seriously.

Still, the giddiness of the offseason has given way to the hard work of rebuilding a program. And as a certain smart and particularly handsome analyst told you, the offseason excitement carried with it a danger of unrealistically high expectations – which could come crashing to earth if not met quickly enough.

For those of you despairing, relax. Nebraska will win its share of games this year. The underlying performances we’ve seen have simply been too good for it not to pay off in the win column. And maybe things will click and Nebraska will get a big win in Ann Arbor or (more likely) Madison to calm the waters.

But pack your patience, Husker Fan. You made your decision that Frost was your guy – and by all accounts and metrics, that’s a really good decision. Don’t let a bad start – even potentially a catastrophically bad start – make you reconsider that decision. I’m not big on self-quoting, but I do think this bears repeating.

But this has been a traumatized fanbase, rent asunder by the firing of Frank Solich, abused and taken advantage of by Steve Pederson, willfully divided and antagonized by Bo Pelini, incompetently managed by Shawn Eichorst, and historically failed by Mike Riley. Yeah, I know, it’s only a game. But that’s a lot of trauma (in relative terms) for a fan base to absorb, especially one for whom Nebraska football is such a core part of its identity.

Winning, of course, makes that trauma go away. But continued lack of success – and how much and for what length of time is the great experiment upon which we are all embarking – will bring those demons to the surface.

Abraham Lincoln himself – the namesake of the school’s home town – said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Possibly the greatest danger to Frost being successful as Nebraska head coach is if that success does not come quickly enough, and a critical mass of that traumatized fanbase ends up giving up on hoping in Frost, turning in with negativity, and destroying itself.

I know, Husker Fan. Losing sucks. You’re sick of hearing it from all of your Hawkeye relatives – believe me, I’ve been there. When Frost was hired, you felt like Nebraska was going to be Nebraska again. And now you’re the butt of the jokes from the national media (although thank heavens for Florida State, amirite?)

Hang in there. Not just because Frost will get Nebraska back to winning big – although I do think he gives Nebraska the best chance to get there since Osborne’s retirement.

You need to hang in there because if the fanbase turns – and we’ve seen it turn just one year ago – then it makes Frost’s job all the harder.

Questioning decisions is fine. Criticizing execution is fine. Being hurt and angry after a loss is more than fine – if you’re not, something’s wrong.

But there’s a difference between asking questions and giving up on the program. The former is expected. The latter – especially in year one of a rebuilding process – is a surrender to the emotions of the moment that both you and the program cannot afford.

In other words, keep the faith.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: NU ReView, Colorado 33, Nebraska 28

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The Scott Frost era didn’t start the way Nebraska fans had hoped, with a heartbreaking 33-28 loss to one of its ancient foes, Colorado. Nebraska outplayed the Buffaloes, outgaining them 565-395. But three turnovers, dropped passes, devastating penalties, and an injured phenom ended up being the difference between the two teams.

So in looking back at game one for Frost’s Cornhuskers …

The Good

A-Mart. If Nebraska’s quarterback competition really was razor-thin until the last week or so, then Tristan Gebbia’s a pretty impressive signal-caller. True freshman Adrian Martinez moved the offense consistently, showed both his elusiveness and his breakaway speed with his 41-yard touchdown run, and his arm with a picture-perfect deep shot to J.D. Spielman in stride for a 57-yard touchdown pass.

Sure, it was far from flawless, including a fumble and a cringe-inducing interception in the fourth quarter. And his injury left Memorial Stadium silent in the fourth quarter, as walk-on Andrew Bunch tried to lead Nebraska to a come-from-behind win.

But if A-Mart can stay healthy (and yeah, I’m gonna to my best to make A-Mart A Thing) and learn from his mistakes, my goodness could he be something special.

The Blackshirts Are Back. Last year, Nebraska had fourteen sacks. On the season.

Tonight, against Colorado, Nebraska had seven.

Nebraska held Colorado to 44 yards rushing. Absent two deep shots in the fourth quarter which were at least decently defended, Nebraska held Colorado’s offense in check pretty much the entire game. After a year of watching Bob Diaco’s defense (usually peering through your fingers in horror while swearing profusely, seeing Nebraska’s defense against Colorado – even in a losing effort – has to be encouraging.

Taking a Punch. With 6:47 left in the first quarter, Nebraska was down 14-0 with two of its newest offensive stars (junior college transfer running back Greg Bell and true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez) having put the ball on the ground. For a team playing its first game under a new coach, coming off a 4-8 season, you could understand how a team could collapse mentally.

Instead, Nebraska ripped off 21 straight points to take the lead, dominating Colorado on both sides of the ball. Although the result didn’t work out the way Nebraska wanted, the fact that NU could get off the mat and respond like that should give Nebraska fans lots of hope.

The Bad

A-Mart’s Knee. At the time of writing, Nebraska fans are still on tenterhooks waiting to hear the status of Martinez’s knee. With Gebbia’s transfer, Nebraska is down to two walk-ons – including one true freshman – on the quarterback depth chart.

There was so much to be positive about, to be hopeful about, in Nebraska’s performance against Colorado. But if Martinez is going to miss any significant time, Nebraska is going to struggle to improve on last year’s 4-8 record.

Mental Mistakes. The game was there for Nebraska to win. But being minus-three in turnover margin – including two that led directly to fourteen Colorado points – makes it awfully hard to win. Nebraska also committed eleven penalties for 95 yards. Two of those penalties – the personal foul against Antonio Reed that kept Colorado’s drive alive to take the lead, and Brendan Jaimes’ false start that cost Nebraska its last time out – were devastating.

Had Nebraska just made some of those mistakes, not all of them, NU likely escapes Memorial Stadium with a win.

Missed Opportunities. It wasn’t just the mental mistakes. Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan dropped a touchdown pass, and sophomore J.D. Spielman dropped a clutch pass late in the game that likely would have changed the outcome of the contest. And freshman kicker Barret Pickering missed a 43-yard field goal that would have left Nebraska just needing another field goal, rather than a touchdown, in its final comeback attempt.

Much like with the mental mistakes, had Nebraska converted on even some of these missed opportunities, NU likely beats Colorado.

And the Spark that Lights the Flame

If you really want to be pessimistic, you could look at the start of Frost’s career in Lincoln and see it starting the same way that Mike Riley’s did – with a heartbreaking loss at home to a team from the west.

But this feels different. Nebraska dramatically outplayed Colorado. Nebraska’s loss was largely self-inflicted, with the damage coming from the first game of the season, and the first game played under Frost’s tutelage. Although we’ll never know, had Nebraska gotten its first game against Akron in last week, it seems like some of the kinks we saw on Saturday could have been ironed out, and Nebraska likely wins the game.

Now, with Nebraska being (at this point) one game down and 0-1 on the season, the path to six wins and a bowl game is pretty narrow. Dreams of an eight or nine win season might have been a bit premature (as a smart and particularly handsome analyst reminded you).

But Frost said when he got here that this was going to be a multi-year project. There’s still going to be bumps on the road – after all, trips to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio, still await.

And after the performance Nebraska put on against Colorado – one game, one data point, to be sure – Husker Fan has to feel like there’s a spark that’s been lit, that has a chance to grow into a flame.

GBR, baby.

Photo gallery here.

Nebraska Football: Predictions for the Cornhuskers’ 2018 Season

frostAs the first game of the Scott Frost era comes close, it’s time to make things official and predict how the 2018 season will unfold for Nebraska. At the Double Extra Point, we use a particular system to try and make season predictions less of a guessing game.

The system is to break the games on the schedule into four different categories. Better Win games are ones Nebraska should be able to win all the games in the category. Should Win games are games where Nebraska should win a majority (more than half) of the games in the category. Might Win games are games where Nebraska should win less than a majority (less than half) of the games in the category. And Won’t Win games are games where Nebraska shouldn’t win any in the category.

Once the games are categorized, we can then add up the expected wins from each category and get a season win total. Of course, I’ll also make a Fearless Forecast for each game, and rest assured I will take credit for whichever prediction ends up closer to reality.

(Kidding! The “system” prediction is the official season call from the DXP!)

Akron, Sept. 1

The Zips are coming off a 7-7 record in 2017, but were ranked no. 112 nationally in S&P+, the analytical model used by Bill Connelly of SB Nation. They do return most of their defense, but are far behind Nebraska in terms of their five-year recruiting average (again from Connelly of SB Nation), meaning NU’s talent should be far superior.

After last year, nothing should be taken for granted, but Akron does provide as soft of an opening for Frost’s tenure in Lincoln as he could reasonably hope for.

Better Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 45, Akron 17

Colorado, Sept. 9

If nothing else, the return of Colorado to Nebraska’s schedule has reignited the Nebraska-Colorado venom across social media.

One year removed from a Pac-12 title game, Colorado went 5-7 last year, and Connelly’s analytics have the Buffs doing one worse this season. Colorado does return a starting quarterback, but that’s about it offensively, with a lot of work to rebuild defensively as well.

So while Nebraska brings a number of advantages to the game, Colorado will be the first Power Five opponent Frost’s Huskers face.

Should Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 41, Colorado 31

Troy, Sept. 15

redalert

TRAP GAME WARNING!

If there’s a game early in the season that should scare the bejeezus out of Husker Fan, this is it. A trip to Ann Arbor is the following weekend. The opponent’s name is Troy, and I don’t care how dialed in a team is, I refuse to believe it’s not a challenge to get Nebraska athletes to one hundred percent buy in to an opponent named Troy. And the game is an 11:00 a.m. kickoff, games Nebraska traditionally struggles to perform well in.

Exhibit A: September 16, 2017, 11:00 a.m.: Northern Illinois 21, Nebraska 17

Exhibit B: September 6, 2014, 11:00 a.m.: Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24

Oh, by the way, Troy beat LSU last year, 24-21, in Death Valley. So the Trojans aren’t going to have any fear coming into Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska’s a better team than Troy, and should win this game. But this is a scary scenario for Frost’s first season.

Should Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 38, Troy 27

At Michigan, Sept. 22

Frost didn’t get any favors from the schedule makers with his first road trip. Michigan is loaded, particularly on defense. Nebraska has a true freshman quarterback making his first road trip, and two walk-ons (including one true freshman) behind him.

Yes, Michigan has been underwhelming under Jim Harbaugh. But that’s underwhelming for Michigan standards. That doesn’t mean it makes the task for Nebraska any easier in Ann Arbor.

Won’t Win

Fearless Forecast: Michigan 38, Nebraska 24

Purdue, Sept. 29

The Boilermakers are a trendy sleeper pick in the B1G West, and head coach Jeff Brohm took remarkable strides in his first season. But keep in mind, Purdue was one of Nebraska’s four wins last year, and that was in East Lafayette. The Boilermakers do return both their quarterbacks, but still have enough of a talent deficiency to make this a game Nebraska should win at home.

Should Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 53, Purdue 38

At Wisconsin, Oct. 6

If there’s an acid test for Frost’s Year One at Nebraska, it’s the trip to Camp Randall. It’s easy to look back at 2017 and remember it as a tire fire. But don’t forget that going into the fourth quarter, Nebraska was tied with Wisconsin. It wasn’t until Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst took the ball out of quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s hands and let freshman phenom tailback Jonathan Taylor run wild on then-defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense that the Badgers pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Talent-wise, the teams are relatively equivalent, with Nebraska having a slight advantage in the five-year  recruiting average. But Wisconsin has a significant advantage in terms of scheme and culture. If the Frost Effect is going to push Nebraska to a conference competitor in 2018, this would be the game we would find out.

But that’s likely a bridge to far to ask Frost to bring his charges this season.

Might Win

Fearless Forecast: Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 24

At Northwestern, Oct. 13

The Battle for NU is a strange beast. Each team has an amazing record at their opponent’s field. Since joining the B1G, Nebraska is 3-0 in Evanston, and 1-3 in Lincoln. And the one Nebraska win was courtesy of the Kellogg-to-Westerkamp Hail Mary, otherwise Northwestern would be 4-0 in Memorial Stadium.

This year’s contest is in Evanston, so weirdly that’s good news for Nebraska. What’s better news for Nebraska is that Justin Jackson is now playing for the Los Angeles Chargers, and Clayton Thorson is still … Clayton Thorson. This sets up to be the best shot for Frost’s first road win as head Husker.

Should Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 40, Northwestern 21

Minnesota, Oct. 20

It was the Minnesota game when you knew it was over. In the three games prior to Nebraska, Goldie scored a total of 47 points.

Minnesota hung 54 against Nebraska on that cold November afternoon in Minneapolis.

Does that mean Minnesota should be a favorite to beat Nebraska this year? No. The talent differential between the two teams is still stark.

And Minnesota’s 54 points wasn’t a reflection of the talent level and fundamentals of the two squads. It was the result of a coaching failure by then-head man Mike Riley in his staff that broke the 2017 Nebraska squad. It’s unfair to say the team quit. But it’s very fair to say that the team was given more than it could bear, and against Minnesota the result of that failure became apparent.

Should Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 47, Minnesota 17

At Ohio State, Nov. 3

I don’t know who at the B1G scheduling office has it in for Nebraska, but fer cryin’ out loud there’s been a lot of Buckeyes on the slate recently.

  1. 2017. 2018. 2019. 2020. 2021. 2024.

At this point it kinda feels like Ohio State is getting a trial run in the B1G West. Sure, Ohio State has been embroiled in scandal lately. But because head coach Urban Meyer only got a three-game suspension for his mishandling assistant coach Zach Smith’s history of domestic violence (and that’s describing it mildly, although the story is still unfolding), it is unlikely that Ohio State will be anything less than the machine it has been under Meyer by the time Nebraska rolls into Columbus.

Won’t Win

Fearless Forecast: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 21 (but Nebraska makes Brutus punt for the first time since 2012!)

Illinois, Nov. 10

It looked good on paper, didn’t it? Former NFL head coach – former Super Bowl head coach with the Bears – Lovie Smith comes to college to coach the team from whom the Bears copied their team colors.

Unfortunately for the Illini, it really hasn’t worked out. Illinois is 5-19 since Smith arrived in Champaign, and 2-16 against the B1G. Former Nebraska quarterback AJ Bush was named Illinois’ starter for the 2018 campaign. But Illinois’ recruiting under Smith gives little comfort to Illini faithful.

Yes, Illinois was one of Riley’s ugly losses in 2015. And as we’ve seen before <cough Northern Illinois cough> nothing should be taken for granted. But this should be Nebraska’s second-softest game on the 2018 slate.

Better Win

Fearless Forecast: Nebraska 55, Illinois 28

Michigan State, Nov. 17

Sparty and Nebraska are right next to each other in terms of five-year recruiting averages, meaning the talent level on the field should be very even. And Michigan State did what Nebraska faithful are hoping from Frost’s crew, jumping from a dreadful 3-9 in 2016 to 10-3 in 2017.

With the game being in Lincoln, many are marking this game as Frost’s best chance to get a quality win. It’s fair analysis, Sparty under head coach Mike D’Antonio looks to be a tall order for Nebraska at the back end of a grueling schedule.

Might Win

Fearless Forecast: Michigan State 31, Nebraska 28

At Iowa, Nov. 23

As a smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, this thing is now a rivalry. Losing two straight to the Hawkeyes by a combined score of 96-24 will do that.

The five-year recruiting averages would suggest that Nebraska’s on-field talent is better than Iowa’s. Results on the field would suggest that Iowa has a significant leg up on Nebraska.

Nebraska fans are certainly hoping that Frost will be able to restore what they perceive to be order in the universe by regularly beating Iowa. Maybe that will happen, as coaching and scheme in Lincoln come to equal the recruiting rankings.

But for the last game of a grinding season, in Iowa City, it will be tough sledding for Nebraska to break the trend of the Heroes Game over the last few years.

Might Win

Fearless Forecast: Iowa 28, Nebraska 24

Conclusion

So let’s see what the system suggests Nebraska’s win total should be for 2018

Category Number Expected Wins
Better Win 2 2
Should Win 5 3
Might Win 3 1
Won’t Win 2 0
  Total Expected Wins 6

So the system pegs Nebraska at 6-6 for 2018, whereas the Fearless Forecasts have NU going (checks notes) 7-5 on the campaign. That’s right in line with what the investors in Las Vegas, with Nebraska’s win total (according to oddsshark.com) at 6.5 for 2018.

However, both Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald and Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star have called an 8-4 campaign for Frost’s inaugural season. Sure, this dope said that there’s reason to believe in an 8-4 season.

But there’s also a real risk that if expectations run too high in 2018 and Nebraska fails to deliver – and don’t kid yourself, the path to 5-7 or worse for this season with a first-year head coach and a threadbare quarterback depth chart is there for all to see – then there is a real risk that the giddy optimism of this season could turn into the cynical backbiting that has plagued Nebraska’s fanbase since the firing of Frank Solich.

And, as that smart and particularly handsome analyst observed, a poisoned fanbase is the biggest risk to Frost’s ability to succeed in Lincoln. So enjoy your football, Husker Fan, Lord knows the wait has been long this year. But please please please please please, don’t let your excitement run away with you this year.

GBR, baby.

 

Nebraska Football: Five Reasons Why Scott Frost Could Fail

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We are now less than two weeks away from Nebraska taking the field under new head coach Scott Frost, and to say that Husker Fan is excited is the understatement of the century. Already, every possible variation of a “Frost warning” t-shirt has been bought and sold, and a long-dormant sense of hope for Nebraska to return to national glory has awoken.

There is plenty of reason for that optimism. All kinds of national media are convinced that Frost is the right guy to lead Nebraska out of college football’s desert of irrelevance. And they’ve got plenty of reasons to think so. He’s got the pedigree, both from his playing days in college and the NFL, and coaching under Chip Kelly at Oregon.

Since Frost’s hire, Nebraska fans have had visions of trophies dancing in their heads. Precious little thought has been given to the other side of that scenario.

Now, let’s be clear. I think Frost is the right guy. I agree with the generally-accepted wisdom that Nebraska under Frost could be back to being – well, Nebraska in short order.

But “likely to succeed” doesn’t mean “will succeed.” And I hate to break it to you, Husker Fan, but there are some reasons out there why Frost might not be successful at Nebraska. Here are five of them.

There’s More to the UCF Turnaround

You may have heard that Frost engineered quite the turnaround in Orlando. The Knights were 0-12 the year before he arrived. In two short seasons under Frost’s tutelage, the Knights were 13-0 and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Some even crowned UCF the 2017 National Champions of college football.

That’s a heck of an accomplishment, of course, enough to win Frost basically every national coach of the year award he could win for 2017. And he deserved them. Having a guy like that take the reins in Lincoln should give Nebraska fans plenty to be excited about.

But there’s more to the story. Yes, going from 0-12 to 13-0 is an amazing feat. But let’s broaden the lens a little and look at UCF’s performance over the last seven years.

YEAR UCF RECORD
2017 (Frost) 13-0
2016 (Frost) 6-7
2015 (O’Leary/Barrett) 0-12
2014 (O’Leary) 9-4
2013 (O’Leary) 12-1
2012 (O’Leary) 10-4

Yeah, UCF was terrible in 2015, enough to get previous head coach George O’Leary fired mid-season. But it’s not like UCF was a year-after-year disaster that Frost resurrected. The squad that Frost inherited was only a year removed from a nine-win season. It was only two years removed from being a three-point loss to South Carolina away from being in the mix for the final BCS title game.

Now, let’s be clear. This doesn’t take any credit away from Frost’s accomplishments at UCF. Going from 0-12 to 13-0 is remarkable, regardless of context.

But UCF’s 2015 debacle was clearly the outlier. So to assume Frost is a necromancer that can raise the football dead based on two years of work in Orlando ignores the platform upon which Frost stepped when he arrived at UCF.

Frost Has Never Done This Before

Frost has been a head coach for two years, and has had phenomenal and demonstrable success. But it’s still just two years. He and his staff have never put a full recruiting class together. Sure, Frost’s recruiting in Lincoln up to now has been admirable, especially without a full cycle.

But we still don’t know how Frost’s recruiting will hold up

We also don’t know how Frost and his staff will handle a step up in class. Going from the American Athletic Conference to the B1G is a pretty big step. There’s a quantum difference between games against South Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston, and Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Frost won’t be successful. But it means that Frost’s ability to get wins against B1G competition – both on the recruiting trail and on the field – is still an open question. Yes, he’s currently doing very well, ranked no. 26 on 247Sports. But he’s also still trading on his 12-0 record from last year. What happens if Nebraska goes through a 6-6 season – or worse – and the shine is off the rose on the recruiting trail is still an open question.

The Schedule Is A Beast

Frost did not pick the best year to arrive in Lincoln trying to raise the dead. Nebraska’s 2018 schedule was rated the nation’s second hardest by Athlon Sports and 247 Sports, and the nation’s hardest by Bleacher Report.

Take a quick look (maybe through your fingers to shield your eyes) and you’ll see why. Nebraska has road trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa. That’s … daunting. If Nebraska gets through this gauntlet at 2-3, it’s doing very well. Going 1-4 through that schedule is more likely.

That leaves Nebraska needing to win four home games – in a best-case scenario – just to become bowl eligible. The home schedule includes a Power Five school in Colorado that’s one year removed from the Pac-12 title game, a Troy team that beat LSU in Death Valley last year, an improving Purdue, and Minnesota squad that hung 54 on the Blackshirts last year.

Oh, and Michigan State, projected no. 13 nationally by Phil Steele.

Let’s say Nebraska has two gimmies, against Akron and Illinois (although as we saw against Northern Illinois last year – or Illinois in 2015 – there’s probably no such thing as a gimmie). That means Nebraska would have to go 2-3 against Colorado, Troy, Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan State just to make bowl eligibility.

And that’s if Nebraska wins two games on the road. Otherwise, NU needs a 3-2 mark against those five just to see a bowl in 2018.

Maybe things will click for Nebraska. Maybe Nebraska’s starting quarterback – who will be a freshman, either true or redshirt, regardless of who wins the job – grabs the reins and succeeds right away. Maybe the defense picks up new coordinator Erik Chinander’s new system.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. But that’s a lot of maybes, and a schedule with very little room for error if some of those maybes come up the wrong way.

Sure, if you squint real hard, you can see 8-4 in this schedule, like this dope argued. But it’s just as easy – maybe even easier – to see a path to 4-8 in Nebraska’s 2018 campaign.

Tackle Depth Is Scary

Brendan Jaimes. Christian Gaylord. Matt Farniok. Matt Sichterman.

As a very wise man once said, that’s it, that’s the list. In this case, that’s the list of true tackles on Nebraska’s roster. Most of you reading this know that you need to start two tackles, meaning Nebraska has a two-deep at tackle for the season – if everyone stays healthy and performs up to expectation.

Tackle is, put mildly, an important position. And an injury to any one of those four guys puts Nebraska in a circumstance where it will have to rotate players out of position at tackle, or ask the remaining tackles to play more games than they otherwise would.

Oh, and did I mention that Frost’s hurry-up offense focuses on speed, meaning that it will ask its offensive players – particularly its offensive line – to be in peak condition to put pressure on opposing defenses.

Losing one or two of those four guys, either to injury or poor play, could end up being an Achilles heel for Nebraska’s offense in 2018.

The Fans Could Wreck Everything

Yep, Husker Fan, this one’s on you. I know just how excited y’all are for the Frost era to begin. And you’ve got every reason to be. Frost looks every bit as advertised, and on paper he looks tailor made to return Nebraska to glory.

Heck, Nebraska fans are standing in line just for hours to get the guy’s autograph (according to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald).

But remember, Husker Fan, you haven’t seen Frost coach a game for Nebraska. More importantly, you haven’t seen Frost lose a game for Nebraska.

I know, I know, y’all are all about being patient, about knowing that the process will take time for Frost.

Honestly, I believe that’s what you think right now. I’m less convinced that you’ll think that if Nebraska is 2-6 this year, coming off home losses to Troy (!) Purdue, and Minnesota, and twenty-point blowouts to Michigan and Wisconsin on the road.

Don’t forget that the hurry-up style of offense Frost prefers, when it doesn’t work, can be pretty ugly. An unsuccessful hurry-up offense leads to a lot of quick three-and-outs and pressure on your defense. Nebraska’s defense is already preparing to face 90 (!) plays per game, according to McKewon.

To put that in perspective, Minnesota scored 54 points against last year’s Blackshirts in 61 plays. So if things go badly, they could go pretty spectacularly badly. And that’s hard for fans to watch.

The word “fan” is shorthand for “fanatic.” Almost by definition, fandom defies cool, rational analysis. If Nebraska is sitting at 2-6, and looking ugly with Frost’s unique scheme, then there will start to be fans that turn on the team.

It wouldn’t be many at first, given the incredible goodwill and credibility Frost has coming into the job. But a sub-.500 2018 will, almost without question, leave a portion of the fanbase at best uneasy and at worst skeptical of Frost’s ability to raise Nebraska from the dead.

That puts immense pressure on 2019, then. Nebraska has a road trip to Colorado for its second game of the season, and hosts Ohio State in game five. Even assuming a win over the rest of the slate (which includes Northern Illinois, so we know not to take anything for granted), how would the fanbase feel about a 3-2 Nebraska coming off a blowout loss in Columbus after a 4-8 season?

Again, this is not to say that this dystopian future will happen. It’s not even to say that it’s likely – I think it’s not, to be honest. But can you look at where Nebraska’s been since the 2001 version of Black Friday and say that outcome is impossible, or even preposterous?

And even If the situation isn’t that dire, fans are still fans. Eventually, Frost the prodigal son returned to save the kingdom will become Frost the coach who called the wrong play and cost Nebraska a win. This year – mark it down – there will be a portion of the fanbase that will turn negative.

It’s likely not a big portion, of course, and Nebraska having success early will put those nattering nabobs of negativity far out of the spotlight.

But this has been a traumatized fanbase, rent asunder by the firing of Frank Solich, abused and taken advantage of by Steve Pederson, willfully divided and antagonized by Bo Pelini, incompetently managed by Shawn Eichorst, and historically failed by Mike Riley. Yeah, I know, it’s only a game. But that’s a lot of trauma (in relative terms) for a fan base to absorb, especially one for whom Nebraska football is such a core part of its identity.

Winning, of course, makes that trauma go away. But continued lack of success – and how much and for what length of time is the great experiment upon which we are all embarking – will bring those demons to the surface.

Abraham Lincoln himself – the namesake of the school’s home town – said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Possibly the greatest danger to Frost being successful as Nebraska head coach is if that success does not come quickly enough, and a critical mass of that traumatized fanbase ends up giving up on hoping in Frost, turning in with negativity, and destroying itself.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: Why an Eight-Win Season in 2018 Isn’t Out of the Question for the Cornhuskers

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Long-time columnist Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star tried – unsuccessfully – to talk himself out of predicting an eight-win season for Nebraska in 2018.

There’s plenty of reasons to be doubtful of Nebraska getting to eight wins next year. Primarily, NU is coming off a 4-8 season last year, and going from four wins to eight would be a massive jump. Nebraska has an entirely new coaching staff, and will be learning an entirely new offensive and defensive structure. Nebraska’s starting quarterback will almost assuredly be either redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia or true freshman Adrian Martinez, neither of which have played a down of college football.

Sipple listed a number of reasons, including the departure of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, the depth of the running backs, the strength of the wide receivers, and the track record of new head coach Scott Frost as causes for his optimism. All of those are well founded.

But Sipple didn’t mention another reason why Husker Fan might allow a little irrational exuberance to creep into the imagination as the new season dawns. Here are the five-year recruiting averages for all of Nebraska’s 2018 opponents, as compiled by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly.

Akron 124
Colorado 57
Troy 102
Michigan 22
Purdue 69
Wisconsin 35
Northwestern 53
Minnesota 48
Ohio State 2
Illinois 59
Michigan State 23
Iowa 46

Nebraska’s five-year recruiting average is no. 25. That means only three teams on NU’s 2018 schedule (Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State) have better overall talent than Nebraska.

Now, I can hear all kinds of objections being raised to this analysis. First of all, I know a bunch of you are going to be telling me that recruiting ratings are just guessing games, and that the stars don’t matter.

Well, you’re wrong. Sure, for individual players, a five-star rating isn’t a guarantee of stellar performance. But the five-year averages are looking at recruiting in the aggregate, and the numbers are pretty hard to ignore. According to Stuart Mandel,

Power 5 teams (of which there are 65) that consistently recruit Top 20 classes have a 60 percent chance of becoming a Top 20 program and a 35 percent chance of regularly inhabiting the Top 10.

By contrast, Power 5 teams that finish outside the Top 20 in recruiting have a lower than 18 percent chance of fielding Top 20 teams and just a 6.7 percent chance of reaching the Top 10.

There’s no perfect gauge, of course, for determining a team’s talent level. But given how predictive recruiting averages are to a team’s performance, those averages are as close as we can get to quantifying talent levels.

In other words …

Now, the other argument I can hear is probably much stronger. Sure, talent level matters, but it ain’t everything. Wisconsin is ten spots below Nebraska in the five-year recruiting average, and is 6-1 against NU since Nebraska joined the B1G. Iowa is 21 spots below Nebraska, and has beaten NU in three straight games by an aggregate score of 124-44. Northwestern (no. 53) beat Nebraska last year. Heck, even Minnesota (no. 48) hung 54 on Nebraska last year.

So obviously, just because Nebraska has better on-paper talent than teams on its schedule is no guarantee of victory. Coaching, home field, system familiarity and fit, injuries, and any other number of variables go into that equation as well.

But looking at the recruiting averages gives you at least some gauge of how the teams stack up on paper. And because Nebraska stacks up well against a number of its opponents from a recruiting average standpoint, analysts like Sipple can at least make an argument how a new coaching staff and new structures can help erase the deficits in other areas and make games against teams like Wisconsin and Iowa winnable.

Now, is an eight-win season for Nebraska likely? I tend to think not, and that six wins should be the target for Frost’s first season.

But the recruiting averages (and the points Sipple makes) at least makes the case for an eight-win 2018 a colorable one.

GBR, baby.

Nebraska Football: New Cornhuskers Uniforms A Step Backwards (And A Bold Proposal)

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It had to happen. This run of feel-good perfection couldn’t last forever.

After Scott Frost was announced as Nebraska’s new head football coach in December of last year, everything has been sunshine and rainbows in HuskerLand. The prodigal son has come home, and with his return it’s only a matter of time before Nebraska football returns to glory.

With this focus on the past, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that adidas has tweaked Nebraska’s uniforms for the upcoming season

Notice anything different? There are a few changes (like no “N” on the hip of the home pants and the “Winning Tradition” patch higher up on the jersey) but it looks like there is one big modification.

The stripes are gone from the pants.

I’ll admit, it’s not entirely clear from adidas’ marketing whether the stripes are gone. But it sure looks like it, and it makes sense if their going for a nineties-era vibe for Nebraska under Frost.

After all, when Nebraska was the most dominant program in college football, NU was rocking the stripeless pants. When Tommie Frazier was galloping through an exhausted Florida defense, he was doing so sans stripe. When Frost himself was advocating to give “Tom Osborne, that great man, a national championship … at least a share” after vanquishing Peyton Manning’s Volunteers, he did so without a stitch of a strip on his legs.

So why, you may ask, shouldn’t Nebraska throw its pants back to the nineties and lay claim to that heritage.

I’ll tell you why, dear reader. Because it looks terrible.

Nebraska went stripeless-pants for an alternate uniform last year, against Wisconsin, so we’ve got some recent evidence to compare. Here’s what the scarlet and cream look like both with stripes and without.

I get the nostalgia. I get the yearning for better days. But clear your head for just a moment and look at these pictures. The stripes on the pants just objectively look better. They provide length and color agreement. Football pants without stripes are just blobs of shiny color.

The NFL knows this to be true. Check out the Gridiron Uniform Database, and you’ll find there’s only two uniform sets in the whole league that go without stripes – the Baltimore Ravens home uniform and the New Orleans Saints alternate blacks.

Or, as the definitive UniWatch blog refers to them, yoga pants.

Take the Saints, for example.

You can see how gorgeous the Saints’ uniforms look with well-designed pants – meaning pants with stripes on them – compared to the yoga pants.

Yes, I know that Nebraska went stripeless in the nineties, and we all want that era of Nebraska football back. But in the nineties, we also thought that platform shoes and brightly-colored windbreakers looked good, that Limp Bizkit’s cover of “Faith” rocked, and that “Batman and Robin” was as good as a superhero movie could get.

We know better now. For the love of heaven, Husker Fan, don’t let your desperation for a return to college football glory blind you to the sartorial catastrophe about to befall Nebraska Football.

#savethestripes

You want a uniform modification that really moves things forward? Here’s my humble proposal.

Right now, Nebraska uses pretty standard block numerals, which makes sense given the “Iron N” logo they’ve adopted.

But it doesn’t really match with the skinny N on the helmet. On the helmet, you have a thin sans-serifed N, and then a heavy, block numeral. It doesn’t really match.

So how do you fix it? You sure as heck aren’t going to mess with the N on the helmet. So what do you do?

The answer is there already. Look closer at the gorgeous numerals Nebraska has worn on the back of its helmets for ages.

DSC06663

Why not import those numerals onto the uniform itself? Then everything from pants to jersey to helmet would all match. Plus, Nebraska would be cleaning up its look, but would be giving a nod to its history by mimicking the numbers on the historic Stadium Clock inside Memorial Stadium (just ignore the goofball with the two awesome kids standing in front of it).

IMG_20171124_182051

Here’s a terrible, terrible Photoshop of what the uniform alteration might look like.

NU Prototype

This is the past Nebraska should be embracing – with stripes on its pants as it comes out of the tunnel.

GBR, baby.