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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable

Here are my responses to the latest BlogPoll Roundtable. It is being hosted this week by Hey Jenny Slater, which is a great blog so go check it out.

1. We're just a few weeks away from the end of the regular season, so everybody should have a pretty good handle on how good their teams are and what sort of records they can expect to finish with. Looking back over the season, which was the game where your team really defined itself in 2006, for good or ill? Or to look at it another way, which game, win or loss, was most representative of your team's attitude and style of play this season?

I’m going to go with the Texas game as the one that best defines our season. It helps that it was the lone game I’ve seen in person this year, but I truly believe it taught us the most about our team. First, we showed that we could compete with a Top 10 team at home. While the game exposed our lack of talent (and/or depth) at certain positions (I’m looking at you OL and secondary), we might just be closing this gap. In addition, while many questioned Callahan’s playcalling against USC, he showed confidence in the players and put them in a position to succeed versus UT. Ultimately I think this led to the defining moment of the season for Nebraska. Whether you agree with the decision to pass on third and short or not - the fact of the matter is, if Terrence Nunn hangs on – we beat Texas. You could argue that Nunn executed poorly in not securing the ball, or that Thorpe Award candidate Aaron Ross made a big-time play with the game on the line. Either way, this play showed me we aren’t quite there…yet.

2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?

I don’t know if they are hugely overrated, but I’m still not sure what to think of Louisville. At the same time, however, I’m not sure what else they could do. They survived the loss of their star QB and RB and just keep winning. I don’t think they would have finished an SEC schedule unblemished, so thus they might be a tad overrated. Wow. Worst. Explanation. Ever. That is why I don’t get paid for this.

Underrated: I don’t know, maybe Hawaii. Of course I haven’t seen them play due to their insanely late kickoff times. They lost to Alabama and Boise State by a touchdown early in the season. Since then they’ve just been down right offensive. If they put it to Oregon State and Purdue late in the season they likely finish 11-2, which would mean they have been underrated by most of us.

3. Did your team play any Division I-AA opponents this year? If so, do you think it benefited your team at all? If you were a coach or an NCAA official, what policy would you have toward scheduling D-IAAs?

Nebraska played I-AA Nicholls State early in the season. I suppose the game benefited the team somewhat in terms of experience and evaluation. I know a lot players got into the game and I can see some utility in having them debut against a team like Nicholls State rather than a USC or Mid-Major U. In addition, the game gave the coaches an opportunity to evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, all four of the running backs got at least five carries in the game and Maurice Purify found the endzone for the first time on the season. Outside of that, the Nicholls State game meant the coaching staff had to prepare for a triple-option attack it would see only once all year, the week before the team headed to USC. So that was clearly an unfortunate side-effect.

The scheduling of lesser opponents has been a hot-button issue among Nebraska fans for years. The company line used to be that it was extremely difficult to get teams to agree to play in Lincoln, as it often meant an early season loss. I suppose that still rings true to some extent, despite our recent struggles. Overall, I guess the bottom-line remains the…bottom-line. I-A teams need home game revenues (and wins) and I-AA teams obviously benefit financially as well. I’d obviously prefer more competitive scheduling, but it is not top on my list of changes I would make to college football.

4. Which not-a-typical-national-powerhouse team (i.e. no Ohio States or USCs) has played well enough this year to set themselves up for a breakout season in '07?

I hate to say it, but Missouri might be on the brink of big things. I think they started one senior on offense against Nebraska and just four seniors on defense. They have talent at the right spots offensively and continue to do a nice job recruiting. I honestly think their biggest obstacle to taking the next step might be their head coach. Pinkel seems to be the type that can coach his team right out of a game. If the balance of power in the vaunted Big 12 North is going to shift back to Nebraska, we may need Mizzou to keep him right where he is.

5. Take a look at your team's bowl prospects this season. Which bowl(s) do you think you have a reasonable shot of ending up in? Of the teams you might likely face in a bowl, which team would you most want to play and why (maybe you've always wanted to see how your team would match up with them, maybe there's an old score you want to settle, or maybe you just want to finish the season with an easy win)? Conversely, which potential opponent would you really like to avoid in a bowl game?

I actually just took a look at this for the first time this week so as to plan my trip home for Christmas. I’m not very good at figuring it all out, but it looks like we have a good shot at either the Holiday Bowl or a return trip to the Alamo Bowl. The Holiday Bowl could end up being a rematch with USC. The Alamo Bowl looks like it could either be Iowa or Purdue. Out of those scenarios I would like to see us play Iowa. Border skirmishes are always fun and what Nebraskan wouldn’t like more ammunition to use against those silly Iowegians?

I think I would like to avoid the rematch with USC. Yes it would be interesting to face them and to see Callahan open up the playbook more this time. However, I still don’t think we match up well with them at all. I mean if I wanted to see a track meet, I would watch…a track meet. But maybe we should just ask Andre Jones who he would prefer us to play.

6. In a roundtable question during the off-season, we were asked whom you'd pick if your current coach fell deathly ill and you had to select another coach to lead your team to victory. Let's turn this around and imagine that you've somehow schemed your way onto the search committee to select your biggest rival's next head coach. Which rival would that be, and which coaching sooper genius would you try to stick them with?

I guess the hardest part of this question is determining who Nebraska’s rival is these days. I suppose the safe answer is Colorado. The hire of Dan Hawkins actually scared me a bit a year ago. I think he can do a lot down the road with the type of talent CU typically brings in. That being said, if I could replace him, I would bring in the unflappable Lou Holtz. The major reason is that this would remove him from his ESPN studio gig, which would allow me to once again enjoy their Saturday coverage. In addition, I like Colorado more when its program is shrouded in controversy and lets face it – when you hear Lou Holtz you obviously think “institutional control”. Lastly, I just like the way Holtz says “Nebrathka”.

*Feel free to post your answers in the comments (In other words, follow Brandon's lead)