Maybe it was that Iowa thought it was playing Tommy Frazier, and thus rose to such an occasion. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is no Frazier, just like Ryker Fyfe is no Armstrong. Pulling reserve QB Patrick OíBrienís red shirt was out of the question on the last game of the regular season.
If you thought a 40-10 shellacking to the Hawkeyes was a disaster, what if Fyfe or Zack Darlington had played? Or, maybe it was the pink walls in the visitorís locker room at Iowa City. According to the psychologists who suggested it, pink diminishes aggression, even reducing muscular strength. Come to think of it, these Huskers looked like the lackluster, hard-luck teams from years past, the 20 or so years, the team has been suffering a championship drought.
Or, maybe, it was the Thanksgiving feast, and the accompanying refreshments. You know those college kids who think their bodies are resilient enough to bounce back from downing a 12-pack the night before a game. Yeah, Iíve heard the stories about undisciplined teams, and theyíll turn around and tell you, thatís how rumors get started. Certainly, this couldnít be true about this yearís team, not when thereís so much riding on it.
First, thereís honoring late punter Sam Foltz, or maybe a memorial season ended before it ended. Maybe, it was the spate of significant injuries (excuses, excuses). Tommyís good to go. Then, Tommyís hurt again. Then, thereís pride, reputation, the rebuilding of a program that was tough as nails under Coach Tom Osborne. The undefeated 1997 team was called ďunstoppable.Ē Pundits remark, being nice just doesnít cut it. Coach Mike Riley is about the nicest guy youíll ever meet, but maybe, just maybe, contrary to what most folks believe about Osborne, he was a coach first, and probably one of the most zealous butt kickers ever enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame (he was inducted in 1999), but hey, what do I know?
I do know this, you canít just be good enough, not in this league, not in the Big Ten, which has proven to be exceptional at the Blue-Collar approach, in which the motto should be, ĎEmbrace the Suck,í and get ready to get your bell rung every Saturday for three months. By Week 12, your opponents have seen everything, your entire playbook, believe me, which includes gathering all the player intelligence Ė you know tendencies, psyching the other guy out, the trash talkers, who holds, who trips, who bites, who scratches. Iowa didnít need an intelligence report on Armstrong Jr., except that he wasnít Frazier, and his hamstring was going to keep him from having the advantage of using his legs. Forget about what he did against Minnesota, single-handedly scoring three TDs and all. One guy does not make a team, but this guy Ö Then Nebraskaís linebackers ghosted, the defense gave up, allowing the early scoring, which probably led to Iowa believing Ö let me say that again Ö BELIEVING they could win. That was a psychological ploy, too. Somehow, some way, someone forgot to tell the rest of the Huskers this would be a dog fight, and, oh, by the way, you have a good chance of going to the title game if Wisconsin loses. Or, maybe you thought Wisconsinís victory over the Gophers was a foregone conclusion. And, I guess if someone did tell the team, they just didnít believe it.
Meanwhile, somewhere, Faux Pelini is laughing his butt off. The real (Bo knows) Pelini came away with several nine-win seasons. So, did Riley at Oregon State. I got to admit, 9-3 is better than 5-7 though, mathematically, but compare the body of work, and quality play with the other Nebraska teams over the past 20 years. OK, gentle pat on the head to this yearís squad. Iím proud of them for a few momentary flashes of fight. Overall, Iím giving Armstrong a pass.
No? Not good enough? At some point, the Huskers have to get mad, they have to get downright pissed off, if they want to win, but keep in mind, the operative word is want. Yes, having the desire to go out and hurt someone! Obviously, Iowa got the memo. This game meant something to them. To beat Michigan, then Ohio State, Michigan State, and not just Wisconsin or Iowa, Nebraska needs to do some serious soul searching this off season. I honestly donít care about a bowl game this year. Sure, I want to see the Huskers win, but this ainít league play. In the grand scheme of things, it doesnít matter where any team is ranked after the final down of the season is played, except for those teams in the playoffs (four teams who outlasted the rest, or just got lucky).
Speaking of Ö It looks like Jim Harbaugh talked Michigan out of a spot, and Washington crept in suggesting the committee wanted to appease the PAC-12. But itís not over Ďtil itís over, not until the large opera lady sings, is it over. Washington could lose to Colorado. Penn State could lose to Wisconsin. Could there be a possible three Big Ten teams in the top four? Not on your life, not if the current playoffs system hasnít been given a fair chance at causing its first valid arguments since it went into effect in 2014. Nah, give it at least 10 years for an imperfect system to show even more flaws.
Hereís my idea for a proposed revamping of the system. To heck with the bowls. Shorten the non-conference games to two (coaches, choose opponents that are worth your time). Donít rank teams until the sixth week, but when you do, combine AP and Coaches polls, strength of schedule to that point, paying close attention to interleague play. Halfway through the season, teams will have played four conference games, enough to establish a pecking order, and leave the last four games to a mini-playoffs in each major conference, and voila, each of those conferences sends a worthy, undisputed representative, filling an eight-team playoffs bracket, giving three other non-Power Five conferences teams, a chance at an upset. Then, you could truly pick among those non-Power Fives based on their resume, and what they have done lately. Some teams like Iowa and Michigan State actually got better.
Which brings us back to the Huskers and what they have done lately? Or the opposite, what havenít they done? Bring all the talent you want to Lincoln. It wonít make a pile of corn to anyone unless they can be coached up, and not misled about the hard-knock Big Ten. Then, try to avoid what happened under Pelini, you canít hope to win the big games. You have to actually win the big games. Or, behind curtain No. 3, the Huskers could apply to join the Mountain West. By the way, the latest projections have Nebraska traveling to Florida to play a team from the SEC in one of those fruit bowls. I have beads of sweat on my forehead when someone says this is to ďsalvage to the season.Ē
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