- Charging Toward Indy?
I was excited to go watch Nebraska play against Michigan yesterday. Not in the same way I was before Nebraska played Texas in the “Red Out Around the World” (let’s not remember how that went), but because this was the biggest conference/division game of the season. If Nebraska lost, they’d have very little chance to win the Legends division. Unlike 2009 or 2010, the face-off for the division race wasn’t against the upstart Missouri Tigers, but a duel with the Michigan Wolverines, a program with a tradition and history equal to, and exceeding Nebraska’s in some areas. This was, after all, why Nebraska came to the Big 10, to annually go toe-to-toe with traditional powers for titles.
Observations of Michigan fans who made the trip to Lincoln: I saw so many #2 Charles Woodson jerseys , I could have puked. Even though Nebraska fans live in the past, you don’t see them wearing #15 Tommie Frazier jerseys. The best accessory by far was a couple of maize-striped, old football helmets I saw. Really, most Michigan fans geek it up in a classy way, without looking like the Notre Dame wannabes I observed last weekend. Of course, there was one fan who was clearly a Chicago stockbroker, who came in an overcoat and a 1930′s style hat, as if he were attending one of those baseball games that we now see on black-and-white reels.
In light of the reports of a ticket scam during the Wisconsin game, I pressed my luck in this game and bought my ticket on the street. Yes, I had a nervous moment when it took a second to scan at the gate, but it did scan. I have principal for buying tickets on the street: recognize the sharps. There are people who are selling tickets just to get rid of them, and there are people selling tickets to make a buck. The older and more tired the seller looks, the better the price. And this ticket happened to be two rows up from the 35 yard line on the Nebraska side, so it was my lucky day.
In this game, I observed most plainly what I saw in the season opener against Southern Miss: a team that executes on offense so different from the rest of the Big 10, it changes what fans demand. It was like watching a business forty years ago versus a business today with the benefit of technology. Throughout the first half, Michigan went up and down the field and dominated time of possession as they did a year ago. Meanwhile, Nebraska was getting nearly as many yards in less time and kept having the Wolverines rush to the line of scrimmage.
That leads me to ask: will it be good for the Big 10 if Nebraska rolls through November, winning four straight and ultimately taking the Big Ten title, zipping around Indianapolis as if they were the greatest show on turf? It might be. Of course, we’ll hear a lot of gripping about how the no-huddle isn’t fair to the defense, but eventually, it will just force schools like Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin to go hire offensive coordinators from SMU and Houston to install quicker attacks and play more exciting football. Remembers, it’s not just Nebraska running this, it’s Ohio State, and they are trouncing Penn State and Nebraska with lesser personnel. Quarterback recruits want to play in passing offenses where they’ll get reps, and the no-huddle will give them more reps in-games.
Which leads to another quarterback observations: I get that guys who are number two quarterbacks transfer all the time, but seriously, both Ohio State and Michigan can’t do better? Last year, it was Joe Bauserman winging balls into the tenth row, this year Russell Bellomy. Due to my lack of twitter in Memorial Stadium (come on, Verizon), I missed some great Bellomauserman tweets. The Buckeye’s predicament was understandable last year, but seriously, Michigan, Dennard Robinson is a senior and runs all over. You shouldn’t have that for a backup quarterback.
As the seconds ticked off the clock, I left the flock of Husker fans leaving Memorial Stadium with a box of free popcorn under my arm, hoping to find a TV with the Notre Dame-Oklahoma game on it, and I settled on Jack’s in the Haymarket. Nebraska has just beaten every power team in the Big 10, and can be claimed among the best teams. They won’t be extremely disadvantaged in any game yet this year. This team isn’t great, but in 2009, Pelini took a team that had no offense that was 4-3 and won six of his last seven in an offensive league. This team has improved on defense much more than that team, and as long as they can not make a huge mistake at the wrong time, they’ll be on their way to Indy. Watching Sports Center in the middle of a chaotic post-game bar crowd, I think I can finally say that Husker fans are getting close to what they expect from their coach and team.