The Jim Mora Jr. era at UCLA begins Saturday at the Rose Bowl. But will it seem more like a Nebraska season opener?
Could be a toss-up. According to the Los Angeles Times, UCLA is expecting 55,000 for the game, including the 8,000 tickets bought by NU.
But we all know more than 8,000 folks in red are going to be there. California has the third-most NU alums of any state. At the 2002 Rose Bowl game, officials estimated more than 60,000 Husker fans found their way in.
Last year, UCLA averaged 56,000 per home game. With a new head coach coming off a decisive win in the opener, UCLA might get more than that. You never know. The Dodgers are out of town. But the surf's always up.
So how many Husker fans will get in? There could be some intense ticket negotiations outside the Rose Bowl. Sell your tickets to a Nebraskan, make dinner at Spago by 8.
UCLA is planning fireworks after the game. Plan on some before and during the game, too.
»In four previous season openers under Bo Pelini, Nebraska averaged two turnovers and six penalties for 60 yards. Last Saturday, NU had zero turnovers and two penalties — an offensive pass interference for 16 yards and a defensive pass interference for 14 yards.
Give credit where it's due: That's the cleanest start in the Pelini era. Bo promised clean and he delivered.
• Jeff Jamrog, NU's assistant athletic director for football, had an unpleasant surprise last Friday morning. After speaking at the Big Red Breakfast at the Ramada at 72nd and Grover Streets, Jamrog came out and found his car had been broken into.
The thief, or thieves, cleaned out the car, including various Nebraska helmets and jerseys. Also taken: some important Bo Pelini Foundation files, tickets and sideline passes to the Southern Miss game and Jamrog's golf clubs.
The culprit apparently didn't care about the game. NU officials changed out the tickets and passes that Jamrog had and were waiting for whoever showed up with the stolen ones. The tickets and passes went unused.
• It's only one week but the Legends Division looks a little less daunting for Husker fans. Yes, Michigan State's defense lived up to the hype. But quarterback Andrew Maxwell looked shaky in the Boise opener, shaky enough that coach Mark Dantonio gave workhorse Le'Veon Bell the pig 44 times. Pounding the rock is a good way to beat Boise. But the Spartans will need Maxwell to step up at some point; Bell is going to wear down at that rate.
Michigan won't see another defense like Alabama's. But I wonder about the mental toll of Saturday's blowout loss. Some teams that lose early like that never get over it.
• There are two definitions of “irrelevant” in sports. The TV networks have one and other media has another. The former is more accurate.
For instance, people say Notre Dame is irrelevant. Or Nebraska doesn't have the name brand it used to. Or, the Big Ten is a fading football league.
And yet, NBC continues to love the Irish. Conferences (except the SEC) continue to covet ND. The Nebraska “N” is still powerful enough that NU was the only school invited by the image-conscious Big Ten. Meanwhile, Big Ten ratings and money keep going up even as the conference's losses to the SEC continue to pile up.
In sports, relevance stands for “money” and “ratings.”
• I'm no doctor, but I would be shocked if Dr. Rex Burkhead doesn't clear himself to play this week.
• Love this quote from Frank Solich to the New York Times after Ohio's big win at Penn State on Saturday: “I felt like if I did build this (Ohio U. program) and felt comfortable with it when I got done building it, then I'd feel pretty good about my coaching career.”
Good for Frank. Now, let's see if the Bobcats can win 'em all. That's a pretty friendly schedule.
• Creighton soccer coach Elmar Bolowich had high praise for his goalkeeper — kid named Alex Bolowich — for allowing one goal in two games this weekend, a 1-1 tie with No. 7 Akron and a 3-0 win over Rutgers. It was the first start in goal for the coach's son after freshman Jeff Gal started the opener. Elmar said he will decide on one keeper in the next two weeks and that there's no conflict in his mind about picking his son.
“You have to be objective and I will be,” Elmar said. “When Alex is in goal, I consider him a goalkeeper, not my son. He played for me on my club teams, so this is not new.”
• I have Green Bay winning the Super Bowl this year over Baltimore. Peyton Manning will take the Broncos to the playoffs but lose to Houston. And Brian Billick will be coaching the San Diego Chargers next season.
• Here's an invitation to join me for lunch Tuesday at noon at the Omaha Press Club. I'm starting a monthly “Sports With Shatel” series at the Press Club, still the best view in town, especially now with Creighton's Renaissance Row sprouting up. We'll talk sports over lunch and I hope to bring local coaches and media folks to future lunches. The sports talk is on me today. You're on your own for lunch. I checked and I can't expense it.
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