Mad Chatter: It's time to treat Nebraska football like a healthy human again; Bill Snyder is hurting his legacy; college basketball's no-name stars

Six weeks ago, Nebraska football was sicker than a dog and everyone was in soothing parent mode. Don’t say a harsh word! Don’t blame anyone! We just need to group hug and ride this out. Saturday’s loss at Ohio State represented the transition zone. It’s time to turn back the clocks. To be more blunt: It’s time to win football games again.

You know that feeling when your kid is sick and they've been up half the night and there’s half-used tissues all over the living room and half-eaten crackers all over the couch and if you scrubbed the room for germs you’d find 10 different strands of Middle Age plagues.

A working parent isn’t equipped to play nurse all day. When will life get back to normal? Just about the time you start wondering, maybe two days later, you start to see the fire in that child’s eyes again. You start seeing real food go into their mouth without coming out 30 minutes later. You start hearing laughter. 

But there’s always a moment in this natural progression — a transition zone — when the empathetic nurse leaves and the disciplinary parent returns. When you stop asking, “Are you OK, buddy? Do you want me to snuggle you?” and start saying, “OK, stop watching TV. You’re going back to school tomorrow.”

Six weeks ago, Nebraska football was sicker than a dog and everyone was in soothing-parent mode. Don’t say a harsh word! Don’t blame anyone! We just need to group hug and ride this out!

I was no different. 

Back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Bethune-Cookman revealed a little fire and laughter. And Saturday’s loss at Ohio State represented the transition zone. It’s time to turn back the clocks. To be more blunt: It’s time to win football games again.

This is a good thing. This represents progress. This is a compliment to Scott Frost’s coaching and his players’ resolve. 

I feel the need to write it because in the wake of Ohio State I found a lot of fans more impressed than disappointed, more satisfied than frustrated. They weren’t quite content with another moral victory, but they weren’t bothered by a huge opportunity lost. In short, they were still thinking like Indiana fans. 

Weekly progress, many indicated, is all we need to feel good. The wins are just bonuses. 

Coaches and players don’t feel that way anymore. Fans should follow their lead. I recognize that Husker fans have been through hell the past 14 months. And that a big part of them is just relieved not to lose 62-3 at the Horseshoe.

Saturday should be the end of a mini-era of dread and fear. Nebraska had a chance to beat Urban Meyer on his home field. A chance to jolt the college football world, rock the Big Ten hierarchy, show Ohio State (and Michigan and everyone else) that the days of laughing at Nebraska are over. 

As Frost said today, "Life doesn't give you that many chances and when you get them you have to take advantage of them."

The Huskers didn’t. It’s not the same agony as losing back-to-back Big 12 title games in the final minute. It’s not the same agony as going to Wisconsin undefeated in 2016 and losing in overtime. But the loss should still cut deeply. It should still leave Husker fans feeling empty.

Sure, it’s nice to hear Meyer say this:

“I get that that was a two-win team, but that’s a two-win team that people don’t want to play right now. On videotape, I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw: very good players, very good scheme, and guys who are going to get very good.”

That’s a notable statement, especially in contrast to what Michigan said about the Huskers. But NU is capable of more than compliments.

The fourth quarter of Frost's first season features three winnable games, and while 5-7 is nothing to boast about, it’s certainly on the table. Losses should be treated as losses, not “almost wins.” 

It's not asking too much. In 2008, first-year coach Bo Pelini won his last four games. In 2015, first-year coach Mike Riley won three of the last four. Frost can do it, too.

The patient is off the couch. It’s time to return to healthy expectations.

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» Not that anyone noticed, but in a battle for purple supremacy Saturday, TCU edged Kansas State, 14-13. It’s the latest setback for Bill Snyder, who, at 3-6, is facing his worst season since 2004. But it isn’t just the losing in Manhattan; it’s the unnecessary and unusual drama.

Vahe Gregorian, star columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes today that it’s time for Snyder to retire (again). The evidence, aside from wins and losses, is hard to dispute:

For more than a year now, Snyder unbecomingly and uncharacteristically has flung under the bus the “youngsters” — as he likes to call them — he’s entrusted with guiding and so often has nurtured with the right sort of tough love:

Remember last year, when receiver Corey Sutton sought his release from scholarship and got it only after a protracted battle with Snyder? No doubt inflamed by Sutton’s ridiculously over-the-top reference to K-State being a “slave master,” Snyder inappropriately made public a private matter.

“There’s a young man who’s been in trouble twice, tested positive twice,” he said before a Catbackers function in Overland Park. “I’ve never kept a player in our program who has tested positive two times. Drug testing. We have some rules in our athletic department that allowed that to happen at this time.”

At the time, it seemed like a rare lapse by Snyder. And, yes, we should all consider that he was in the middle of treatment for throat cancer. And it’s worth remembering that he later apologized.

But now it’s hard to separate that from all this:

After the 35-6 loss at West Virginia, Snyder said, “I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches on a play.” Following the 51-14 loss to Oklahoma, Snyder said his defense tackled like kindergarteners.

Then, moments after the loss to TCU, Snyder was asked about multiple special teams issues and said, “Well, it wasn’t special teams as much as it was an individual. You take away the turnover that gave them the winning touchdown, and we’re talking about a different thing right now.”

No doubt there’s a fine line between holding people accountable and motivating them. But it’s easy to see a difference between coddling and willfully publicly embarrassing players, in this case Isaiah Zuber, especially from a coach who always has been apt to absorb their shortfalls as his own.

Now, it’s just part of some other puzzling disconnects in a season that has included the oddity of Snyder making a change at quarterback in the West Virginia game without so much as telling offensive coordinator Andre Coleman and quarterbacks coach Collin Klein ahead of time.

Nearly 30 players have left the team the last two seasons for reasons other than graduation, recruiting has been tepid and indications are that the blind faith Snyder once enjoyed has eroded.

» “Tom Herman is the biggest jackass in college football.” Hey, I didn’t write it; The Big Lead did

I'll agree with this much: Don’t flash that silly hand gesture everywhere you go, Coach, if you can’t handle a little mockery.

» We’re basically at halftime of the NFL season and I see four teams that can win the Super Bowl, probably in this order: 

Rams

Chiefs

Saints

Patriots

Pittsburgh barely misses that group, I think. This feels like a strange, top-heavy year in the NFL. Houston, Carolina and Los Angeles Chargers have six wins apiece, but they look like pretenders. The Eagles, Packers and Jags have disappointed.

Actually, the NFC East is so bad it might just decide not to produce a division champ. The Redskins lost two offensive line starters for the season Sunday, including Brandon Scherff.

Bill Callahan may have to suit up and play guard.

» I’ll have a hoops-focused blog coming later in the week, but college basketball starts Tuesday with the Nebraska, Creighton and UNO men all in action — the Mavs at Minnesota is the most interesting of those openers.

The biggest games of the night are in Indianapolis: Kansas-Michigan State and Duke-Kentucky. I’m not sure who had the bright idea to kick off college basketball on election night, but that’s a beef for another day. 

Instead, allow me to focus on ESPN’s preseason All-American team:

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

R.J. Barrett, Duke

Caleb Martin, Nevada

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Now, I’ll admit I don’t watch as much college basketball as I did 20 years ago. I'll also hypothesize that Barrett won't be the only freshman on the postseason All-America team.

But good grief, has the sport ever entered a season with fewer household names? How many sports fans in America could identify all five of those guys if they showed up in a local gym? How many could even name what team they play for?

No wonder college basketball has become like Major League Baseball, a sport in which fans still care deeply about their local team, but don’t pay much attention to the national landscape, at least not until March.

» Finally, it's only the first week of November, but the Sacramento Kings (6-4) have a better record than the Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Lakers and Rockets.

And people say the American Dream is dead.