Mad Chatter: Was 2017 the worst Nebraska defense ever? Will Nick Saban get snubbed? NCAA volleyball

Bob Diaco coached one of the worst defenses in school history in his only season at Nebraska.

If Kevin Cosgrove was the anti-Michael Jordan, then Bob Diaco is the anti-LeBron James.

At least that’s the perception, right? Ten years ago, the Blackshirts seized the everlasting title of worst Nebraska defense of all-time. They were 117th (of 120) nationally in scoring defense and 113th in total defense (yards allowed). 

This year, after a November collapse, Diaco’s D finished 116th (of 129) in scoring defense and 102nd in total defense. 

But I’m here to tell you that 2007 and 2017 are closer than you think. First, here are the hard numbers:

Points allowed per game:

2007: 37.9

2017: 36.4

Yards allowed per game

2007: 476.8

2017: 436.2

Points per possession allowed:

2007: 3.12

2017: 2.80

Statistically, the anti-advantage goes to 2007. But there’s an important hidden variable here. Let’s look at the levels of competition. 

In 2017, Diaco’s D faced only two offenses (Ohio State and Arkansas State) that rank top-25 nationally in total yards. And three offenses (Minnesota, Illinois and Rutgers) that rank among the 10 worst in the country! 

In 2007, Cosgrove’s D faced five of the top 11 offenses in the country. And nobody worse than 103rd. 

Personally, I think giving up 572 yards and 76 points at Kansas in 2007 is less ugly than allowing 514 and 54 at Minnesota in 2017. Or 505 and 56 against Iowa. The Gophers and Hawkeyes are ranked outside the top 100 in total offense.

So maybe 2017 is the worst? I was prepared to say yes, until I examined how much offense has surged in 10 years. Take Oregon, for example. The Ducks rank 20th in scoring and 27th in yards. In 2007, their numbers would’ve ranked 15th and 16th, respectively.

Nebraska’s opponents in 2017, despite their mediocre national rankings, averaged 390.2 yards per game (excluding games against NU). Opponents in 2017 averaged 391.0. The difference in competition isn’t dramatic enough to overcome the statistical differences.

So considering all the evidence, I think the 2007 Blackshirts are still the anti-champion. But it’s close.

Let’s hope we never have this debate again. 

* * *

>> In my Sunday column, I referenced the firing day circuses in 2003 and ’14. I omitted 2007 for brevity, but that’s always inspired a personal and somewhat ridiculous “what if” scenario.

It was Nov. 24, 2007, the morning after Nebraska lost at Colorado, 65-51. My flight from Denver landed late Friday night. I woke up early Saturday morning and hurried to Memorial Stadium for the major news event everybody anticipated: Bill Callahan’s termination.

At 7:20 a.m., Callahan arrives in his black Lexus SUV at a concealed entrance at the north end of the Hawks Center. An athletic department employee opens a gate so he can pass through. Callahan pulls ahead to a garage and honks. The door opens, Callahan pulls in and steps out in a black trench coat.

7:24: Osborne arrives in his white Chevy Tahoe at the same entrance, parking outside the building.

7:34: Callahan backs out of the garage and leaves through the gate, waving at reporters and declining a request to stop. But there was one last reporter he had to pass — me. 

I was standing at the end of a long driveway, his only road out of Nebraska! I could’ve stepped into his path, blocked his Lexus and prompted a comment. Or a fight.

Imagine the headlines! “Crazed coach runs over idiot reporter.” Instead, I wimped out and let him go. Callahan left and, for all I know, never set foot on campus again. 

I thought about it again Saturday waiting for Mike Riley to walk out of Memorial Stadium. He’d backed into parking spot 193 in front of the Champions Center — his silver hybrid Prius with Oregon license plates ready go. Would he stop and address the media? Would he leave the stadium during Moos’ press conference so he didn’t have to?

True to Riley’s character, he didn’t just stop for the cameras, he came to the press conference! For three years, I’ve been seeking the perfect example of Riley’s class, the perfect anecdote to share with strangers who ask about him. Finally, I found it. 

It’s quite a parting image.

>> Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous that Scott Frost would’ve sealed the deal on a move to Nebraska before Thanksgiving, especially with all the distractions in his life, especially without even listening to Florida.

But listening to Bill Moos talk on Saturday, it’s very possible he was so transparent and so casual because he’d already locked up his coach. 

Comment on other coaches like Kevin Sumlin and Chris Petersen? Sure, why not. I’m not hiring them anyway. 

The only time Moos seemed awkward is when asked about meeting Frost in Philadelphia last weekend. It’s possible they got a deal done there. Food for thought.

>> Can a college football playoff really exist without Alabama? Nick Saban may be on the outside looking in, but I think it’s temporary. If one of two things happens Saturday — Wisconsin or Oklahoma loses — the Tide will make the cut. And they’ll be mad enough to win it all. 

>> Man, there’s a strange irony to Mike Riley getting fired on the same day that Chip Kelly returns to college football. Kelly’s Oregon machine was partly responsible for Riley’s demise at Oregon State. 

UCLA is the perfect fit for Kelly — fans in Los Angeles will leave him alone. However, I’m skeptical if Kelly’s offense can pick up where it left off in 2012. College football has changed and Kelly’s up-tempo spread isn’t the novelty it once was. He’ll need to keep innovating. He’s had plenty of time to think about how. 

>> Andy Staples on the lessons of Tennessee’s Greg Schiano mess. Don’t forget the opinions of your consumers.

>> Dan Wetzel on the allegations that Greg Schiano knew about Jerry Sandusky. Maybe it’s true, but there’s very little basis.

>> What happened to the Kansas City Chiefs?!? The team that beat New England and Philadelphia has lost to the Giants and Bills in consecutive games. The AFC is not exactly outstanding. 

>> Yes, Nebraska volleyball deserved a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament bracket. But if I was John Cook, I’d feel pretty good about these next three weekends. 

One, your team is fresher than a year ago when winning the Big Ten championship (the final weekend, especially) zapped every ounce of energy Nebraska had. The 2016 Huskers were running on fumes in December. 

Two, it’s a new group chasing glory for the first time, rather than an old group defending its national title. That’s a good thing.

And three, Nebraska’s draw is not daunting. There’s no Penn State coming to Lincoln on the first weekend, like last year. And if you have to go on the road, Kentucky is probably the place you’d choose. 

>> Back in 2009, Creighton volleyball opened D.J. Sokol Arena with a 14-17 season. Eight years later, Kirsten Bernthal Booth’s program is hosting first- and second-round matches in the same building. 

The Jays have been taking small steps for a long time, most notably last year’s regional final appearance. But come Friday at 7 p.m., this one will feel like a stomp.

Making the Final Four is a long shot, especially with Penn State waiting in the Elite Eight. But still, the No. 9 overall seed is another boost for the program.

Why did the Jays get so much love from the committee? Probably because of a three-set win back on Sept. 1 over Kentucky.

Maybe the Jays and Huskers can work out a deal. Creighton gives Nebraska tips on beating Kentucky. Nebraska shares the secrets of winning at Penn State.

>> Finally, one more Nebraska football thought. Back in August, I thought 2017 was going to be one of those seasons and then the roof caved in. What I've learned is that stuff always happens.

But what was the season when the least amount of stuff happened. The most forgettable season of my lifetime? Not worst season. I'm talking about the season that produced the least news. The smallest imprint on the history of the program. The season you barely remember.

My memory goes back about 30 years.

I considered 2000, the least memorable of the Solich years (even though Nebraska was No. 1 early). I considered 2006. Aside from the Texas heartbreaker, it was all pretty inconsequential. I considered 2013, the year Bo Pelini almost got fired. 

My final answer, however, is 1989: Marked by an awful schedule, a close loss at Colorado and a blowout loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Zero wins over ranked teams. Zero big news. Zero long-term impact on the program. Even the Oklahoma game was boring. 

I can say all that now. At the time, I was 8 years old and I probably lived and died with every snap. 

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Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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