Before we cover the bases on another wild football weekend, a thought on scheduling.
This is the nightmare scenario. This is the reason that coaches want to play directional schools the whole month of September. You make a few missteps, fail to defend a Hail Mary, stumble out of the gate in 100-degree heat at Miami and — Boom! — you’re 1-2.
In 2008, with a new head coach, Nebraska opened the season against Western Michigan, San Jose State and New Mexico State. That’s the type of schedule a new coach wants.
This season is probably NU’s toughest three-game slate since 2007, when the Huskers faced Nevada, Wake Forest and USC. That’s no excuse for Mike Riley’s stumbles, but it demonstrates that in college football, your flaws are covered up when you schedule soft.
Big-time programs have begun scheduling more aggressively, partly because of the college football playoff. That’s good. But you’re going to see more teams starting 1-2.
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>> Lee Barfknecht’s Big Ten Monday rankings are always worth a read, but I took particular interest this morning. Why? Because handicapping the Big Ten West is like participating in a turtle race.
That’s not completely meant as a dig at the contenders. It’s more a commentary on how unpredictable the whole thing is.
A month ago, it was basically considered a three-team race: Wisconsin, Minnesota or Nebraska?
But Iowa is 3-0 (with a rousing win over Pitt Saturday) and the division’s best team has been Northwestern. The Wildcats, based on pure accomplishment, probably deserve a Top-10 ranking. Their Stanford win looks even better after the Cardinal upset USC.
This is legitimately a five-team race. (Think of it like the junior-varsity version of the SEC West).
Minnesota has the toughest crossover schedule (Michigan, at Ohio State). And no offense.
Iowa has the easiest crossover schedule (Maryland, at Indiana). But the Hawks face three of the Big Ten West contenders on the road (Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska).
Northwestern’s crossovers (at Michigan, Penn State) aren’t easy. Same for Nebraska, which draws Michigan State.
The favorite? It’s still probably Wisconsin with its easy crossovers (Rutgers, at Maryland). But all that changes if the Badgers stumble out of the blocks. Their first two Big Ten games are home against Iowa and at Nebraska.
>> Email from Alan:
"I did notice that your analysis of our weakness did not include QB. Nebraska is not going to return to the elite level with a QB who has a career 50.3% completion average with numerous turnovers. Even if you exclude the dropped passes in the 1st Qtr he still completes only 48% last night. Way too low for an elite college team. And the turnovers in the end zone are indicative of what I'm saying. I thought Mike Riley had it right at the beginning of the season when he said we needed to keep Tommy Armstrong in situations where he could be the most successful. I didn't see that last night."
I think you’re being a little too hard on Tommy. Yes, his completion percentage was low, but his receivers dropped half a dozen balls and he was running for his life most of the day. He made some incredible plays out of nothing. What concerns me about Armstrong is that he thinks he’s invincible sometimes. He doesn’t make the easy throw when it’s there. And when he gets in a rhythm, it only emboldens him to take bigger risks.
Look at the interception in overtime. Armstrong is 40 yards away from the receiver. There are two Miami defensive backs closing in from different directions. Armstrong’s only chance was A) to have Aaron Rodgers’ arm strength, which he obviously doesn’t; or B) to throw the ball into the absolute back corner of the end zone, which still would’ve taken a heckuva throw considering Armstrong was rolling out hard.
It just wasn’t gonna happen. But because Armstrong had made so many plays late in the fourth quarter, he thought he could pull it off. It was, coincidentally, a Brett Favre mistake.
>> The Misery Index starts in Auburn. Hey, remember which Top-10 team I picked to finish unranked? Yep, Auburn. (Of course, I also picked Boise State to finish in the Top 10).
>> It’s not panic time in Tuscaloosa, but the Tide is showing signs of slipping back to the pack, Pat Forde writes.
>> Last year, Kirk Ferentz lost to Iowa State because he called timeout and gave the Cyclone kicker a mulligan. Now Pat Narduzzi lost a game doing the same thing. Hey coaches, stop it! It helps the kicker more than it hurts him. You want to ice him? Then ice him. Don’t give him a practice shot.
>> Remember when we thought Tim Beck had the cushiest job in college football? Ohio State, after another sub-par offensive effort Saturday, can’t settle on a starting quarterback.
>> Remember when Texas was good at football? Now the 'Horns are missing extra points and losing to Cal. My goodness, it’s like they’ve experienced five years of bad karma since the 2009 Big 12 championship game.
>> The Big Ten would be way more fun if Bret Bielema was still here.
>> Quick Twitter poll (vote here): Do you like red pants or white pants when the Huskers go on the road? We’ll address this topic in Wednesday’s blog.
>> Five quick takes from the NFL week two:
1. Only two games in, look at how many teams have already pulled the Jekyll-and-Hyde routine. Titans. 49ers. Bills. Bucs. Raiders. Redskins. It’s the rule of the NFL. The most important bounceback? Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston (and GM Jason Licht, a Nebraska native) really needed that win at New Orleans.
2. Of the 2-0 teams, only Carolina might be a fluke. New England, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Arizona look salty.
3. Eight NFL teams are 0-2. They include the Ravens, Seahawks and Eagles. What a riveting league. Who’s most likely to come back and make the playoffs? Seattle.
4. The NFC East is the new NFC South. That’s not a compliment. The Giants and Redskins stink. The Cowboys are missing their two most important pieces (Romo and Dez). Something’s not right in Philly. Chip Kelly totally fell on his face Sunday. And DeMarco Murray looks like a bad fit.
5. Ndamukong Suh is reportedly going off script in Miami.
The Miami Herald has learned that Suh freelanced at times Sunday, creating confusion on the defense. By taking matters into his own hands, the Dolphins’ $114 million man took a bad situation and made it worse.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Suh said, when asked to explain his uninspired play. “At the end of the day, we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we want to run so guys can make plays and go from there.”
>> I got to thinking about the Packers and Seahawks last night. Since 2000 (we’ll set an arbitrary timeline), which NFL team would’ve been the easiest/most fun to root for?
Is it the Packers or Colts with two franchise QBs apiece, one Super Bowl win and consistent playoff appearances? Is it Seattle with the emergence of the “12s” and three Super Bowl appearances? Is it Pittsburgh or Baltimore, the old-school black-and-blue powers? Or is it New England, winner of four Super Bowls? You might say the Patriots are obvious, but it would get old defending Belichick and Co. to your buddies.
Most respondents chose New England, but that's a lot of baggage to carry around.
>> Does Jason Day, the new world No. 1, remember Omaha? According to this email from Maurice, he does. Playing at the 2007 Cox Classic, Day shot 28 on the back nine Saturday, then followed it with a front-nine 29 Sunday. So here we go, back to Maurice:
“In the Canadian winters, my wife and I live in Sydney where I am a member at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. In recent years we have hosted a number of Australian Opens, most recently two years ago when Rory beat Adam Scott on the last hole.
In these events I have been on the shuttle driving team, driving the players and caddies the long distance from the practice area to the 10th tee on the first two days and back after their rounds finished on 9. On the second day, I had Jason and his caddy Col Swotton in my cart. Mindful of the admonition of not talking to the golfers unless they initiated the conversation, I confined my comments, sotto voce, to Swotton who was seated in the front seat alongside me.
Trying to speak softly and not knowing exactly where Jason was seated, I told Swotton about first encountering Jason when I heard about the two sub-30 rounds and asked him if he remembered where it was. Swotton was a bit non-committal and said he didn't remember which I found unusual. Then a voice boomed up from the seat behind us. "It was Omaha!" said Jason, apparently listening to our conversation.”
>> I wouldn’t say Golf has a “Big 3” yet. You have to prove it in majors over the long haul. But Day’s emergence over the past month certainly puts him on par with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. It’s reminiscent of the “Big 3” in tennis. Here me out:
McIlroy = Federer. They’re the naturals, the guys who can do things nobody else can do. When they’re on, there’s nothing better in the sport.
Spieth = Nadal. They’re the bulldogs, the guys who never relent. When they’re on, they never give the opponent room to breathe.
Day = Djokovic. A little late to the party, but my goodness, once they arrived they arrived, blowing the other two out of the water with consistency.
You could even take it one step further and add No. 4: Andy Murray = Rickie Fowler. Capable but not as consistent.
Tennis is a very different sport. When the “Big 3” is rolling, Federer, Nadal or Djokovic is guaranteed to win every tournament. That’s not true in golf. But it will be fun to see some actual rivalries emerge. With Day, Spieth and McIlroy, I think we’re getting there.
>> What a weekend at the Solheim Cup. I realize the women’s version of the Ryder Cup goes under the radar, but it turned wild after a “Gimme-gate” on the 17th green. Advice for the Euros: If you're not conceding the putt, don't walk off the green like you're trying to catch a plane.
>> Finally, a lighter moment from Mike Riley. We’ll have full coverage of his Monday press conference throughout the afternoon (video here). But just before he took the podium, Riley walked by a plate of unusual Valentino’s pizza in the media room.
“What is that!?” he said.
That’s cherry dessert pizza, Coach.
“That’s my kind of pizza,” Riley said.
He’s slowly becoming a Nebraskan, isn't he.