All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.
On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to Pick Six Previews' Brett Ciancia about his 2019 record prediction for the Huskers, which bowl game he projects NU to play in, his College Football Playoff teams and more.
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Here's a transcript from today's show:
Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, The People’s Show, where I’m checking the pulse of Husker Nation, brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today, I am joined by the man who has had the most-accurate predictions for the better part of a decade — over the last seven years since 2012 — Mr. Brett Ciancia of Pick Six Previews.
He’s had the most-accurate preseason predictions, and we’re talking about better than publications like Sports Illustrated, Athlon and all these other publications out there. They do a magnificent job, but he’s done a slightly more accurate job over the past seven years.
We’re gonna talk a little Husker football. Brett’s gonna get out his crystal ball, and we’re gonna ask Brett about what he sees for the Huskers this season, but first… How are you doing, my friend?
Brett Ciancia: Yeah, I’m doing great, Adam, thanks for having me on the show, I really appreciate it.
Adam Carriker: Thanks for joining me. Now, for seven years you’ve been doing this, you have a certain way you do it. So tell the fans. How do you come up with these accurate preseason predictions? What sets you apart, what makes you a little different than those other fine folks out there who do a great job, but you’ve been slightly better than over the past seven years?
Brett Ciancia: Thanks! So yeah, my 2019 preseason book is the end result of about 1,000 hours worth of work. 100s of hours of it is game film, spring games, talking to coaches, calling coordinators, really getting into local media and podcasts. I like to get to the root of information, staying away from national guys who only cover a couple teams here or there. I have a lot of respect for the analytics guys out there, but it would be hard to put out a book with a bunch of acronyms and equations that no one would understand. I have my own analytics, but I put them in a readable format and terms that football guys would enjoy. The feedback has been pretty strong, so far.
Adam Carriker: Okay, so I think what a lot of guys do, and there’s nothing wrong with this, but they look at last year’s final season rankings and the last four to five years of recruiting rankings, and that’s how they come up with their preseason top 25. While that seems like a pretty logical way to do it, I think they miss some stuff, with guys transferring, guys developing, so on and so forth. So there’s a lot of stuff to take into account. So is that some of the stuff you use, especially with the smaller markets? Because the national guys can’t break down specifics for breaking down Nebraska, Kansas and Florida State, for example. But me, that’s what I do. So listening to guys like me, is that what gives you the edge? Because let’s face it: I’m pretty brilliant! But listening to guys like that in their own markets, is that what gives you the edge?
Brett Ciancia: Yeah, absolutely, because if you turn on some of these national broadcasts, it’s all about Alabama, Clemson, we all know about these teams. So I love digging into the roots, getting some deep info. Really, I think you mentioned some of those normal tactics, which is looking at last year and some recruiting, but you gotta dig in a little deeper here and that’s what I did. I have a formula that grades the team’s performance more so than the final score. You see a 14-10 game, but you don’t really know what happened that Saturday. You dig into the numbers a bit, yardage differential, yards per play, first downs, penalties, the whole bit. I’m able to grade going forward, with a Game Grader Formula, I call it. So I have a better idea of what a 4-8 team really looks like. Because as you guy know in Nebraska, the 2017 team and the 2018 team were both 4-8 but you saw a drastic improvement in 2018. So I dig deeper than just the overall record and recruiting angle, I know that’s the recipe for most major publications. Yes, I know recruiting is very important as a starting point, but more so you have to look at how a coaching staff is developing its talent over 3, 4 and 5 years.
Adam Carriker: So talk to us about the 2019 Huskers, the season is starting here on Saturday. Talk to us about their overall record, their record in the Big Ten, the Big Ten West, what bowl game are they going to, who are they gonna play, who are they gonna beat, I’m gonna put you on the spot. Break down the upcoming season for us with the best prediction you can for the 2019 Huskers.
Brett Ciancia: Absolutely, well it all starts back in November. After the season, I like to look back and put together an early prediction for the next season. It’s funny, back in November, I thought I had a gem here with Nebraska. All the metrics and the game grader suggested that this team was much better than 4-8. You look at some of those games, they were definitely winnable. Look at Colorado, with that pass interference late in the game, look at the Northwestern game with a 10 point lead late in the game, even Ohio State, Nebraska had the ball deep in the redzone and turnovers cost them points. There were some very winnable games that were left on the field.
I view them more as a 7 or 8 win team last year, coming into year two. But it’s funny now, that’s a mild take and I thought I had a gem here. But for 2019, I think you’re gonna see a team with a second year coach grow up on both sides of the ball. I think you’re gonna see Frost’s offense take a leap forward behind a playmaker in Martinez. He’s a great piece to build a team around. I actually have him as my first team, All Big Ten quarterback. But more importantly, I think you’re gonna see a strength gain that’s crucial. I think the prior staff might have avoided some of those Husker Power roots, so it is what it is. I think now, a second year out of this staff that’s recommitted to that, I think you’re gonna start to see some strength gains in the trenches. Something that was apparently missing last year. I know in the Iowa game, you could sense the physicality difference.
So I think that’s coming back, and that’s music to Husker Fans, I’m sure. So I think you’ll see some strength boosts and some efficiency gains with knowing the system on both sides of the ball. And I think there’s enough talent here. Nebraska has recruited within the top 25 each of the last 5 years. No one else in the Big 10 West is even close to that. I think the next closest would be Wisconsin and Iowa down in the 40s.
So with a talent gain and a second year coach bonus, they should see a huge improvement and that’s why they’re my Big Ten West Champion this year.
Adam Carriker: So you have Nebraska winning the Big 10 West and playing in the Big Ten Championship this year, is that correct?
Brett Ciancia: Yeah, that’s correct. Really, they’re close to Iowa. They graded out very similarly in all my metrics. I even broke them down by position and position unit, and they graded out closest to Iowa. The final difference was, Nebraska finally got a schedule bonus. The way the Big 10 is set up, the cross division games are crucial. You could hit the lower-tier, Rutgers-Maryland-Indiana set and win them all, or get the upper-tier and get three losses. Nebraska draws one, with Ohio State at home, which could be College GameDay if Nebraska goes into that game 4-0. Iowa gets two of them and Wisconsin gets 3, so that’s the advantage there.
Adam Carriker: So what do you have Nebraska’s record at going into the Big Ten Championship game?
Brett Ciancia: I have Nebraska at 9-3 right now. They’re gonna beat Colorado and win that rematch. In fact, I think it’s gonna be a red stadium out there. I do have Ohio State as a playoff team though, so right now I have Ohio State coming into Lincoln and winning that game. The rest of the slate, I think Nebraska still has some growing pains so I see two more losses within the division, but that 6-3 in-conference record will still be enough to win the division, and Iowa will have 3 or 4 losses in the Big 10. When it comes down to it, I see Nebraska winning that head to head matchup with Iowa. So, it’s tough grading, I don’t go game by game, I go season by season. I don’t have the other two games picked out, I just think there are 3 losses embedded in their schedule. There is a higher ceiling, so there’s a lot to be excited about.
Adam Carriker: So, 9-3 headed into the Big 10 Championship. It kind of sounds like it’s gonna all come down to that game against Iowa in Lincoln, on Black Friday, if you have Nebraska going in over Iowa. I know you don’t go game by game, but if you have Nebraska going into the Big 10 Championship and Ohio State as a Playoff team, I assume you have them beating Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, as well as the first time we play them.
Brett Ciancia: Yeah, that’s correct. But another good thing about Nebraska’s schedule is all the home games you have coming in. Wisconsin, Iowa, even Northwestern have given Nebraska some issues over the years. All those teams are coming into Lincoln and that’s gonna be a huge advantage. I think Nebraska has the longest win streak among Big Ten West teams at home, so obviously a built-in advantage there. I think it’s a rematch in Ohio State, and I know it’s hard to beat a team twice, but in my preseason predictions here in August, I have Ohio State winning the Big 10 Championship. I’m a little higher on Ohio State than most, I think some were scared away by the coaching change and the quarterback change. Really, we already saw Ryan Day’s Ohio State offense last year. They went from a run heavy, quarterback heavy power attack under Urban Meyer, to more of a 50/50 balanced attack under Coach Day. Based on the personnel, I’m confident that’ll continue. They have the talent there so I’m taking them.
Adam Carriker: Alright, so I think 9-3, going to the Big Ten Championship, I think most Husker fans would take that, you never know what can happen with a one game scenario with Ohio State, especially in a rematch. But let’s say you’re correct, 9-4 going into a bowl game, who do you have us playing, and in what bowl game?
Brett Ciancia: So, I think a 9-3 Nebraska team that loses in the Big Ten Championship will still be a big enough draw for selectors, and they’ll end up in a New Year’s bowl, maybe the Citrus Bowl, or another bowl game in Florida that could draw an SEC opponent. So the team I have lining up, would be either a Texas A&M or Missouri. Which, I know Nebraska fans, you’re thinking an old Big 12 rematch. Probably thinking about Ndamukong Suh playing against Missouri in the rain, or a bunch of Big 12 title games against A&M in the 90s. I know these bowl alliances and bowl committees love bringing back cool matchups, so I think you’re gonna see Nebraska against an old Big 12 opponent that is now stationed in the SEC.
Adam Carriker: I think of those two, either of them would be great. We haven’t had a New Year’s bowl game in a while. Citrus Bowl against A&M, or Outback Bowl against Missouri, either one of those would work for me. Do you think the Huskers get 10th win this season?
Brett Ciancia: Absolutely, they have a great chance to win that bowl game. I think with a new staff and a new scheme, you always see a boost in that second year. Those 15 extra bowl practices are crucial. Sometimes, even more important than the game itself. That development time is crucial. I know it hurt last year not making a bowl game, you always want those extra bowl practices to develop. So I think those 15 days are enough to give either one of those teams their best shot.
Adam Carriker: So it sounds like a potential 10-4 season, probably ranked in the top 25 so that’s pretty decent. Probably top 20 if you got 10 wins, maybe top 15 depending on how the game goes against Ohio State in the Championship. I think fans would be happy with that; 10-4, improvement, the right trajectory, a victory in a bowl game on New Year’s Day. Last two questions for ya… give fans something you predicted over the last 7 years that maybe nobody else predicted, and also give us your 4 playoff teams for this year.
Brett Ciancia: Sure, for the past 7 years, we’ve been the most accurate top 5 predictors. With that, we’ve had some good wins. In 2014, the first year of the Playoff, we actually nailed all four teams. It may look like it was all chalk, but if you look back, a lot of people had Oklahoma in that year and we saw through that. So we aced that year. In 2015, another gem, we picked Washington after a couple losing years there. I knew that Chris Peterson was a trusted coach with a trusted staff, who had accumulated some talent and had a lights out defense coming back. So I had them making the jump to the playoffs, which was nice. A couple other rare games, we had Ole Miss winning in 2014 over Alabama. I remember that game down in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium down in Oxford, that was an emotional win for them. That was a big upset pick we had.
Looking forward to my four playoff teams in 2019, 1 is Clemson. That’s an easy choice. The ACC is down, the normal powers are down, so they’ll coast in. At 2 I have Georgia. I know a lot of people have Alabama here, but really when you look at the last two times they played Alabama, they had a 95% win probability and they blew it. They finally stole the recruiting crown from Saban, and I think this is the year they do it. At 3, like I mentioned, I have Ohio State over Michigan. At 4, I made a lot of friends up in Utah with, I have Utah making it as a surprise team out of the Pac 12. I think the Big 12 will have two or three loss champ. I think they’re gonna beat each other up and lose some non-conference games. That left the door wide open for Utah, and with their defensive line, their coaching staff’s track record of development and win conversion, a very veteran quarterback, a running back and receiver stable, the whole bit. And really, they had a lot of winnable games last year, like Nebraska, they were better than their record. I think all of that comes back, they get their efficiency gains, and they go 12-1. They have a very easy schedule up there.
Adam Carriker: Who do you have winning it all?
Brett Ciancia: Well, it doesn’t make for great radio and content, but I think Clemson is the best team overall. You talk about a generational team last year. And this is something Nebraska fans will be interested in. I took my Game Grader formula, and I’ve been going back and applying it to historic teams. That 2018 Clemson team graded between the 95 Nebraska team and the 01 Hurricanes. Once you get to that level, it’s an argument. Just to be in that argument shows you how great they were. Most of that comes back people are worried about the defensive line, but the way they’ve recruited, and the way Brent Venables plays 2nd and 3rd string guys more than anyone in the country and spreads reps out, I think there’s still good experience coming back. So that, and a very easy schedule, I think they get there, and win again.
Adam Carriker: I love the prediction of no Alabama, I love a Big Ten team there, and I think it’ll be Oregon or Utah, but I like that prediction as well. I want to thank you for joining me my friend, you’re always welcome. And until next time Husker Nation, Go Big Red, and always remember … to throw the bones!
Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.