Don’t Vote For A Jackass

8 Nov

In years past, I’ve written about local and national elections several times.  However, I’ve always tried to keep my personal beliefs to the side.  I’m guessing it would not be very hard to figure out which way I lean on the political spectrum, but I’ve tried to stop short of saying “vote for _____” or “you’d be a fool to support X”.

 

But that needs to change.

 

I cannot imagine how anybody with half of a brain could vote for Donald Trump.

 

Let’s set aside the primary reason (“he’s not Hillary”) for a moment, and try to understand why.

 

Throughout this grueling death march of a campaign, Trump has shown himself – over and over and over and over again – to be:

  • An habitual liar who invents his own reality, and refuses to own his past words and actions.
  • A creepy (and possibly dirty) old man who struggles to show basic respect to women – especially if they do not meet his ridiculous standards of beauty.
  • Someone with zero patience for dissent, debate, or diplomacy.
  • A vain, pompous blowhard whose apparent motivation for getting out of bed is the continual gratification of his own ego.
  • Somebody easily manipulated into flying off the handle and saying inappropriate things.  When a grown man has his Twitter account taken away from him – for his own good – that should be a sign.
  • A man incapable of accepting any setback without claiming conspiracies, bias, or the system being “rigged” against him.*

 

*The irony, of course, is as a white male born into extreme wealth, the it would be very hard to rig the system any more in his favor.

 

  • A person who has built much of his campaign on fear of those who are not white Christians.
  • A businessman who has had some shady business dealings, lost over a billion dollars, and bragged about not paying taxes for years.
  • A candidate who won’t denounce the support he receives from the KKK.
  • Somebody wholly unfit – by nearly every measure – to be Commander-in-Chief
  • Sadly, there are probably a half-dozen more examples that I’m forgetting.

 

Seriously, if you look solely at who Donald Trump is (and completely ignore any of the other candidates), I cannot fathom how anybody could support him in good conscience.

 

I honestly believe that if Trump was running against anybody other than Hillary Clinton, this would be the greatest landslide in US history.  In my lifetime, nobody has gotten stomped worse than Walter Mondale.  I’d wager that he’d kick Trump’s ass.  But, the reality is that Hillary is the other main candidate.  And she has more than enough warts, flaws, and character issues to keep the race as competitive as it has been.

 

I get it:  you dislike Hillary Clinton.  You don’t trust her.  You believe that she is corrupt, dishonest, and represents everything wrong with Washington D.C. politics.  You contend that so many things she is connected to (emails, Benghazi, her husband, etc.) stink to high heaven.  For the sake of time, I won’t argue any of that.

 

But seriously?  She will do more damage to our country than Trump?  How can you possibly believe that?  Even if she forwards every email for the next four years to every email account in the world, I’ll still take my chances that we still come out ahead with her versus a Trump presidency.

 

The primary system is seriously flawed.  It favors candidates who pander to the extremes of their party instead of those who will be moderate, can compromise, and get results.  This broken system is how we got to Trump, Clinton, and some third-party jokers barely worthy of a mention.  So here is what I propose:  let’s spend the next four years fixing the primary system, locating better, more competent candidates and getting them more in tune with what the majority of Americans actually want.  Make Hillary a one-term President, especially if she’s not getting the job done.

 

But please, pretty please, for the sake of our country, our children, ourselves, do not vote for Donald Trump.  He needs to be defeated so soundly, so thoroughly that no other candidate tries to emulate his path to the nomination.

 

Voting Lines.  When I go vote today, I’ll have to travel all of five blocks to my precinct.  I probably will arrive around 5:20, when many of my neighbors will be getting home from work.  If I have to wait to vote – which has rarely, if ever happened in my 24 years of voting – I expect that wait to be less than 10 minutes.

 

Sadly, that will not be the case for many of our fellow Americans.  Take a look at this video explaining why we vote on Tuesday.  https://youtu.be/e0bMfS-_pjM   When I watched it, I could not help but notice the vast majority of people in line were African-American.  Maybe I notice it because Nebraska is not a very diverse state.  Or maybe I notice it because in some parts of our country – intentionally or not – it is needlessly hard for people to exercise their right to vote.

 

Nebraska’s Death Penalty.  Last year, the Nebraska Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty.  Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed that bill, but the Unicameral overrode his veto.  Death penalty supporters then started a petition drive to bring it back.  Governor Ricketts has supported this initiative with several hundred thousand of his own dollars.*

 

*This is a good place to note two key things:  1) Under Nebraska law, Governor Ricketts can spend his money however he damn well pleases.  If he wants to spend a small fortune to restore the State’s ability to kill capital offenders, that is his right.  2) The comments and opinions shared on this site do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (who does work with several state agencies).

 

I bring up this referendum for two reasons:  First off, the language is very counter-intuitive.  When Nebraskans go to the polls, their options will be to Retain or Repeal.  Repeal gets rid of the law (LB268) that eliminated the death penalty, thus bring it back.  Retain keeps the law in place, therefore ending the death penalty.

 

Secondly, there are a multitude of reasons to RETAIN the law (and get rid of the death penalty):

 

  • Capital punishment has been shown to have a systemic bias against minorities.
  • There have been many instances where an innocent person was sentenced to death, or killed.
  • The multitude of appeals (needed to prevent wrongfully convicted people from being killed) costs more than life in prison.  For a fiscally conservative state, this should be reason enough to RETAIN.
  • Capital punishment is not proven to be a deterrent to violent crime.
  • Currently, Nebraska is unable to legally procure the drugs necessary to perform an execution.
  • Capital punishment is rarely used.  Nebraska has only executed three people in the last 40 years, and no one since 1997.

 

There’s also the inherent irony of an overwhelmingly pro-life state being so eager to kill people, but that’s beside the point.

 

LD25 .  Closer to (my) home, there is a hotly contested race for the Nebraska Legislature.  I learn just how contested it is every time I go to my mailbox.  For the last few weeks, I’m averaging a couple of campaign flyers a day.  With few exceptions, they bash the other candidate and focus little on what the candidate will do.  Very few of these flyers were purchased by the candidates – instead, they come from the political parties and faceless PACs.  And all of this for a (supposedly) non-partisan office that pays $12,000 a year.  Tonight, one of the candidates will be elected.  But frankly, the only winners will be printing companies and US Postal Service.

 

Finally – as always, be sure to use your right to vote – or be willing to waive your right to complain.

B1G Friday Night Lights?

2 Nov

Jim Delany has announced that Big Ten schools will play six games on Friday nights, starting in 2017.  The Chicago Tribune broke the story, and their report has good information on what is known so far.

As for what is unknown, here are my thoughts and best guesses:

This is a perk / nasty side effect of the ginormous TV deals the league signed with ESPN and Fox.  What, you thought the networks were going to shell out all of that money and not ask for more?  That’s precious.  Consider these Friday night games a cost of doing business.

What games make the Friday night slot?  All we know so far is three of the games will be league match-ups and the other three will be non-conference games.  I doubt that the marquee match-ups move away from a prime Saturday time slot.  ESPN doesn’t gain anything by moving Ohio State – Nebraska from a Saturday night to Friday.  The same could probably be said for most of the league’s 2:30 games.

If I had to guess, the Friday slots will be primarily filled by the “Beth Mowins rejects” – the mid-level league games that would normally end up on ESPN at 11 am.  Think Indiana – Northwestern or Rutgers – Maryland.

Should Nebraska participate?  In the Tribune report, Teddy Greenstein notes that Michigan has refused to participate in Friday games – home or away.  I would suspect other schools may have similar agreements – or at least veto power before dates and times are announced.  The Tribune also reported that the conference will be “reluctant to ask schools with giant seating capacities to host” Friday games.  NU certainly fits that bill.

From a NU perspective, it’s hard to see hosting the average Friday night game being that enticing – especially now that NU has to publicly work to maintain the sellout streak.  And as always, there are recruiting implications to consider.  I imagine it would be tough to get a lot of recruits to campus on a Friday night.  My guess is with the right circumstances – such as the Friday of Labor Day weekend, or their annual Black Friday game – Nebraska could be convinced to host a Friday night game.

Will Nebraska participate?  Probably.  Nebraska is new enough where they may choose to play nice, and not take a hard-line like Michigan.  I can definitely see Nebraska being willing to play a Friday game on the road.  For the sake of calling my shot, I’ll predict that Nebraska’s game at Illinois next fall will be NU’s Friday debut.

As a Husker fan, how will this impact me?  Honestly, it’s too soon to tell.  From what I’m seeing, you should expect at least one of Nebraska’s games in the next three years to move to Friday.  My guess that it will be a road game that most of us would not attend in person.  For those with busy social calendars, fans of high school teams, or those not home from work, it will create some tough choices.  But my guess is the random Friday game will be an unexpected treat, opening up a weekend to do other things.

This also means one extra Saturday in the fall where you don’t have to worry about a wedding interfering with Game Day – and that is always a win.

Big Ten Power Rankings – week of 10/24

27 Oct

We’ve crossed the half way point in the season, so it’s time to start looking ahead to the division races, and who can make it to a bowl game.  As always, I make no apologies if you feel your team is too high (or too low), but feel free to let me know in the comments.

  1. Michigan.  Ohio State’s loss means the Wolverines move up to the penthouse.  More importantly, it means Michigan can afford a slip up in one of their remaining non-Buckeye games.  Path to Indy:  Win out, beat Ohio State, or hope for a second OSU loss.
  2. Ohio State.  All is not lost for the Buckeyes, who still control their destiny to win the East and yes, make the Playoff.  But they cannot afford to make any more mistakes.  Path to Indy:  Win out or beat Michigan and pray the Wolverines drop a game.
  3. Wisconsin.  The Badgers stayed alive in the West race by knocking off Iowa.  Next up is another do-or-die game against the Huskers.  Very little that the Badgers do is pretty, but for the most part it is effective.  Path to Indy:  Beat Nebraska and hope the Huskers trip one more time.
  4. Nebraska.  Don’t hate on me for having unbeaten NU fourth.  The Huskers get two straight opportunities to prove themselves worthy of a promotion, starting with a trip to Madison.  The Huskers can all but wrap up the West with a win.  Path to Indy:  Beat the Badgers.
  5. Penn State.  Unfortunately, I never published last week’s rankings so you’ll have to trust me that I said “PSU is coming off a bye week, and gets to host Ohio State who played a physical overtime game against Wisconsin.  I’m not going to call the upset, but it would be tough to script a better scenario”.  Regardless, a big win for PSU.  Path to Indy:  Win out, and hope for Michigan to lose twice.
  6. Northwestern.  The Wildcats are silently playing some good football, rattling off three straight conference wins.  But their road gets much tougher, starting with a trip to Columbus to face an angry bunch of Bucks.  Path to Indy:  Just keep winning and pray Nebraska loses twice.
  7. Iowa.  This is the point in the rankings where we have teams with chances of winning the division should be categorized as “mathematically possible, realistically improbable”.  Iowa is a great example.  With only two losses, they could technically still win the West, but considering the losses are to division foes ahead of them (Northwestern and Wisconsin) it means the Hawkeyes have to root for every upset.  Meanwhile, the Hawks get the week off to get ready for a tough stretch run.  Path to Indy:  Win out, let chaos reign.
  8. Minnesota.  The Gophers also have two losses (Penn State and Iowa), and have yet to play most of the teams in front of them (Wisconsin and both NU’s).  But when you allow Rutgers to score 18 more points than they did in their previous four games combined, I wouldn’t go making any hotel reservations.  Path to Indy:  Win out, hope everybody else loses.
  9. Maryland.  The Terps are also technically alive, with games to come against Michigan and Ohio State.  But let’s be realistic, their focus should be on getting bowl eligible.  Path to bowl game:  beat Indiana or Rutgers.
  10. Indiana.  Since their dramatic win over Sparty, the Hoosiers have dropped three straight and will need to kick-start the offense if they want to go bowling.  Path to a bowl game:  find three wins in their remaining five games.
  11. Purdue.  In their first game post-Hazell, the Boilermakers showed some fight, but could not hang with the Huskers at home.  I think the Boilers are good enough to sneak out at least one more win.  Path to a bowl game:  Like Indiana, they need three wins in five games, but Purdue has a much tougher schedule.
  12. Michigan State.  I really, really, really want to have the Sputtering Spartans lower than 12, but Michigan State’s last win (at Notre Dame, five weeks ago) is better than either of Illinois’ two wins (Murray State and Rutgers).  Path to a bowl game:  Surprisingly still open, but as MSU needs to win four out of five (including at least one over Michigan or Ohio State) it is not likely.
  13. Illinois.  It’s hard for me to justify a lot of words on a team whose best win is over FCS Murray State.  Path to a bowl game:  Hope four of their next five opponents don’t show up.
  14. Rutgers.  The Knights broke 30 points for the first time since September 17 – a day when #12 Michigan State beat Notre Dame, Indiana and Maryland were undefeated, and Northwestern improved to 1-2.  This  week allows me to use one of my favorite Lee Barfknecht one-liners:  “Rutgers is idle – and should remain that way.”  Path to a bowl game:  Not out of the question, but they would need to win out against Indiana, Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland.

Pur-fection

27 Oct

Hello loyal readers, family members, Twitter/Facebook e-migos, and those who blindly click on hyperlinks!

As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

Why should you CLICK THIS LINK and read this fine piece of Feit Can Write content on a site that is not feitcanwrite.com?  Well, to put it bluntly, I get paid cash money for the views I get there.  I like cash money (even if it is more like coin money).  My beautiful wife and three adorable children appreciate it when I earn cash money and spend it on them.

As always, you have my sincere appreciation for reading, commenting, and sharing (hint hint).  

Now, quit screwing around and CLICK THIS LINK.

*   *   *

Do you remember back in the pre-BCS days – probably when it was called the “Bowl Alliance” or some nonsense like that – when margin of victory was important?  If memory serves, at least one of the computer polls in used margin of victory to help determine which team was best.  As a result, the Steve Spurriers, Bobby Bowdens, and other coaches of contending teams would make a point of trying for a late garbage time touchdown.  The way the computer saw it, 31-14 was a more impressive win than 24-14.  Heck, the same could be said for several writers and coaches filling out their Top 25 ballot every Sunday.  After some hand-wringing that coaches were sacrificing sportsmanship in the name of running up the score, margin of victory went away.

But the perception lives on.  We’ve been so conditioned to look at the margin of victory (and if the Vegas spread was covered), that anything failing to meet our expectations is reason for concern and complaining.  A 13 point win over a 3-3 team that just fired their coach?  Clearly Nebraska is no good, vastly overrated, and due for a blowout loss against a “real” team.

It’s time to embrace the NFL “just win” mentality.  Outside of Alabama, there are very few teams in college football with the talent and depth to steamroll opponents week in and week out.  What matters are the wins and losses.  There are no figure skating judges looking at degrees of difficulty or deducting points for sloppy education.  No, in the big picture of championship football – and that is the standard we all want, right? – the only thing that matters is if you won.

Obviously, the coaches, players, and you the fan all want perfection – or at least improvement – week after week.  But don’t confuse failure to meet a standard of play for a lack of success.  It’s okay to be critical of how Nebraska plays – and you better believe I’ll continue to be critical where needed – but at the end of the day the wins and losses are the most important thing.

And right now, Nebraska is a perfect 7-0.

So what did we learn?

Don’t worry about rankings or perceived snubs. Each week, the amount of Husker fans up in arms over Nebraska’s national ranking and/or perception seems to grow. They’ll wonder why teams with losses are ranked ahead of NU.  They bristle at the criticism that Nebraska is a sham that has not been tested.  They get fired up over a comment or tweet from some national pundit or talking head who discounts Nebraska’s first 7-0 start in 15 years.  Every employee at ESPN – down to the cafeteria guy serving Chicken Curry – hates Nebraska.  Heck, some of that disrespect is here at home. The lone AP voter in the state (the World-Herald’s Sam McKewon) has the Huskers at #11 in his poll. Only three other voters have Nebraska lower.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter.

Once more for emphasis: It. Does. Not. Matter.

Why, you ask? There are two key reasons: 1) Nebraska gets two prime time chances to prove itself against top competition. Even with the losses they’ve suffered, playing at Wisconsin and at Ohio State are big games against tough conference foes. Should Nebraska win one (or both) games, a lot of the perceived negativity will go away.

2) In the College Football Playoff world, rankings are irrelevant. Yes, it’s great to say that Nebraska is a Top 10 team (regardless of if you believe it or not), but NU’s ranking today, tomorrow, or next week has zero implication on their chances to win the Big Ten West, win the conference, or – dare to dream – make the Playoff.  I firmly believe that an undefeated team from a Power Five conference will ALWAYS make the playoff.

If you want to revisit this if/when Nebraska clinches the West, we can. But for now, sit back and enjoy a 7-0 start without getting caught up on snubs, slights, and stupid banter from an overrated pregame show.

It is time to fully embrace Terrell Newby. For much of his Nebraska career, fans have been slow – if not reluctant – to embrace Terrell Newby as NU’s feature back. There are many reasons for this, both in his control (his reputation as a “dancer” reluctant to run to contact) as well as things he couldn’t change (he followed one of the all time greats, and fan infatuation with other backs on the roster). He’s spent most of the last five years hearing about how fans and pundits (myself included) would rather give the ball to anybody else.

But I would hope that we can now recognize that Newby is deserving of our respect and praise. He has destroyed the old narrative that a player cannot improve between their junior and senior seasons. Newby is more decisive and shows greater acceleration through holes. Instead of running around would-be tacklers, the 2016 Newby is running through them. In the fourth quarter, when Nebraska has needed to burn clock and put away games, Newby has been a stop-him-if-you-can workhorse. You can discount the teams he’s owned in the fourth quarter (Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue) but respect the performance. More importantly, respect the player who never gave up and worked hard to improve himself.

The Blackshirts are improving.   All in all, this was one of the defense’s better games.  Purdue marched 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on their first full possession (ignoring the “what are you doing?” halfback pass that was intercepted on the first play).  Early in the second quarter, Nebraska gave up an 88 yard touchdown.  After that, the Blackshirts locked down allowing just 128 yards on 46 snaps (2.8 yards per play).

In the stretch of almost three full quarters, Purdue was 3-11 on third down and 1-4 on fourth down.  The Blackshirts picked up two sacks, hurried the quarterback twice more, broke up six passes, intercepted a pass, stopped a fake punt, and allowed zero points.  Heck, after their first touchdown, Purdue only ran eight plays in Nebraska territory.

The most impressive part was the contributions at all levels of the defense.  The tackles clogged running lanes and allowed the linebackers to run free.  The linebackers made tackles all over the field.  The secondary turned in two interceptions, broke up a half-dozen passes, and should get credit for at least two of Nebraska’s sacks.

Discount the opponent if you wish, but this is a really good time for the defense to hit their stride.

So what don’t we know?

Where is the depth on the offensive line?  Do you remember Greg Austin? He was a left guard on the 2006 team who battled injuries for most of the year. He would limp on the field, block somebody to the best of his abilities, and limp back off when the possession was done. I remember seeing him hobble down the field after big gains, unable to keep up with his teammates. It was sad to watch a guy struggle that badly, and frustrating that a guy who could barely walk was apparently Nebraska’s best option.

Ten years later history is repeating itself. Nebraska’s offensive line is really banged up. Right tackle David Knevel could not finish the game due to injuries. Left tackle Nick Gates arguably should not have finished the game. The current line is chock full of walk-ons, some of which have their own injuries.

Look: I get that throwing a freshman in at tackle is much different from having a frosh play running back or receiver. It takes time to develop an offensive lineman, and apparently youngsters Jalin Barnett, Michael Decker, and Christian Gaylord aren’t there yet. But…are those guys worse than Nick Gates at 70%? Is the gap between sophomore walk-on Cole Conrad and redshirt sophomore Barnett (a highly touted four-star recruit) that big? With two season defining games coming up, wouldn’t it be good to rest an injured player and give valuable reps to a youngster?

Can Nebraska win in Madison? Of Nebraska’s four wins over Wisconsin, only one has occurred in Madison – 50 years ago in 1966. Since joining the Big Ten, the Huskers are 0-2 in Madison, with a combined score of 107-41. The 6 pm kickoff (and the full day of tailgating beforehand) will make it tough on the Huskers.

Personally, I so no reason why Nebraska cannot win. Yes, NU’s injury situation is dicey, but I’m sure Badger fans would tell you the same thing. It really comes down to the (on-field) issues that have plagued this program for years: turnover margin, penalties, and third down. If Nebraska can win in those categories, they can win anywhere.

Is Wisconsin a “must win” game?  On the surface, it’s odd to think that an undefeated team playing a team with two losses is anywhere close to “must-win” territory. However, that may be the case for Nebraska – especially for their plans of winning the Big Ten West. Right now, Wisconsin has two conference losses, and Nebraska (obviously) has none. But a loss to Wisconsin puts the Huskers’ title hopes on a tight rope with Wisconsin owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Considering that Wisconsin closes out their schedule with Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, the Badgers may not lose another conference game. The Huskers would have to win at Ohio State and at Iowa (while avoiding slip ups against Minnesota and Maryland) to win the West.

This game may not be a true “must win”, but a NU victory gives the Huskers a healthy lead going down the stretch.

The best thing I saw on Saturday: The two F/A-18 Super Hornets flying over Memorial Stadium. I love pregame flyovers, they can make even games against Purdue feel special. I wish they occurred more often.

The worst thing I saw on Saturday:  A young Husker fan losing his lunch in the North stadium concourse at halftime.  Aside from being a somewhat apt metaphor for how many fans viewed the first half, I felt bad for the little guy – and his dad.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Brandon Reilly.  With Jordan Westerkamp and Cethan Carter injured, Reilly has embraced the role of “go-to receiver”.  His four catches for 73 yards led the team, and he contributed some key plays.
  2. Caleb Lightbourn.  After the punt game woes at Indiana, you could hear some whispers of criticism about the true freshman who was thrust unexpectedly into a starting job. The addition of a rugby kick was a great way to boost his confidence.  He responded with a 43 yard average on four kicks, with three landing inside the 20.
  3. Kieron Williams.  Frankly, I was tempted to put him on here for his celebration after rushing the passer on Purdue’s fake punt (a sweet cross-over dribble, fade-away jumper combo).  But his pass break up, tackle for loss, and two interceptions are certainly deserving.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  if a big play is happening on defense (or special teams) the odds are good that Kieron is in the middle of it.
  4. De’Mornay Pierson-El.  DPE operates so well in space.  It’s what makes him an elite punt returner, and it’s why Danny Langsdorf should keep the quick slant route in the playbook.  Give Pierson-El the ball in the middle of the field, set up a couple of blocks, and let him do the rest.  Additionally, Pierson-El is becoming a skilled perimeter blocker.
  5. Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young.  Nebraska’s linebackers combined for one heck of game.  Banderas led the team with 13 tackles, and Young was right behind him with 11.  Bando is playing some of his best ball as a Husker and Young just keeps getting better and better.

Honorable Mention:   Terrell Newby, Mick Stoltenberg, Nate Gerry, Sam Cotton, Stanley Morgan, Alonzo Moore, Tommy Armstrong, Tre Bryant, 70 degree days in late October

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Red Zone Scoring.  The good news is NU was 3-3 on red zone scoring chances.  The bad news is two of those were field goals.  The horribly ugly news is that it took a 51 yard field goal to salvage points from a first and goal on the 10 yard line.  13 points in three red zone trips may not be enough to get it done the next two weeks.
  2. Offensive Line.  I get the injuries.  I saw that Purdue played most of the game with eight or nine guys in the box.  I know that Nebraska was able to exert some of their fourth quarter dominance to seal the game.  But nobody can – or should – be happy with the performance of the offensive line.  The level of play needs to be much higher in the next two games.
  3. Husker Fans. The stadium vibe was rather relaxed on Saturday. Even though Nebraska trailed for a good portion of the game, I never got the sense that sellout crowd 352 had a strong desire to get overly involved. I would describe the atmosphere as “an 11 am BTN game” where the prevailing attitude of fans toward the team was “Please don’t make me have to work today.” Additional demerits to fans attempting to start the wave during what was then a three-point game.
  4. Purdue Fans. Did Purdue bring anybody to the game? The visiting team section was quiet and appeared to have as many people wearing red as black and gold. Before, during, and after the game, I saw as many fans wearing Iowa gear as I Purdue clothes (two of each). I get this is not a prideful time in the Boiler Nation, but couldn’t you find a couple of hundred people to put on a black shirt and feign interest?
  5. Ed Cunningham.  I joked that if I had $1 for every incorrect, inane, or ignorant thing Ed said during the NU-Purdue telecast I could pay for my ticket. By randomly scrolling through Twitter during TV timeouts, I got up to about $20 – a number I’m sure I could double if I watched the game at home. There are announcers Husker fans dislike because of a perceived bias. And there are announcers who just aren’t very good. Mr. Cunningham falls in the latter category.

Big Ten Power Rankings – Week of 10/10

13 Oct

Here are this week’s Big Ten Power Rankings:

  1. Ohio State.  Did what championship teams do – pull away from a team not on their level.  The Buckeyes have won each of their games by at least 21 points.  Can Wisconsin break that trend?
  2. Michigan.  Holy Harbaugh, that 78 point win over Rutgers is the absolute definition of “domination”.  So many eye-popping stats came out of that annihilation, that picking one doesn’t do justice to the totality of that victory.  The Wolverines will face a tougher test this week when they are idle.
  3. Wisconsin.  Coming off of their bye week, the Badgers get Ohio State at Camp Randall.  In classic “something’s gotta give” matchup, Ohio State is averaging 53 points per game.  Wisconsin has not allowed more than 14 points to FBS competition.
  4. Nebraska.  Back in the Top Ten for the first time in five years, are the Cornhuskers for real?  I dunno.  The argument can be made that Wyoming is their best win.  Coming off the bye week, Nebraska will be battling Indiana and injuries – and not necessarily in that order.
  5. Penn State.  The Nitany Lions handled previously unbeaten Maryland 38-14 for their best win of the year.  Now, they get a week off to prepare for Ohio State.  After that, the rest of their schedule (Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan State) looks doable.
  6. Indiana.  The final score of the Ohio State loss doesn’t show that the Hoosiers played the #2 Buckeyes pretty close for a good chunk of the game.  That fact should not be lost on the top ten team Indiana faces this weekend (Nebraska)
  7. Iowa.  Since blowing out Iowa State, the Hawkeyes are 2-2, with four unimpressive outings.  Is this a long hangover from how their 2015 season ended?  Or after a magical season where almost everything went their way, are they returning to the norm?
  8. Maryland.  Last week, we speculated that Maryland’s (then) undefeated record might be a mirage, a theory proven emphatically by Penn State.  A tangle with Minnesota should help confirm or debunk that notion.
  9. Northwestern.  The Wildcats are 2-3 overall, but don’t count them out of the West race yet.  They come off of their bye week with an intriguing matchup against Michigan State (as much as a game featuring two 2-3 Big Ten teams can be intriguing)
  10. Michigan State.  What is going on in East Lansing?  The Spartans are 2-3 and have lost three straight.  If they are going to salvage a bowl game out this season, beating Northwestern this weekend will be huge.
  11. Minnesota.  The Gophers are not technically out of the West division race, but to keep their hopes alive, they better not lose another game in the next month (at Maryland, Rutgers, at Illinois, Purdue).
  12. Purdue.  It wasn’t pretty, but give credit to Purdue for earning a rare conference road win.  With Iowa coming to town, the Boilermakers have an opportunity to keep moving up.
  13. Illinois.  Illini fans are probably the only people in the conference happy that Rutgers is a member of the Big Ten.  My condolences to whomever has to broadcast the Illinois – Rutgers game this week.  I recommend drinking heavily.
  14. {open}
  15. {open}
  16. Rutgers.  After losing back to back games by scores of 58-0 and 78-0, I cannot in good conscious put Rutgers at 14.  Last place just doesn’t do this team justice.  I don’t care that both teams are in the Top 5.  I’ll lay down a gauntlet for the Scarlet Knights:  Beat Illinois, and you may get #13 next week.  Lose to the Illini, and I’ll consider promoting you to #14.  Get blown out, and I’ll run these rankings all the way to 50.

Big Ten Power Rankings – week of 10/3

7 Oct

With the first full week of Big Ten play in the books, it’s time to roll out the weekly Power Rankings.  These are no specific by division, but rather reflect where each team is from week to week.  I make no apologies if you feel your team is too high (or too low), but feel free to let me know in the comments.

  1. Ohio State.  Still the best in the league, by a wide margin, but playing Rutgers makes that gap look bigger than it probably is.  Indiana should be a good gauge for how the Buckeyes truly are.
  2. Michigan.  Held off one of the toughest teams in the league, thanks in part to this super-human interception. For a reward, the Wolverines get two straight bye weeks…oh wait…they play Rutgers, then the bye week.
  3. Wisconsin.  If not for one of the craziest interceptions you’ll ever see, the Badgers are easily #2 in these rankings.  So forgive me if I don’t punish them too much for a seven point loss.  A well-deserved week off before the second half of their gauntlet.
  4. Nebraska.  The Huskers entered the fourth quarter trailing Illinois by six.  A year ago, the Huskers lose that game.  This year, they win by 15.  That said the Huskers are literally limping into their bye week with the meat of their schedule still to come.
  5. Indiana.  It’s possible I’m rewarding the Hoosiers for Michigan State being overrated – and/or melting down in overtime, but who would you put ahead of them?  We are going to learn a lot about the Hoosiers in their next two games (at Ohio State, Nebraska).
  6. Maryland.  Yes, the Terps are 4-0, but arguably their best win is a six point victory over Central Florida, who has a new coach.  If Maryland is for real, the next two games (at Penn State, Minnesota) should be wins.
  7. Minnesota.  It is way too early to consider the Floyd of Rosedale game to be a West Division elimination game.  But it may be tough to overcome two conference losses before the middle of October.
  8. Iowa.  Who is Iowa?  Are they the team that beat up on MAC-level competition (Miami of Ohio and Iowa State) by a combined 87-24?  Or are they the team that lost to an FCS school, Northwestern, and only beat Rutgers by seven?  All I know is I feel like I have the Hawkeyes too high.  What I said about Minnesota applies here too.
  9. Penn State.  This is probably as good of time as any to note that while I do consider head-to-head results, they are not a necessarily the final word.  In this case, while Penn State’s three point win over the Gophers was duly considered, it doesn’t overcome the Lions’ 39 point loss to Michigan.
  10. Michigan State.  I have a very hard time putting the defending conference champions this low.  But then I realize that they are 2-2, with only one win over a FBS team (an equally disappointing 2-3 Notre Dame).  It was shocking to watch the overtime period of the Indiana game.  Michigan State looked sloppy, undisciplined, and clueless – adjectives rarely connected to MSU in the last five seasons.  The harsh reality is Sparty’s visions of a repeat may already be dead.
  11. Northwestern.  Give credit to the Wildcats for taking the battle to Iowa, and having the ability to close out the victory.  I’m looking forward to their next game (at Michigan State on 10/15) as a measuring stick of both schools.
  12. Illinois.  With back to back games against Purdue and Rutgers, the Illini have a golden opportunity to distance themselves from the dreaded teen spots (13 & 14) in the rankings.
  13. Rutgers.  For those who like to compare teams using common opponents, Rutgers – fresh off a 58-0 drubbing by Ohio State – hosts Michigan this weekend.  Of course, you could also compare the Buckeyes and Wolverines based on how they fared in their spring scrimmages.  Probably the same difference.
  14. Purdue.  They say bad things come in threes:  First was a 50-7 beating by Maryland.  Second was this blistering column by Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, saying that he can’t be care enough to be mad about Purdue because nobody cares about Purdue.  Finally, a burst pipe caused a sinkhole in one of Purdue’s end zones.  I’ll let you make your own joke for that one.

You Can’t Hide Your Illini

6 Oct

Hello loyal readers, family members, Twitter/Facebook e-migos, and those who blindly click on hyperlinks!

As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

Why should you CLICK THIS LINK and read this fine piece of Feit Can Write content on a site that is not feitcanwrite.com?  Well, to put it bluntly, I get paid cash money for the views I get there.  I like cash money (even if it is more like coin money).  My beautiful wife and three adorable children appreciate it when I earn cash money and spend it on them.

As always, you have my sincere appreciation for reading, commenting, and sharing (hint hint).  

Now, quit screwing around and CLICK THIS LINK.

*   *   *

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, after (what was then) the ugliest and most painful loss of the 2015 season, I wrote this*.  Rereading it brings back all of the struggles and difficulties Nebraska was facing a year ago:  highly questionable play calling, horrible game and clock management, not utilizing talent correctly, abandoning the run, players with horrible attitudes, a secondary that couldn’t cover their own shadow, fourth quarter collapses, and other things that you and I have still managed to repress.

*And given that I used a song title last year, I’ll continue the theme this year with a horrible pun that I absolutely love.

A year later, the transition is dramatic.  Danny Langsdorf called another strong game, playing to the strengths of his personnel.  Clock management was not an issue.  Nebraska is running the ball – and sticking with it.  After what could have been a divisive week the team unity and focus seems to be strong.  I thought the secondary played one of their worst games of the season on Saturday and they held Illinois to 14-23 for 146.  The Illini had almost 100 more passing yards a year ago, despite ridiculously windy conditions.  Finally, Nebraska’s biggest transformation may be in how they are owning the fourth quarter.

Now let’s be clear:  everything is not magically fixed.  There are plenty of flaws to be found in this game and where the team is at today.  There is a ton of work left to be done and room for improvement.  Heck, another 5-7 season is not out of the question at this point.

But take a moment to acknowledge the progress that has been made so far.

So what did we learn?

The Huskers are literally limping into their bye week.   Thank goodness the bye week is in the middle of the season, instead of at the end like last year.  Here is a partial list of guys who did not play – or did not finish the game – on Saturday:  Nebraska’s best receiver, their NFL-caliber tight end, arguably their best running back, their fastest receiver, two starting offensive linemen, and it feels like I’m missing a couple more.

Depth continues to be a major concern for the Huskers.  There are a number of positions where the drop-off between starter and backup – in terms of talent, experience, or both – is dramatic.  There was a play in the 3rd quarter where the guys on the field resembled a lineup you might see in the 3rd quarter of a Red-White Scrimmage.

The bye week, and the opportunity to rest and heal it provides, could not come at a better time for this team.

Milt Tenopir would be proud of the last four Husker drives.  When word came out about legendary line coach Milt Tenopir’s passing, I said the best way for Nebraska to honor him would be to have the team rush for 300+ yards.  While that didn’t happen, the team did the next best thing:  they dominated the ball in the second half.  Look at these two drives:

  • 18 plays, 75 yards, 10:42 of possession.  Touchdown.  A drive for the ages.  18 plays???  Almost 11 minutes of possession???  And by the way, Nebraska took the lead with the score.
  • 11 plays, 59 yards, 5:49 of possession.  Touchdown.  This drive opened up with seven straight runs.

Those are numbers straight out of Milt Tenopir’s heart.  You can picture the old coach getting a little misty eyed watching his boys control the line of scrimmage for most of the second half.  And just like in Milt’s day, those two drives played a huge role in the last two drives of the day:

  • 2 plays, 70 yards, 0:54 of possession.  Touchdown.  First play: a run up the middle for seven yards.  Second play:  an offtackle run for 63 yards and a giant nail in the coffin.
  • 2 plays, -1 yard, 1:14 of possession.  End of game.

Rest in peace, Milt.  You will be missed.

One of the Big Ten’s “sleeping giants” may be waking up.   Illinois is often described as a “sleeping giant” program – one with resources, deep pools of in-state talent, and the biggest obstacle to success being themselves.  Think Missouri prior to Gary Pinkel.  The Illini have talent within their borders, the ability to recruit Chicago, and are the only big time public school in the state.  Big Ten membership gives them money for anything they might need, namely coaches buy-outs and new training facilities.  All that is left is for the administration to care, and to find the guy who can build something sustainable.

There is a chance that Lovie Smith may be that guy.  His first team may be 1-3, but you can see his blueprint coming together already:   build from the lines out, make your name on defense, and play physical football.  Illinois is clearly a couple of years away talent-wise, but Lovie has the NFL cred that is valuable in recruiting.

Don’t be shocked if in the next few years Illinois gets out of their own way long enough to become a contender in the West.

So what don’t we know?

Does NU win this game a year ago?   Walking out of the stadium, enjoying the glow of victory, a thought crossed my mind:  Trailing by six headed into the fourth quarter, would the Huskers have won this game a year ago?  Obviously there are a lot of factors that make it tough to compare and impossible to know for sure, but my gut says Nebraska loses this game.

For me, the only question is how Nebraska would have lost.  Do promising drives end with interceptions, with a pick-six to ice the game?  Maybe the Huskers reclaim the lead, but Illinois proceeds to march down the field and win in the final minute.  Is the spot on the 4th and 1 carry by Newby marked short (or overturned on replay) stalling all momentum?

Was the reaction to the National Anthem protests a distraction?  The offense got off to a slow start, only scoring 10 points in the first three quarters.  Meanwhile, the defense had issues with soft coverage and softer tackling.  As Husker fans tried to understand why this was happening (without giving any credit to the Illinois defensive line) one of the theories tossed out was the national anthem protest was a distraction.  Or more specifically, the reaction by media, fans, and elected officials was a distraction.

To that, I say:  Bull.

Yes, that protest – and the various reactions it spawned – were the hot topic of conversation across the state all week long, and across all mediums.  But aside from Michael Rose-Ivey having a conversation with the Governor, and a few extra questions during the team’s media availability, I truly believe it was a non-issue in the locker room.  You may doubt the validity (or the sincerity) of Riley’s team being a “melting pot”.  I’m willing to guarantee multiple players on the team did not care for the protest, but I’ll also guarantee that the culture of respect is fully in place.

Who knows how it would have played out if Rose-Ivey knelt in Riley’s first year – or in one of Pelini’s last two seasons.  My guess is it would not be nearly as seamless as we’ve seen so far.

Can Nebraska clean up their sloppiness?   Your Huskers are 5-0, but not without their flaws.  The good news is, three of the biggest warts are things they can control.

  • Red zone turnovers.  Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity pointed out that five of Nebraska’s six turnovers  occurred inside the opponent’s 15 yard line.  Since I consider Drew Brown to be automatic inside 35 yards, red zone turnovers cost the Huskers at least three points every time.  Protect the ball and get your points.
  • 15 yard flags.  It says something about how sloppy this team can be that picking up two 15 yard penalties in a game is a major improvement.
  • Quarterback decision-making.  Tommy Armstrong is trending in a bad direction with his decision making.  His one interception was a ball under thrown into triple coverage.  He deserved a second INT when he was flushed out of the pocket, rolled to his right and threw a lob back to the middle of the field.

It’s actually rather impressive that Nebraska has made it to 5-0 as sloppy as they can be.  But unless those things get cleaned up – or at least drastically reduced – they will lead to losses.

The best thing I saw on Saturday:  The defensive intensity in the second half.  In the first half, Illinois had 169 yards on 24 plays (an average of 7 yds per play).  But in the second half, the Blackshirts raised their game allowing just 101 yards on 20 plays (5 yards per play).

Remember those amazing ball control drives in the 3rd and 4th quarters that won the game?  Don’t forget the defense’s role in that.  After giving up a 74 yard field goal drive to get the score to 16-10, Illinois had three more possessions.  The Illini gained just 18 yards on 10 plays, with no first downs.

The worst thing I saw on Saturday:  Two of Nebraska’s best receivers being taken to the locker room with injuries.  Get better soon, boys.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Terrell Newby.  After an injury to Ozigbo and a fumble by Wilbon, the much maligned Newby was asked to be a workhorse in the second half.  And did he respond.  He gained 143 on 27 carries, and scored two touchdowns.  He also caught two passes for 26 yards.  Newby is probably the least respected NU I-Back since Dahrran Diedrick or Josh Davis, but he has been a much improved player in 2016.
  2. Sam Cotton.  Speaking of much maligned Huskers, let’s take a minute to appreciate the youngest member of the Cotton clan.  Watch any clip of a Nebraska back running, and you’ll likely see Cotton somewhere in the frame blocking his man, setting an edge, or chopping down opposing players.  And I have a hard time thinking of a better catch by a Husker than his fingertips grab of a Tommy Armstrong missile for a big first down.
  3. Kevin Maurice.  The stats (2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 hurry) don’t really show it, but the “Space Cowboy” has been playing at a very high level of late.
  4. Stanley Morgan, Jr.  When you see him blocking defensive backs to the sideline, or making big catches on third down, it is tough to remember that he is just a true sophomore.  This kid Stan has a bright future – and with Westerkamp and Carter out, a big opportunity to increase his role.
  5. De’Mornay Pierson-El.  I love watching him return punts.  The way he moves in space, accelerates, and finds creases cannot be taught.  I like seeing him getting touches in multiple facets of the game (returns, receptions, and rushes).  Finally, his work as a perimeter blocker was equally impressive.

Honorable Mention:   Trey Foster, Jordan Westerkamp, Joshua Kalu, Michael Rose-Ivey, Dedrick Young, Freedom Akinmoladun, Ross Dzuris’s old-school black cleats, Corey Whitaker

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Tackling.  As impressive as the overall defensive performance was, I’d love to see how it would have looked if the first (or even second) defender would have made the tackle.  Far too often, an Illinois player was bouncing off two or three guys before going down.
  2. Loose coverage.  The secondary spent most of the game playing way off the Illinois receivers.  It was not uncommon for there to be an 8-10 yard cushion between Chris Jones, Kalu, or one of the Williams boys and the receiver.  Illinois gained a lot of yards on basic pitch and catch throws that could have been avoided with tighter coverage.
  3. Option Football.  Let’s set the stage:  3rd & 2 from the Illinois 5.  NU is down six and on play 14 of their marathon drive.  Settling for a field goal is not an option.  So what play does Danny Langsdorf opt for when he needs two yards?  An option to the left.  Armstrong had to pitch the ball early and Newby was fortunate to get a yard.  Hopefully, we all know by now that I love me some option football.  But that was not the right time or situation for Nebraska to run their first option of the year.  From the execution, it looked like they could use a little more work.
  4. Referee Don Capron’s Microphone Etiquette.  Dear Don – I’m not sure how long you’ve been a referee for major conference football, but here is a pro tip for you:  After you explain a penalty or other procedural thing, you will want to always – ALWAYS – turn off your microphone before blowing your whistle.  Otherwise, you end up rupturing eardrums, shattering eyeglasses, and pissing off every dog for 30 miles.  And you really don’t want to do it three times because 90,000 of the greatest fans in college football will boo the crap out of you.
  5. Mike Rozier’s headwear.  It’s always great to see the former Heisman Trophy winners back in town, but I was a little bummed to see Mike Rozier in a black ball cap.  I’m not expecting him to break out his glorious two-tone suit and matching hat, but getting Rozier in a ball cap is like being served chicken nuggets at a five-star restaurant.

 

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