Late in Monday’s fourth quarter, I turned to a colleague and called this the “worst-case scenario.” Nebraska not only got blown out, it lost a game it could’ve won. That’s a double-whammy.
There’s so much to dissect following a dark day in the Bo Pelini era. You will find a ton of great coverage at Omaha.com (my column is here). So I won’t cover all the bases.
But what stands out 24 hours later is how a team dominates the first 35 minutes of a game and still trails on the scoreboard. Early on, the Huskers failed to perform at critical moments. Then they failed to step up when things went wrong.
The loss continued Nebraska’s bizarre roller coaster ride. Down at Wisconsin, up against Ohio State. Up against Michigan State, down against Northwestern. Up at Penn State, down at Michigan. Up against Iowa, down against South Carolina.
Is the leadership structure strong enough — and steady enough — to generate consistency?
Look at Nebraska’s last two years of conference play. Not just wins and losses, but how the team performed. I’m not sure NU has played at a top-25 level two weeks in a row since Oklahoma State-Missouri since October 2010.
Championship teams play at a high level week after week after week. Even if Bo Pelini develops top-10 talent — that’s a big question — does Nebraska have the ability to bring its “A” or “B” game for an entire month — or an entire conference season?
There are way too many “C” and “D” performances, especially in the second half of games.
>> Here’s a strange statistical nugget. In 2003, Frank Solich lost three games by a combined 70 points. In 2011, if you eliminate the Northwestern loss, Bo Pelini lost three games by a combined 76 points.
>> The most interesting interview after the game was with Corey Raymond. The secondary coach wasn’t convinced Nebraska had enough talent to beat South Carolina, especially in the secondary.
“Just be honest,” Raymond said. “Look at them, look at us. It’s pretty obvious.”
What did Raymond mean? He didn’t spell it out, but he made veiled criticisms of Nebraska’s personnel. For instance, what did he take from this game going into the offseason?
“Hopefully it helps recruiting. Get athletes.”
Was he encouraged by how NU matched up man-for-man? “Not necessarily.”
Raymond went on to compare the mentality of Southern players versus Nebraska’s players. His guys needed to learn how to punch back once they got “hit in the mouth.”
“You can’t live on what other guys have done in the past around here,” Raymond said. “You have to live on yourself…We’re not Prince. We’re not Eric Hagg. We’re not those guys. We have to do much different things. We have to work harder. We’re not the same athletes as those guys.”
Of course, Nebraska’s two best defensive athletes — Alfonzo Dennard and Lavonte David — are leaving.
>> Hope you read my SEC column in Sunday’s paper. It examines how the SEC became a juggernaut over the last decade.
LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are excellent, but after the Capital One Bowl, I’m not sure South Carolina is a top 10 team. Remember, the Gamecocks didn’t play LSU or Alabama. Had Marcus Lattimore gotten hurt before the Georgia game, South Carolina doesn’t win that one.
This was probably Nebraska’s best bowl opponent since Miami 10 years ago. It would’ve been a really good win. But South Carolina isn’t your typical 11-2 SEC team.
>> The national columnists (and SEC homers) will get after the Big Ten for another bad day. Four losses looks bad, especially when the only win is a triple-overtime game. But Ohio State is good enough to beat Florida. And Wisconsin could’ve beaten Oregon.
The Big Ten had a bad day, yes. But the league wasn’t overmatched like a year ago. If Michigan wins the Sugar Bowl, the Big Ten comes out of this bowl season with dignity intact. Of course, if the Wolverines lose…well, the floodgates will open again on Jim Delany.
>> I’ll have more NFL playoff thoughts later in the week. But it’s time for the NFL to prioritize wins and losses over a division championship. The Denver Broncos don’t deserve a home playoff game; the Pittsburgh Steelers do. All division champions deserve a playoff berth, regardless of record. But they don’t deserve a home game.