Nebraska is getting set to announce a slew of non-conference games. The headliner is Oklahoma in 2021-22, but there’s about 10 more coming soon.
Non-con games function in many ways. Let’s focus on two: recruiting and gaining exposure.
I don’t know who the new opponents are going to be, but I was told none of the games are in Texas. In fact, Nebraska doesn’t have a single game on any future schedule in the state of Texas.
Question 1: How effectively can Nebraska recruit the Lone Star state if it never plays there?
Look at the current roster. Rex Burkhead. Ciante Evans. Tommy Armstrong. Charles Jackson. Andrew Green. David Santos. Jamal Turner. Alonzo Whaley. They’re all Texans. Can Nebraska still get those guys?
Nebraska recruiting coordinator Ross Els thinks so.
“With TV being like it is now, they can watch us at any time. It used to be, back in the old days, you had to go to that place and play so a kid could watch you. But now they can watch us on TV on East Coast, West Coast, wherever.”
Els concedes that games in Texas would help, but he wonders how many prospective recruits would go to the games anyway. And remember, he said, aside from the SEC West and Big 12, there aren’t many D-1 schools closer to Texas than Nebraska.
Els may be right, but I’m still curious how Nebraska’s lack of presence in Texas affects its recruiting philosophies.
Question 2: How does the new slate of games impact the Big Red brand?
Nebraska is in an unusual situation because of its national fan base. How many programs have watch sites in every major city in the country? How many programs can play 1,000 miles from home — for instance, at Baylor — and put 20-30,000 fans in the seats?
The Huskers need to continue feeding those fans, especially in alumni hot spots.
The problem is that Nebraska — for budget reasons — is determined to have seven home games every season. That leaves just one available non-con road game.
I realize I’m not paying the bills, but I wish Nebraska would relax that standard. When you have a fan base that stretches coast to coast, you should reach out as much as possible. Be like Notre Dame, which tries to hit every corner of the country.
It might hurt your pocketbook in the short-term. But long-term, it will boost Nebraska’s brand.
That brings us to neutral-site games.
I love the idea of Nebraska-Southern Miss in Kansas City, for example. (It’s even better that Southern Miss, not Nebraska, may be giving up the home game). The Huskers have tons of fans in the K.C. area and — without Big 12 games — they don’t get to see NU in their backyard anymore.
Neutral-site showdowns have become very popular at Cowboys Stadium. Michigan-Alabama. Oregon-LSU. Notre Dame and Arizona State are playing in 2013. Oklahoma State and Florida State are discussing a game in 2014.
My proposal: Every four years, give up the seventh home game and play a neutral-site game in Texas — San Antonio, Houston or Dallas. I think it’d be a good selling point to recruits — and a reward for Husker fans in enemy territory.
>> For the record, these are the non-con games currently scheduled for 2013-16:
‘13: Wyoming, @Southern Miss, UCLA, South Dakota State
‘14: Florida Atlantic, @Fresno State, Miami, OPEN
‘15: BYU , South Alabama, @Miami , Southern Miss
‘16: Fresno State, Tennessee, Wyoming, OPEN
Keep an eye on that Florida Atlantic date in 2014. Bo and Carl would rather not play that game. If the contract dissolves, maybe NU takes a swing at a high-profile opponent.
>> I can’t think of a more enticing way for Nebraska to end the season than facing Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. I also don’t see it happening.
If Oregon qualifies for the BCS championship game, I expect the Rose Bowl to stay true to the Pac-12 and select that league’s runner-up. It will likely be the winner of Oregon State-Stanford this Saturday. The Beavers are 7-1 — their only loss came at Washington, 20-17 — but going to Stanford will be their toughest test. The Cardinal beat USC and pushed Notre Dame to the limit.
>> Driving from East Lansing to Detroit late Saturday night (early Sunday morning, actually), Sam McKewon, Jon Nyatawa and I discussed all sorts of topics, including potential Big Ten/SEC bowl matchups on New Year’s Day. Jim Delany may not want to watch.
For the Capital One, Outback and Gator Bowls, the Big Ten will likely send three of these four teams: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan State. The SEC is likely to send three of these six: Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
Match it up any way you like, the Big Ten will be lucky to win one of three.
>> At this point, without the use of sophisticated formulas, I project Nebraska’s odds of getting to Indianapolis somewhere in the 80-90 percent range. What Husker fans don’t want to see is a loss to Penn State, leaving them to sweat out the final two weeks, hoping for a Michigan loss against Ohio State. The Wolverines face Northwestern and Iowa at home the next two Saturdays.
>> Bo Pelini is known for spending timeouts on defense. So one of the surprises of Saturday’s Michigan State game was that NU had all three timeouts left in the final minutes. I asked Bo about that.
“I don’t mind as much using the defensive timeout or using a timeout earlier in the first half. I try everything I can to avoid that the second half in case a situation like that comes up.”
>> Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says Taylor Martinez is “not even close” to as fast Denard Robinson. For some reason, this matters to Mattison.
>> Darrell Royal, one of the all-time great personalities in college football, died at 88. Ivan Maisel remembers him fondly.
>> Sports Illustrated studies what went wrong at USC this year. Experts point the finger at Lane Kiffin.
>> Jim Mora Jr. is angry at a fake Twitter account. Ha!
>> What will the NCAA do about the new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington?
>> Revisiting the narrative that major-league baseball is in decline.
>> Charles Barkley may be almost finished broadcasting!?! No! Enjoy him while you can. Here’s a great Q&A with the NBA’s most entertaining analyst.
>> The top 25 college basketball games before Christmas. Creighton-Wisconsin is not on the list; Creighton-North Texas is.
>> How about another top 25? This one is Pat Forde’s most intriguing players. Yes, Doug McDermott is on the list.
>> I love big ideas, even when they’re not perfect. Check out this one, from a recent panel discussion in Kansas City, which included Bill Self and Jay Bilas:
“Set up a system wherein a basketball player could be drafted by an NBA team and ‘parked’ at the school he attends until the NBA decides he’s ready to join the roster. Guidelines easily could be set in place so that it wouldn’t disrupt the colleges. For example, within 24 hours of the completion of the NCAA Tournament, an NBA team that held the rights to a player could inform the college coach it either is calling him up for the next season, or extending the parking agreement for another year. He gets paid by the NBA franchise during the apprenticeship.”
I’m picturing Doug McDermott — two days after the 2012-13 season ends — receiving a phone call from the Oklahoma City Thunder, when they break the news that he is (or isn’t) getting called up. I’m not sure Creighton fans could handle the stress.