It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We’re loaded with Husker football, as usual. But we make room for Greichaly Cepero and Greg McDermott, Monte Kiffin and Nick Saban, Colin Kaepernick and Jim Delany. First, Big Ten championship talk.
In 2009, Nebraska went to JerryWorld and didn’t score a touchdown against Texas.
In 2010, Nebraska went back, put up 17 points in the first 17 minutes against Oklahoma, then disintegrated.
You can blame Bo Pelini or Shawn Watson or Taylor Martinez’s bad wheel. Point is, what stood between the Huskers and a signature achievement was the inability to score at crunch time.
That was a defining moment for Pelini. Now, two years after the OU meltdown, Nebraska is back in the conference championship, this time with the league’s most dangerous scoring attack. Pelini changed coordinators and found an offensive identity. My hunch is it will pay off Saturday night.
>> A year ago next week, Nebraska lost a coordinator to a head coaching job. Could it happen again? There are several small-conference jobs open across the country. And Tim Beck might be an attractive candidate. If his offense shines in Indianapolis, he’d have plenty to tout in potential interviews.
>> I wrote a column in today’s World-Herald about “18 hours that changed the Huskers.” Back in April, a team of ex-military personnel, all with special operations experience, put Nebraska players through a workout like they’d never experienced. It’s called “The Program” and it laid the groundwork for the 2012 season.
“At times, you want to knock a teammate out,” P.J. Smith said. “But it pulled us together and that’s one of the reasons we understand who we are and how hard we can fight together to accomplish anything we want to accomplish.
“I’m not gonna lie, it was frustrating. We complained about it. But looking back at it, it’s one of the best things Coach Bo could’ve ever done for us.”
>> The Big Ten Network’s Tom Dienhart talked to six Big Ten coordinators, who spoke anonymously about Nebraska and Wisconsin. Very enlightening.
>> If Nebraska loses this game, it’s because the Huskers lose the line of scrimmage. Baker Steinkuhler’s injury looms large. How are 260-pound defensive tackle Cam Meredith and Chase Rome going to hold up against Wisconsin’s 320-pound linemen? The answer may determine your winner.
>> A friend and I were talking last night about where we were when Nebraska beat Texas 22-6 to claim its last conference championship. I missed most of the game, because I was watching a Columbus High basketball game at Omaha South — I was 18. And I walked to school uphill both ways.
>> You want another sign you’re getting too old? Bo Jackson turns 50 today. I bet he could still run a 4.4
>> Sports Illustrated did something very, very cool this week. It put together a mock selection committee and pretended to select a four-team college football playoff. Of course, this will actually happen in 2014. SI’s exercise is worth reading. Mock committee members said it was more complicated than they thought. But make no mistake, a committee is the proper way to determine the field.
Here’s the nugget I found most interesting: UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood said, “The thing that jumps out at me is that there are just four teams, it’s not enough of a sample. I was not a proponent of going larger than four, and this changed my mind totally.”
Most playoff proponents, including me, want an eight-team tournament. That’s the ideal size. If Livengood speaks for the rest of college football’s administrative class, we might see eight sooner than later.
>> Guess who would be under consideration right now if the playoff had eight teams … Nebraska. Not saying they deserve it, but it would definitely add intrigue to Saturday’s game.
>> Does firing coaches actually make programs better? Rarely, says the New York Times. Doesn’t stop athletic directors from spending boatloads of cash to terminate guys they just extended — Gene Chizik and his assistants are due $11 million!
>> Monte Kiffin returned to college football to help his son chase national championships. He resigned Thursday after USC’s disastrous season. The move was obvious, but surely no less gut-wrenching for the Kiffin family. I interviewed Monte in June. He was extremely optimistic about his defense. Now, at 72, he’ll try to return to the NFL. In hindsight, he never should’ve left.
>> ESPN hosts a podcast with Jim Delany, where he talks about championship week and the future of the league.
>> The Big 12 is doing just fine without a championship game, writes Blair Kerkhoff.
>> Sports On Earth tackles Nick Saban.
>> Gregg Popovich sends his best players home, rather than playing the Miami Heat. David Stern says he’ll sanction the Spurs. What a mess. I don’t like Pop’s decision, but Stern definitely shouldn’t get involved.
Jeff Van Gundy nailed it today on SportsCenter, saying Stern should look in the mirror. Don’t schedule a high-profile, nationally televised game when one team — the Spurs — are playing their fourth game in five days.
>> Hey, Big East. Forget football crumbs like East Carolina and Tulane. Return to your basketball roots. It’s your only hope. That’s according to John Feinstein, who doesn’t include Creighton in his vision.
>> Speaking of the Jays, they have no time to lick their wounds with St. Joseph’s coming to town Saturday. The Hawks have played two reasonable foes, beating Notre Dame and losing to Florida State. They’re led by point guard Carl Jones, who had 29 on CU last year in Philly. Can the Jays prevent a Derrick Marks sequel?
The Boise State guard had 35 Wednesday night, including 28 in the second half. Greg McDermott tried Jahenns Manigat on Marks, then Josh Jones, then Avery Dingman. Then he went zone. Nothing worked. Creighton has to find a reliable perimeter defender.
>> Michael Dixon, arguably Missouri’s best returning player from a 30-5 season, has left the Tigers after a second rape allegation.
>> Did the Powerball winner in Missouri pick his numbers based upon his favorite Royals? No. But it’s a crazy coincidence.
>> Apparently Canadians aren’t very smart. Wow.
>> Sporting News columnist David Whitley wrote about Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos. Does that make him a racist?
>> Last but not least, one more night at the NU Coliseum. I’ve only been to 20 or 30 matches in the old barn. My favorite was the 2001 regional final against Florida. During the match, Eric Crouch was awarded the Heisman. The place went nuts.
From an athleticism standpoint, I contend that 2001 was John Cook’s best team — Cepero, Metcalf, Kropp, Holmquist, Pilakowski. That night, they played five tense sets against Aury Cruz and the Gators. Eleven years later, it’s still one of the best sporting events I’ve ever seen.
Volleyball — at that level, in an environment like that — takes your breath away. The quick momentum changes. The physical showdowns at the net. The refusals to let the ball hit the floor.
It’s hard to imagine Husker volleyball without the Coliseum. For old time’s sake, I hope they close it down tonight with another five-setter.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.