It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites.
We hit Bill Snyder and Bill O’Brien, Frank Reich and Kevin Cosgrove, Johnny the Jet and Omaha Central, RG3 and Russell Wilson, even some Alabama and Notre Dame hate. But first, make your spring game plans.
Eight seniors who started most of the year. Nebraska’s defense may be better or it may be worse in 2013. It will certainly have more fresh faces than any Husker defense of the Pelini era.
As a result, the Blackshirts are facing one of the most critical offseasons in a long, long time.
“The development of those guys has to start tomorrow,” defensive coordinator John Papuchis said after the Capital One Bowl. “There’s no way they can wait until the first day of spring ball to start everything they need to do to prepare themselves.”
Papuchis sees enough talent to be able to show improvement. The question: Can they learn the scheme?
“I think physically, the young guys are very talented players. It’s more of a mental thing where we have to get ourselves in position where they have a good understanding, a good feel for the defense. That’s going to be our challenge here going forward the next couple of months.
“I love their attitude, I love their work ethic. I think they’re gonna be really good players. We’ve got to get them up to speed on what it’s like to play Division I college football — the mental aspect.”
Fans can talk all they want about recruiting improvements. But barring a high-impact, junior-college addition, recruits won’t help in 2013. Pelini and Papuchis must work solely with the players they have right now. It will be the ultimate test of coaching.
>> I received a question from a reader who wanted a statistical comparison between Kevin Cosgrove’s 2007 defense and Bo Pelini’s 2012 defense. This year’s Blackshirts have the edge — but not by much.
Here’s the average scoring and total yards allowed:
Coz: 37.9, 477
27.6, 361 (There was an error previously here; it said 35.8 points, not 27.6.)
Here’s the average scoring and total yards allowed in the losses:
Coz: 48.6, 530
Bo: 53.5, 595
Obviously, the ’07 team lost seven games, while the ’12 lost only four. So here’s the scoring and total yards allowed in each defense’s four worst performances:
Coz: 58.8, 569
Bo: 53.5, 595
One thing to note: The 2007 defense faced four of the top 13 total offenses in the country. The best offense Nebraska faced this year, according to the stats, is Arkansas State (16th). UCLA is 23rd, Georgia 27th, Ohio State 48th and Wisconsin 61st.
>> K-State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2002 — it’s 0-5. And Bill Snyder has never beaten a team ranked higher than 14th in a bowl game. I recognize Snyder’s accomplishments. What he’s done clearly puts him in the elite class of coaches. But there are a lot of people who think he’s the best coach in college football — and one of the greatest of all-time. Without a single Top-5 finish in his career, I don’t see it.
>> Bill O’Brien is staying at Penn State. I admire his loyalty — and his ability to get a raise. Booster Terry Pegula donated $1.3 million to keep O’Brien, who will now make $3.6 million per year. There’s definitely risk involved for O’Brien. Penn State is likely to take a step back in 2013. Will he have the same NFL opportunities a year from now?
>> Chip Kelly looked and sounded like a man ready for the NFL last night. Where could he end up? Philadelphia. Buffalo. Cleveland. The Browns would be fascinating — can you imagine his offense competing in the rugged AFC North?
>> It’s the 20-year anniversary of the Bills’ rally from a 35-3 deficit against the Oilers. I vividly remember watching it. Here’s a recap from the Buffalo News.
>> Johnny Manziel v. Oklahoma. Should be one of the best bowl games. How do Heisman winners fare in bowls? Here’s the 10 best performances and 10 worst. You might recognize the guy at No. 1.
>> Speaking of Top 10s. Baseball America gives you the 10 best college baseball coaches under 40. You might recognize the guy at No. 9.
>> Clay Travis doing what Clay Travis does best: making me laugh at college football. Here’s 15 reasons to hate Alabama — and Notre Dame.
>> Speaking of hatred, Pat Forde examines the history of Alabama’s contempt for Notre Dame. It’s cultural.
>> NFL wild card weekend, starting with the more interesting NFC.
I cannot pick Christian Ponder over Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, I just can’t. Adrian Peterson will get 150 yards, but the key is Minnesota’s pass rush. It needs to have a huge night.
It’s hard to buy Seattle on the road. But I’m not sure the Redskins can win without RG3 at full speed. (I still strongly believe he should be Rookie of the Year.) I think the Seahawks’ defense steps up.
Can a rookie quarterback end Ray Lewis’ Hall of Fame career? Andrew Luck was 6 when Lewis made his NFL debut. I say the Ravens rattle Luck and Ray Rice has a big day on the ground.
I keep going back and forth on this one. I know Houston is in shambles. But like last year, I’m not sure Cincy is good enough to beat them on the road. I’ll take Arian Foster and J.J. Watt.
>> Erick Strickland was there. So were Dean Thompson and Dave Hoppen and the entire Creighton basketball team, which sat in the nosebleeds. It was a “Who’s Who” of Omaha basketball at Civic Auditorium last night.
And why not? Central and South put on a good show in the Metro Tournament final, combining for about 10 dunks. Akoy Agau had only four points, but defense and balance are what makes Central so good. South, the state’s No. 2 team, gets another shot at Goliath on Feb. 1.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.