It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit the Big Ten and SEC, Tom Ricketts and May snow-outs, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. But first, Husker football.
We don’t want to play in the Big 12 North again.
We didn’t get into the Big Ten to play Purdue and Minnesota.
The standard for our program should be Michigan and Ohio State, not Wisconsin and Iowa.
With so many bad games, the sellout streak could be in jeopardy.
I’ve heard all of the above statements the past few weeks as the Big Ten moved toward its new East and West divisions. Husker fans are happy to see the Badgers more often. They’re also fearful that playing in the weaker division will lower the bar, make them even less relevant nationally and — during a great year — maybe keep them out of the playoff.
In September 2010, when Jim Delany rolled out Legends and Leaders, I was adamant that the Big Ten should go East-West. Not once did I consider that things would be too easy for Nebraska. I still don’t.
Swapping Michigan for Wisconsin isn’t that significant. Nebraska will still face Michigan or Ohio State every year. And the Huskers will have to beat Michigan or Ohio State to win the conference championship game.
Still worried? OK. Fine. But you’re directing your energy and concern in the wrong place. You can have the best of both worlds. You can beef up the schedule without making it harder to win a conference championship.
The answer is September.
This week, news outlets reported that LSU and Wisconsin are discussing a neutral site game in 2014 at — you ready for this? — Lambeau Field. How cool is that? A year later, the Badgers are playing Alabama in Jerry World.
Why isn’t Nebraska doing that? Those showdowns — not Michigan and Ohio State — should be NU’s scheduling focus.
In October and November, Husker fans should want a relatively soft schedule. In September, they should want all they can handle. That’s the blueprint for sustaining a national brand, building a playoff resume and still getting a crack at conference titles.
Look at 2014, the first year of the playoff. Nebraska’s non-conference schedule: Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, at Fresno State, Miami. That’s not good enough.
How ‘bout 2015: BYU, South Alabama, Miami, Southern Miss. Better, but still potentially without a top-25 foe.
The 2016 slate is better yet: Fresno, Tennessee, Wyoming, Northern Illinois in Chicago. (This is the first year of the Big Ten’s nine-game league schedule, so NU will have to drop one of these games). But what if Tennessee doesn’t turn things around?
2017: Northern Illinois, at Tennessee and an open date.
2018: Colorado and two open dates.
2019 is full: South Alabama, at Colorado, Northern Illinois. Ugh.
Look, Nebraska’s national brand is slipping a little bit every year — this season’s lack of nationally televised night games won’t help. The answer isn’t to ask Jim Delany for tougher conference games. The answer is to go out and make a splash in the non-conference.
Tennessee and Miami and Colorado will draw a few eyeballs. Northern Illinois and Fresno are respectable. But Shawn Eichorst needs to think bigger, even it leads to a few September losses.
Drop one of those 2014 cupcakes and find a neutral-site game against a top-25 program. Find another top-25 program for a home-and-home in 2017-18. Dump South Alabama in 2019 — that’s the type of program you should be able to call on a Monday morning and have ‘em show up Saturday night.
If you’re a college football fan on the East Coast or in the Sun Belt, you don’t care that Nebraska is playing Purdue instead of Michigan State on Nov. 10. You do care that Nebraska is playing Stanford — not Florida Atlantic — on Sept. 10.
Even if the Huskers lose those games, it helps them in countless other ways. So stop fretting about the Big Ten West. Start looking for September dates at Cowboys Stadium.
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>> 25 things Tom Dienhart learned about Big Ten football this spring.
>> The new SEC Network is going to make the rich much, much richer.
>> College football’s recent recruiting deregulation fiasco is a microcosm of the NCAA’s problems, writes Stewart Mandel.
>> A touching story of how Boston College rallied behind a beloved sports information director.
>> Incredible piece on how sports information officials at Wyoming and Colorado State saved a veteran reporter from a stroke.
>> USA Today examines stadium security and, to no surprise, finds significant problems. “Security in the United States is all about bells and whistles,” says Rafi Sela, a former official with the Israel Defense Forces. “You see the guards standing at stadiums and bus stations. It’s not even considerable deterrence anymore.”
>> Bloomberg examines the Ed O’Bannon case and its potential impact on the NCAA.
>> Jason King’s 10 things to look forward to in the 2013-14 college basketball season. The new ACC leads the list.
>> Grantland takes a closer look at Tom Ricketts v. Chicago. Who’s right? And why is he threatening to leave Wrigley behind?
>> Check out this slideshow of the Royals-Rays game at Kauffman Stadium, canceled by snow in the fourth inning. For the record, Alex Gordon had an RBI single erased from the history book.
>> I’m reluctant to praise first-round NBA playoff series, but tonight is about as good as it gets for the first week of May. The highlights, of course, are Knicks-Celtics and Thunder-Rockets as both favorites try to avoid a seventh game.
Popular opinion (or at least the ESPN polls I saw Thursday) says the Knicks are in greater danger, but I disagree. Boston struggles badly to score and, at some point, New York will have too much firepower. In the OKC series, on the other hand, I think Houston is noticeably the better team after Russell Westbrook’s injury. If not for a superhuman first quarter from Kevin Durant in Game 3, the Rockets would be up 3-2.
I expect both series to go the distance. But I like Houston’s chances better than Boston’s in Game 7.
>> I received your emails and Twitter messages about Wednesday’s topic — why Nebraska produces better girl athletes than boy athletes. I’m going to let a few more responses come in and post the best theories next week.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.