Being the slacker I am, I spent most of last week lounging on the beaches of … a sand pit outside Columbus. OK, so it’s not Bermuda, but it was the perfect mini-vacation before the football storm. It should also be the last Mad Chatter sabbatical until December.
Today we play a little bit of college football catch-up. But let’s start with the second annual win/loss probabilities for Nebraska football.
Last year, I passed on a traditional predictions column. College football games, especially in this age of uber-parity, can unfold in countless ways, I figured, depending on the random bounce of the ball. For instance, Nebraska definitely loses to Northwestern if the Wildcats don’t drop back-to-back interceptions in the fourth quarter. Nebraska might have beaten Georgia had officials ruled that Jake Cotton had recovered Ameer Abdullah’s third-quarter fumble.
Thus, the more reasonable (and more interesting) method for predictions is a win/loss probability. If the two teams meet 100 times, how many times do the Huskers win?
According to my (not-so) scientific analysis, here’s the 2013 Nebraska schedule from toughest to easiest:
at Michigan: 37/63
Nebraska’s last scheduled trip to the Big House for 5-6 years is the game of the 2013 season and it’s not even close. If NU wins, book your tickets to Indy — and probably a BCS bowl. Michigan plays at bitter rival Michigan State the previous week — a small scheduling break for the Huskers.
Last year, I had Nebraska as a preseason underdog in three games (Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan). This year, just once. But the Bruins’ offense will be a stern test for the young Blackshirts. If NU wins, Taylor Martinez will need to have a big day.
at Penn State: 63/37
Hard to know what we’ll get from Bill O’Brien’s second team. His first one ran on adrenaline most of 2012 and managed eight wins. Fewer headlines would normally be good, but the Nittany Lions will be playing more walk-ons than last year — and may be starting a true freshman quarterback.
I know, the Huskers have struggled with Northwestern. But the Wildcats’ defense needs to make big strides before I favor them in a game of this magnitude. Unlike UCLA two months earlier, Pelini will have had ample time to find some answers on defense.
Michigan State: 73/27
Can the Spartans find a way to score? Without Le’Veon Bell, they need dramatic improvement at quarterback. This may not be as easy as 2010, when NU spanked the Legends champs, but on paper it’s a clear Nebraska W.
at Minnesota: 79/21
Jerry Kill got the Gophers to a bowl game last year. Now he needs to improve on that 2-6 Big Ten record. The Huskers have dominated Minnesota the past two years.
Can the Hawks finally add some spice to this “rivalry”? First Kirk Ferentz needs to find a quarterback. I imagine this will be another post-Thanksgiving snooze.
at Purdue: 84/16
First-year coach Darrell Hazell has work to do. And with Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois on the schedule in August and September, his Boilers may be beaten down by the time Nebraska shows up.
Tim Beckman had a disastrous 2-10 rookie year in Champaign. Nathan Scheelhaase, banged up most of 2012, needs to have a big year if the Illini are going to rise to respectability.
Maybe, just maybe, Dave Christensen can find some old Missouri magic and cause mass confusion for the Nebraska defense. Even then, his defense has to stop Nebraska’s offense.
Southern Mississippi: 96/4
Last year, Nebraska played one of its best openers in a long time against the Golden Eagles, who ended up being far, far worse (0-12) than anyone expected. This time, with another new coach at USM, shouldn’t be much different.
South Dakota State: 99/1
The Jackrabbits flummoxed Taylor Martinez and Nebraska’s offense back in 2010. Don’t expect the same this time around.
Did I get the order (and the odds) right? You tell me.
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>> The CBS Sports analysts unveiled their Big Ten picks and Top 25, where the Huskers range between 13th (Jerry Hinnen) and unranked (Bruce Feldman). The preseason ranking is interesting. But more relevant was the Big Ten Legends predictions, where analysts chose Nebraska over Michigan 6-2.
What the analysts don’t say is whether they think Nebraska is actually the better team, or if NU just has an easier road.
The more I look at 2013, the more I see a scenario in which the Huskers lose at the Big House but still win the division.
Nebraska has a few big advantages on Michigan. One, non-divisional schedule. The Wolverines draw Ohio State; Nebraska does not. Two, divisional road games. The Wolverines go to Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa. Nebraska has all three Legends foes at home.
Those facts alone give NU a significant chance of getting to Indy, even after losing in Ann Arbor.
>> I’m way, way late on North Platte booster Mike Jacobson. I was pretty stunned his two quotes got as much play as they did on message boards and on radio shows.
Folks, what Jacobson said is true. And I guarantee there are plenty of boosters who feel the same way — they just won’t say it in August. It’s almost laughable how the mainstream opinions of December and January are considered blasphemous come July and August. Husker fans put on the rose-colored glasses and forget how disappointed they were by finishing the season 0-2.
If NU loses at home to UCLA — or gets blown out at Michigan — Mike Jacobson won’t be the only one questioning Bo’s future in Lincoln.
>> Scott Dochterman examines the facilities boom in the Big Ten, specifically at Minnesota and Iowa.
>> The Hawkeyes lost a big, in-state recruit over the weekend — to Alabama. Ouch.
>> Wisconsin’s schedules in 2014-15, which include LSU and Alabama, give the Badgers a window of opportunity to make a national splash. They also should be the model for Nebraska. I’ve written it before, but the best scenario for NU is an easy Big Ten schedule, but a tough non-con schedule.
>> A few nuggets from last week (in case you missed ‘em):
Travis Haney’s top 50 breakout players in college football. If Haney does this list again at the end of the season and doesn’t have a Blackshirt on the list, that’s a problem for Bo.
Phil Steele studies which programs most often are upset winners — and losers. Nebraska, which still drives a lot of gambling dollars, loses as a favorite more than it wins as an underdog.
Tony Barnhart says the major conferences could stop playing cupcakes if they wanted to … but probably won’t.
Pat Forde’s 25 most intriguing quarterbacks includes Taylor Martinez. But 18 seems a little low.
I always enjoy a good roundtable. Here, the Sports Illustrated guys discuss Erin Andrews, Clay Travis, Mark May and more.
A Wisconsin tight end has played for seven head coaches!
>> Back to new stuff. Louisville coach Charlie Strong won’t allow his players to sign autographs at fan day.
First of all, Louisville has fans? Secondly, if you’re worried about autographs showing up online, I’d make a very simple rule at fan day. If you’re older than the players, you don’t ask for autographs.
I remember my brother, 11 years old, asking for Broderick Thomas’ autograph, then hanging it on his wall. “Sandman,” Broderick wrote. It was the coolest thing in our house in 1988. That’s what autographs are intended for. They’re not for a 40-year-old man.
>> The Royals took three of four from Boston over the weekend; Alex Gordon is warming up again. Why are the Royals playing so well? The bats have finally woken up. But it’s something else, too: the summer of glove.
>> Jeff Passan’s 10 Degrees column is always great, including this week when he writes that Mike Trout is far more valuable than Miggy Cabrera and every other player in baseball. Why? The missing piece in the MVP debate — salary.
>> The latest Cuban baseball star — Jose Dariel Abreu — has defected. Who will grab him and for how much?
>> Billy Dillon was on the verge of baseball glory. Then he was wrongly convicted of murder.
>> I like Jason Dufner (former Cox Classic participant) and I commend his ball-striking performance, especially with the short irons. But the PGA Championship was one of the worst majors I can remember. Relatively boring golf course. Relatively boring cast of characters. I don’t need Tiger and Phil to have a good time. But it wouldn’t hurt to see a little movement on the leaderboard. Maybe I just got tired of watching Jim Furyk back off every putt — twice.
>> Peter King leads MMQB from Chiefs camp, where he visited a happier Andy Reid.
>> David Epstein’s new book breaks ground in athletic training.
>> Want great sports photography? Check out this shot from the track and field world championships.
>> Last chance to submit your votes for greatest five-year eras in major sports. What’s the golden age of college football, NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. Drop me an email. I’ll post submissions — along with my ballot — in Wednesday’s Chatter. Thanks for all the contributions.