Published Monday, October 14, 2013 AT 1:46 PM / Updated at 3:45 PM
Mad Chatter: Duck calls, the Huskers’ (new) road to Indy and Big Ten or Big 12?
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

I’m sure it has something to do with spicing up a bad home schedule in 2016. I’m sure it has something to do with beefing up the résumé for a potential playoff bid.

But adding Oregon to the 2016-17 schedules accomplishes so much more.

One, Nebraska becomes cool by association. Fans love the idea of seeing the Ducks in person. Players do, too. And since it’s not 10 years down the road (like most scheduling announcements) you can plan on seeing the same Oregon you see now.

NU arguably hasn’t scheduled a whopper this big since Notre Dame 2000-01. (Remember, USC wasn’t anywhere near the top of college football when NU agreed to a home-and-home in 2006-07.)

Two, it shows that the new NU regime isn’t going to hide in the playoff era, even as the program struggles to stay within shouting distance of Alabama and Oregon.

Look, every major-conference school is basically obligated to play at least one “peer” in the non-conference. But there’s no rule saying it must be a good opponent.

So when NU scheduled four games against Colorado, for instance, my initial response was, “Oh, I see how this is gonna be. Nebraska is going to take the easy way out. Nibble the edges. Do anything to get through non-con play undefeated.”

The Huskers basically had to play Oklahoma in 2020-21. But why were they setting up a home-and-home with Cincinnati? Why hadn’t they scheduled a single neutral-site showdown?

Staying in the national spotlight has a lot to do with winning. But bold and creative scheduling sure helps. Look at Wisconsin, which has Alabama in 2015 and LSU in ’16-17 at Lambeau and in Houston. Or look at Tennessee and Virginia Tech, who scheduled this epic event for Bristol Motor Speedway (coincidentally, it’s the reason UT asked Shawn Eichorst for “scheduling relief.”)

Nebraska might go 0-2 against Oregon. But the intangible benefits are immeasurable. It’s two sure-fire national TV games. It’s a nice recruiting tool. And every time a Husker fan thinks of 2016, he’ll get excited about seeing that offense at Memorial Stadium.

Kudos, Mr. Eichorst and Mr. Pelini. Now go recruit some more safeties.

* * *

>> The way I see it, Husker fans, beat Michigan State and your odds of winning the Legends Division are somewhere in the 80-90 percent range.

Northwestern’s predictable loss at Wisconsin and Michigan’s not-so-predictable loss at Penn State (what a mess the Wolverines are right now) make NU the indisputable favorite to face Ohio State in Indy.

Let’s say the Huskers finish 6-2 (with one of those wins over MSU). Who could catch ‘em?

Northwestern: Ain’t happening. The Wildcats would need to win out, beating Michigan and Michigan State at home, and Nebraska and Iowa on the road.

Michigan: Even if the Wolverines beat Nebraska on Nov. 9, they’d need to win two of these three: at Michigan State, at Northwestern, Ohio State at home. That’s a chore.

Michigan State: Without the tiebreaker, Sparty would need to go 7-1, beating Michigan at home and winning at Northwestern. It’s possible but not likely.

Point is, Nebraska’s new “game of the year” is Nov. 16. Beat Michigan State and you can book your flights to Indianapolis.

>> Johnny Football strikes again. Leading a fourth-quarter rally over Ole Miss won’t go down on Manziel’s greatest hits. But I’m not sure there’s a single athlete in the world I’d rather watch, especially when the pressure is on.

I asked Twitter followers to rank their five most thrilling/entertaining athletes in sports right now. Initial responses are fantastic. I’ll post results in Wednesday’s Chatter.

>> You know that feeling Husker fans woke up with on Oct. 17, 2010, the morning after NU blew its last chance at Texas? Well, that’s similar to what Oklahoma fans must be feeling right now. They walked into the Cotton Bowl with T-shirts that said, “Keep Mack.” And then Mack’s team pummeled them.

I still think it’s a long shot that Brown is back in 2014, but what a way to go out in the Red River Rivalry.

By the way, in the past 50 games, Texas has won 24, OU 23, three were tied.

Last 40: OU 19, Texas 18, Tie 3

Last 30: OU 15, Texas 13, Tie 2

Last 20: OU 10, Texas 9, Tie 1

Last 10: OU 5, Texas 5

That’s what a rivalry looks like.

>> The difference between this Oregon team and ones the past five years? Marcus Mariota. Scott Frost breaks down Mariota’s performance against Washington. Coincidentally, it happened on the same field where Frost had his breakout in 1997.

>> I don’t buy the idea that the SEC’s path to another national title is “cluttered.” Yes, the intra-conference competition is stiff. But Alabama is still the nation’s best team and its remaining schedule is very manageable. And with Stanford going down Saturday, the Pac-12’s hopes of producing a 13-0 team aren’t as good.

>> Say what you want about Gary Pinkel and Mizzou (I know I have). But after winning at Georgia, the 6-0 Tigers are terribly underrated. No. 14? C’mon. I shake my head at the guys who put Mizzou behind schools like Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and — best of all — Georgia!

>> Brian Bennett ranks the top 10 players in the Big Ten. Ameer Abdullah is pretty high.

>> Those four baseball games over the weekend constitute one of the best weekends I can remember. My goodness, what a show.

>> Ten years later, Bartman is still hiding somewhere in Chicagoland.

>> Greatest NFL quarterback of all-time? Joe Posnanski’s readers had a clear-cut winner (and it’s not Matt Schaub).

>> Bill Simmons didn’t want to lose Magic Johnson from NBA Countdown (even though Magic was terrible). A good read.

>> This story from the Chicago Marathon is remarkable.

>> Mike Tanier has a suggestion for the Redskins’ name change — and Nebraskans will recognize it.

>> Tim Miles had a press conference today during which he analyzed Deverell Biggs.

“He’s had some really excellent practices,” Miles said. “And when he has a bad one, it’s kind of catastrophically bad.”

Ha! I can’t wait for basketball.

>> When I reached out in Friday’s Chatter for opinions on Nebraska’s conference change, I knew I’d hear from Big Ten haters. But I did not expect such an overwhelming majority of respondents wishing NU could go back to the Big 12. It was about 70-30. I’m still editing them. I’ll post a few responses now — and more in Wednesday’s Chatter.

Scott says: Count me in as one of the many who think the move to the Big 10 was a mistake.

Regional and historic rivalries thrown out the window, travel difficulties for fans, brand name perception nationwide, and most importantly, the difficulty in recruiting. How do we sell a kid on Nebraska if they live in California, Texas, or now even Florida?  Why would a west coast kid want to come to the Midwest when we can’t compete with UCLA?  Most games are east of here.

Lost the Texas connection and with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, two more options for the east coast or southeast kid to consider if they would even want to play in the Big 10.  I don’t know Dirk, could be pretty difficult down the road!

Vic says: I miss the Big Eight. The Big 12? Not a bit. To get over your misgivings, just roll this year’s Texas-Iowa State game tape.

Justin says: I don’t miss the Big 12 at all. I don’t miss the SWC vs. Big 8 politics, 11 to 1 votes, etc.

Whatever nostalgia and affection I might have retained for the Big 12 was killed off watching Nebraska get a penalty for not allowing the Iowa State player to break Burkhead’s neck or watching Cotton being penalized for getting violated by an A&M linebacker.

As for the Big Ten, I love BTN. I still think Nebraska fits better in the Big Ten culture and, in the long run, I feel as though it was still the right move (athletically as well as financially).

I find Nebraska vs. Michigan/Ohio State/Wisconsin more exciting than playing Texas or Oklahoma.

Craig says: Dirk, I used to complain about schools like Kansas St. and Missouri nonstop. I DESPISED Missouri. But my God I miss them.

I miss the familiarity of those old teams from the Big 12. I totally understand why we left and joined the Big 10 but from strictly an athletics standpoint, I wish we never left. I miss all of them, whether its Missouri, Iowa St., or Texas. I miss hating them. I even catch myself wishing Missouri would join the Big 10 so we could play them again. I was pretty excited about playing teams like Penn St. and Ohio St. but now with Maryland and Rutgers? Not so much.

Another thing I miss is something I never considered when we left is the game times. I miss those old 6pm FSN start times and all the abc primetime games. No love at all for the 11am games.

Bryan says: I’ll say it. Yes, 3 years later I still wish Nebraska was in the Big 12.

I watched the Texas-Iowa State game with much more interest than I did OSU-Northwestern last week. I watch Big 10 football because I feel like I’m supposed to. I watch Big 12 football because I want to.

Texas is a better villain than Ohio State. Oklahoma is more like Nebraska than Michigan.

KU and Iowa State trump Illinois and Purdue just because of familiarity.

Long story short, I try to care, and get ginned up about the Big 10…but I haven’t yet. The Big 10 is Ward Cleaver. The Big 12 is Charlie Harper. Ward makes more sense. Charlie is more fun.

 

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com