Published Friday, October 25, 2013 AT 2:11 PM / Updated at 2:45 PM
Mad Chatter: Taylor’s return, Urban’s staff and SEC-Pac-12 challenge
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We cover Pac-12 vs. SEC, Creighton hoops, DJ Dana Altman, Brad Stevens, Michael Wacha and Urban Meyer. But first, it’s Taylor time.

Six weeks after limping off the Memorial Stadium turf, humbled by another loss to UCLA, Taylor Martinez returns to action Saturday at Minnesota. Or at least that’s what we’re expecting.

Whether he starts or not, his performance will be a big storyline. I don’t expect too much too soon. But I think fans (and teammates) need to see enough from No. 3 to believe that he can lead another November surge.

A year ago, Nebraska went 6-0 down the stretch and Martinez was a key reason why. He overcame some huge mistakes and led fourth-quarter comebacks against Northwestern and Michigan State.

If all goes well, the Huskers won’t need him to play at an All-Big Ten level down the stretch. But he has to play well. He has to be relatively healthy.

This program isn’t sturdy enough right now to go into November still wondering who its No. 1 quarterback is. Taylor doesn’t need to throw for 300 or run for 100 against the Gophers.

He does need to show that 42 days after his last snap, he’s still worth waiting for.

>> This New York Times project on Urban Meyer’s assistants illustrates an interesting contrast with Bo Pelini and Nebraska.

“Meyer figured he would eventually coach again, and he knew that his next head coaching job, his fourth, would be different. His staff would not be stocked with loyal assistants who understood the Meyer Way and its demands. To that end, he hurriedly assembled a group of relative strangers when he took over at Ohio State …

“It produced an eclectic mixture, this Ohio State staff, a collection of nine main assistants unlike any other in college football. One offensive coordinator is a Mensa member, although he cannot remember if he paid his most recent dues. The defensive line coach played 14 seasons in the N.F.L. and has three Super Bowl rings. One defensive coordinator was a wrestler who became an interim head football coach. The strength coach doubles as the unofficial staff therapist.

“Collectively, they hold more than 200 years of experience, at all levels, from high school to the N.F.L.”

>> Pac-12 or SEC? I think we’re far enough along in the college football season that we can reasonably question whether the SEC is still No. 1.

The debate is tricky because the SEC has two more teams. So rather than just knocking the SEC doormats, let’s remove the seventh- and eighth-best teams — South Carolina and Ole Miss — and see how the Pac-12 stacks up (my picks are in parentheses):

Alabama vs. Oregon (SEC)

Missouri vs. Stanford (Pac-12)

Auburn vs. UCLA (Pac-12)

LSU vs. Arizona State (SEC)

Texas A&M vs. Washington (SEC)

Georgia vs. Oregon State (SEC)

Florida vs. Utah (Pac-12)

Tennessee vs. Arizona (SEC)

Vandy vs. USC (Pac-12)

Mississippi St. vs. Washington St. (Pac-12)

Arkansas vs. Cal (SEC)

Kentucky vs. Colorado (SEC)

I’ve got the SEC, 7-5. Of course, we know that perception is molded primarily by the top of the league. And the SEC looks weaker than normal in the top tier. It will likely come down to which league wins the national title. I really hope we get to see ‘Bama-Oregon on Jan. 6.

>> Oregon has only a 14 percent chance of being undefeated on Dec. 8? Seems a bit low. And Baylor’s 50 percent seems a bit high.

>> Nice work from George Schroeder on Marcus Mariota, the Oregon QB who’s quickly emerged into the leading Heisman contender.

>> Mizzou fans are just waiting for the collapse, alum Pat Forde writes. Shevin Wiggins’ foot makes a prominent appearance.

>> Spencer Hall documents a day in The Grove at Ole Miss. This is on my bucket list.

>> A Big East basketball preview from Grantland. Mark Titus has Creighton in the No. 2 slot. Could that change with Josh Smith becoming immediately eligible at Georgetown? The Hoyas got a gift from the NCAA. Will Artino better eat his Wheaties.

>> DJ Dana Altman? I’d much rather watch this than “Woo Pig Sooie.”

>> Royals fan Rany Jazayerli examines the Cardinals’ remarkable success for Grantland. It’s a great read for baseball fans. But I got a kick out of this paragraph because it reminded me of Nebraska in the 90s.

“Cardinals fans want to have it both ways: They want to win every year and they want the rest of us to like them, too. Here’s a news flash: There’s no room for magnanimity in a dynasty. Cardinals fans are like the high school starting quarterback who steals your girlfriend but then wants to take you out for ice cream afterward to prove there are no hard feelings. The hell with them.”

>> Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth stands up for Cardinal fans. Again, this might as well be about Nebraska:

Absent the hate you find everywhere else, there’s just … cheering. There’s polite applause for the other side. The “Best Fans” argument, it seems to me, boils down to this: Those who show up do so often, and they support their team unfailingly, while acting in a civil way toward opponents — not universally, mind you, but to a greater extent than at other stadiums. There’s a subjective leap that calls this atmosphere better. Or, as Cardinals fans say, “It’s just different here.”

Well, isn’t it? And why on earth should the fact that the Cardinals are winning a lot change anything about how we regard this behavior by their fans? You want to root against the Cardinals because they’ve won so often lately — I get it. You want to hate the Cardinals and their fans? Makes no sense to me.

>> I’m a bit befuddled why MLB would choose Friday and Tuesday for World Series off days. Wouldn’t Thursday and Monday (when the NFL presents direct competition) be wiser? It would’ve only required cutting off days between LCS Game 7 and World Series Game 1 from two to one.

Remember, World Series Game 7 is next Thursday, when the Bengals and Dolphins are playing. It’s also Halloween night (AKA the night when my dog wants to eat all the little munchkins dressed as Superman). I’d rather watch my Game 7 in peace, Mr. Selig.

>>Remember Michael Wacha at the 2011 College World Series? Me neither. Rob Anderson found Wacha’s last college pitching performance and posted it on Twitter last night. On June 21, 2011, in an elimination game against Cal, Wacha went 6 2/3, giving up seven runs (four earned). He took the season-ending loss.

>> Sports Illustrated’s new longform site features the mysterious life and death of Bison Dele. Great read.

>> Quite a project from the Indy Star, which goes to great lengths to detail July 3, the day Brad Stevens rocked Butler by leaving for the Celtics. (Matthew Hansen and I are still arguing which side took a bigger chance, Stevens or Boston… I say Stevens did).

>> 32 bold predictions for the NBA season, by Zach Lowe. I must say, I can’t wait to watch the Western Conference.

>> Gary Shelton, one of the best columnists in newspapers, says Greg Schiano must be fired. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.

>> St. Louis’ call to Brett Favre shows just how bad NFL quarterback play is, Dan Wetzel says.

>> Monday night at about 11 p.m., I was finishing up a horrible football game — Vikings/Giants — when I walked upstairs to check on our 3-year-old, Luke, who’d been fighting a cough all weekend. I found my wife in his room, trying to calm him down. Luke was breathing faster than I’d ever seen.

We pulled him out of bed, carried him downstairs to watch some cartoons, trying to calm him down. His spirit was good, but his breathing didn’t change. My wife called the after-hours nurse at our clinic, who told us to record his breaths-per-minute. When Andrea told her “64,” the nurse recommended a trip to the emergency room.

Three and a half years ago, we almost lost Luke during childbirth. He needed an emergency C-section and wasn’t responsive for several minutes when he came out of the womb. He made it through that, so I always kind of assume he’s invincible.

I figured doctors would say his breathing Monday night was no big deal and send us home. They did not. They listened to his chest and expressed concern immediately. There was no air moving through his right lung.

Eventually, after several breathing treatments, steroid doses and oxygen liters, doctors attributed his breathing problem to a nasty virus, combined with allergies. Maybe it was the first sign of asthma, maybe not.

Tuesday night — 21 hours after we checked into the ER — Luke was lying in his hospital bed, asleep.

I was next to him on a little bench/bed, when his monitor started beeping. Ten minutes, 20, 30. His oxygen saturation level had dipped back into the mid-80s during sleep, meaning he’d soon need the tubes in his nose again.

Alone in the room, without someone to talk to, I sent out a couple tweets: “Powerless: Sitting in a dark hospital room, staring at a monitor that shows your 3-year-old son’s slumping oxygen saturation level. #Beep

“Can’t express my respect & admiration for parents who spend months & years in dark hospital rooms staring at monitors. You know who you are.”

We all know the drawbacks of Twitter. Countless regrettable things are expressed in 140 characters every day. It can be a cesspool of vitriol. But at that moment, Twitter was amazing.

Dozens of people — friends and strangers, parents and non-parents, fans of my writing and critics of my writing — responded with thoughts and prayers. Others sent text messages. My “new interactions” rose by the minute — 35, 45, 55, 65, etc.

Part of me felt guilty. There were hundreds of kids in Omaha at that exact moment enduring sicknesses far worse than Luke’s. I didn’t mean to be so dramatic. But as I sat there reading and replying to prayer wishes, something happened. The beeping stopped. Luke’s oxygen level rose back into the 90s. It stayed there the rest of the night.

I know there’s a medical explanation for that little blue number jumping back to the comfort zone; the next morning, a nurse told me his little body just needed a little while to crank up its breathing. But I believe in the power of prayer, too.

Nine hours later, after a relatively good night of sleep, a doctor came in and told me Luke could go home that day. Nurses gave him a breathing treatment, then told him he could go back to sleep. Luke lay there for 10-20 minutes, twisting and turning, then looked at me on my bench/bed, where I was still groggy.

“Daddy, when can we wake up?” he said.

Whenever you want, I said.

“Well, she told me to go back to sleep. But she didn’t know I was better.”

>> Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for reading. And have a great weekend.

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