Published Wednesday, January 29, 2014 AT 2:07 PM / Updated at 6:15 PM
Mad Chatter: NU the slumming supermodel, assessing the Big East
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

I imagine Stewart Mandel’s email folder is blowing up this afternoon. Mandel’s latest college football mailbag came out this morning and included these harsh, harsh words about Nebraska’s continuing relationship with Bo Pelini:

“So Pelini is one of only eight coaches to win nine games in each of his first five seasons? That’s admirable, but it omits the fact that Pelini coached 13, 14, 14, 13 and 14 games, respectively, in those years. By comparison, Barry Switzer, who the author cites as another member of that club, did so in two 11- and three 12-game campaigns.

“Pelini supporters love to bring up the fact that the revered Tom Osborne got off to a similar win-loss start in his eventual 25-year tenure. But again, he coached fewer games. The two starts are not remotely comparable. Osborne’s sixth Nebraska team finished No. 8 in the AP Poll, his fifth top-10 finish. Pelini’s sixth Huskers squad finished unranked, and his highest finish to date is No. 14.

“So, yes, I’m baffled as to how Pelini remains in charge in Lincoln, mostly because I can’t believe how far Nebraska’s standards have fallen. This is a program that once considered national titles and top-10 teams a birthright. Now, it’s just tickled to beat an 8-4 SEC foe in the Gator Bowl. For this modest level of production, the school is also apparently willing to excuse Pelini’s very un-Nebraska-esque tirades.

“Just think about this for a second: Over the course of last season, Pelini A) was heard on a tape cursing out the entire fan base and B) all but asked the school to fire him at his postgame press conference following a loss to Iowa. And yet, our undeterred reader is merely “looking forward to what [Pelini] does this season.” Nebraska, what the heck happened to you? You’re like a former supermodel now slumming it as a B-list actress. You can do better. But hey, I’m not complaining. The longer Pelini stays, the longer @FauxPelini stays relevant.”

Along with Pat Forde’s post-Iowa column, that’s about as scathing an assessment of a program as you’ll see from a national commentator. Does it matter to Nebraska’s success in 2014? No. Bo Pelini will have an opportunity to silence his critics. But the national narrative of Nebraska football has clearly taken a turn south. And if he struggles, Nebraska fans are going to hear a lot of “I told ya so” from national columnists.

>> The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel wrote last week about Nebraska and the Big 12. Maybe the Huskers wouldn’t have left, he said, had Oklahoma done more to preserve the NU-OU rivalry. Tramel followed up Tuesday with fan responses. Interesting stuff.

>> Marshawn Lynch doesn’t want to talk to reporters and it’s the lead story from media day? Sometimes journalism is just stupid.

>> Peyton Manning as a New York Jet? It could’ve happened!

>> Is it New York’s or New Jersey’s Super Bowl? Dan Wetzel takes a tour through Jersey to find out.

>> Got a message Monday from a friend suggesting (tongue-in-cheek) a solution to the NFL extra-point debate: Make the player who scores the TD kick the point.

I passed along that joke and received a response with a real solution. Wherever a team chooses to kick the extra point is where they place the ball for kickoff (at the other end of the field). So if you kick an extra point from the 3-yard line, you kick off from your own 3. If you kick the point from your 25, you kick off from your own 25.

Pretty creative, huh?

>> Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James tonight on ESPN. I was surprised to see the stat where Durant is 3-13 against James, including the NBA Finals. Durant must think of LeBron the way Roger thinks of Rafa.

But times may be changing. Durant is playing at the highest level of his career. If he can hang 35 or 40 on the Heat, he becomes the clear front-runner for MVP. Area the Thunder the NBA favorite? I won’t go that far. I picked Spurs over Pacers before the season and I’m not ready to abandon it.

>> Excellent story on Vladimir Putin’s ownership of the Sochi Olympics.

“These are Putin’s Games, after all, a product of the ego, built by blunt command. The command is to construct a stage on which the style of Putin’s “managed democracy” will enlighten the world. Yet as the Olympics approach, that stage sure is getting crowded. The Russian parliament recently ratified a bill, signed by Putin, that outlaws gay propaganda. And just 200 miles north over the Caucasus Mountains, the leaders of Russia’s Islamic insurgency have pledged to disrupt the Olympics with terrorist violence. Every country has its troubles, but given Russia’s theatrical scope, here problems assume dramatic proportions.”

>> “The Big East, aside from Villanova, isn’t very good. Only Xavier and Providence look capable of making the NCAAs — and neither is a lock.

“I think CU’s league record will end up looking very similar to what it would’ve been in the Valley in 2013-14. And because I think Wichita is better than ‘Nova, the Jays might actually have a better chance of hanging a regular-season banner.”

Creighton fans objected to that paragraph in Wednesday’s Mad Chatter. Intensely. They cited the computer rankings — the Big East is No. 4 in the RPI. But I didn’t say the Big East = the Valley (read that again, Jay fans). I said Creighton’s chances of winning the league are basically the same.

Yes, the league is fourth in computer rankings. That’s primarily for two reasons: Villanova and Creighton are very good. And the bottom of the league — spots 8-10 — aren’t as bad as the typical conference.

Neither of those factors makes Creighton’s road much tougher. The Jays are probably going to beat the eighth-best team in the league whether it’s 100th in the RPI or 150th.

Where a team like Creighton really feels the strength of a league is spots in the middle tier, spots 3-7. And those spots simply aren’t very good.

I did some digging through preseason Bracketology columns. In projections, the Big East was expected to get four or five NCAA tournament bids.

Marquette, a No. 4 seed in three of the four Bracketology polls, is 11-9 overall and 3-4 in the league. Projected finish is 16-15.

Georgetown, projected in the 5-8 seed range, may not finish above .500. That’s not even an NIT team.

St. John’s, a bubble team in most preseason projections, is 12-9. NIT if lucky.

Yes, Xavier and Providence have exceeded expectations. But not enough to overcome the other disappointments.

None of this is meant to denigrate Creighton’s Big East start — I’m as high on the Jays as any national analyst. But face it, their end-of-season conference record will be very similar to what it would’ve been in the Valley.

>> Email from reader and Creighton fan David (written pre-St. John’s):

“Something strange happened last week with the Bluejays.  They dominated in a nationally televised “program defining” road victory over the #4 team in the country and took sole possession of 1st place in the Big East — the fourth ranked conference in the nation according to the RPI.  The win was assailed by most Jays fans as the game that put us on the map and the game that would finally earn our team the respect it was due by the media.

“Then a funny thing happened and the respect didn’t come — at least not from the media.  The respect has come from the number crunchers who look at objective data.

“Creighton now sits at 10th in the RPI, 2nd in the Pomeroys, 4th in the Sagarin Ratings and is a 3 or 4 seed in most projected brackets — CBS Sportsline this morning (Palm) had the Bluejays as a 3 seed which is reflective of an objectively strong tournament resume.

“It is very unusual (historically speaking) for a team to be this highly ranked by the computers, while leading a top 5 conference in the standings and yet struggle to be ranked or barely sneak into the rankings.  Most Creighton fans thought that our high profile performance on Monday would eliminate the gap between how good the team actually is (judged by objective data) and how good they are perceived to be by the media.  For some reason, this didn’t happen.  Creighton did climb into the rankings at #20 but its media ranking remains far below any other objective measure of the team’s performance this year and there seems to have been a lot of blowback that the Villanova game was a fluke.

“So why is it that the Big East leader can’t get any media respect after this past week? I don’t know and would appreciate your input, but I have a theory.

“Creighton is still seen as a mid-major team in the eyes of the national, and unfortunately, local media. They are not perceived to be a basketball power, largely because they haven’t made an NCAA tournament run in recent memory.  Thus, media figures (perhaps including yourself) who watched Creighton last week concluded that the Big East must be bad, because a team like Creighton can’t possibly be that good.

“Anyways, none of this matters much because NCAA seeding will not be based upon rankings.  That said, Creighton would benefit as a program from getting more respect from the media and that doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon.”

I think David is mistakenly lumping Creighton in with the rest of the Big East. The national media LOVES the Jays right now and recognizes CU as a Final Four contender. They don’t love the Big East. And I’m not sure why that bugs Creighton fans so much. Regarding the polls, I said on Monday that Creighton is underrated. But remember, the Jays don’t have as many quality wins as most other Top-20 teams.

>> In this morning’s column, I referenced sitting next to NBA talent evaluators last night at CenturyLink. I asked one where he sees Doug McDermott going in the NBA draft. Between 10 and 20, he said.

The scout said McDermott won’t be simply a specialist like Kyle Korver, though. He’s more versatile.

>> Finally, Tim Miles assists with a wedding proposal! I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t also give away the bride.

* * *

Update: Read part two of Dirk’s Mad Chatter, in which he responds to some reader comments sparked by this post.

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

Comments

  1. Rick Kurtzuba says:

    The Big East isn’t the dog some people think it is. Looking at records now and deciding how many teams a conference gets into the tournament and how far they’ll go is impossible. St Johns has a mediocre record but is an improving team. They are solid on defense. Providence is also underrated for how they’re playing now.

  2. Flat1 says:

    Mandell is a joke. Saying not to compare Pelini to Osborne or Switzer then he does exactly that. Not to mention this was a rebuilding year. That recording was two years old & the timing was obviously a cheapshot. And his comments after the iowa game were obviously out of frustration for lack of AD support. Yes, Pelini has plenty to work on & he can ill afford another season like this last one.

    Firing a coach who wins 9 games a year is a TERRIBLE idea. Wouldn’t be long before NO coach would ever want to be here, recruiting then suffers & we’d start going 2-10. But the fire pelini crowd can’t see that.

  3. Mab says:

    Flat…I feel Mandell is spot on. Except he assumes we can come up with an Urban Meyer.After the Solich Calahan mess 9wins and mediocrity isnt so bad.A lot of us want to be sure and give Pelini every chance before a change is made .One more year.