On Sunday, the Omaha World-Herald published an article that dominated much of the front page of its sports section.
The topic? A statement that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez made during a question-and-answer session at the Huskers' fall press conference.
When asked to give a completion rate goal for the 2012 season, Martinez replied "70 percent or above."
That's right. 70 percent.
Let's ignore the fact that since 2000, less than 25 quarterbacks have been able to reach the 70 percent barrier.
Let us instead dwell on the fact that Martinez last played a college football game less than 220 days ago. That was the last game in a season that saw Martinez ride horrible mechanics and poor decision making to a 56.3 completion percentage. That's right. Not even 60 percent.
So instead of responding to the question with "I'd just like to get to 60 percent" or "I'm really just more focused on team goals at this point," you've got a guy who might struggle to start at the same position for well over half of the teams in the FBS, essentially making a claim that he will have one of the greatest passing seasons in college football history.
Did I miss where Dr. Tom Osborne flew in Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman at some point during the last seven months to tutor Martinez on decision-making and mechanics? I was out of town for a few days, so seriously, I could have missed it.
To make matters worse, the author of the article, Sam McKewon, essentially defends Martinez's outlandish prediction by citing two games where the Husker quarterback attempted 30 or more passes and finished with completion rates above 70 percent: 2010 vs. Oklahoma State and 2011 vs. Northwestern.
So basically, as long as Nebraska's schedule is filled with defenses in the 33rd percentile or lower and the Huskers are not worried about going 0-12, Martinez should meet his goal and Husker fans and media the world over should be happy. Right?
Let's be serious. Martinez's response to an obviously loaded question demonstrates a continued pattern of confusion at the podium when it comes to dealing with the media. He's had two-and-a-half years to be groomed on what to say, how to say it and what questions to skirt. If media savvy were a college course, Martinez might be academically ineligible.
Then you have the distraction aspect of what he said. Whether you like it or not, people like me and other journalists from all over the nation are going to be watching his season a little bit closer, largely based on this recent statement, to see if Martinez can live up to his words. Every time he doesn't, one of us is going to churn out a piece about it.
We haven't talked about the bulletin board aspect, either. If I'm an opposing defender and I know about this 70 percent claim, I'm barking at Martinez, reminding him about it every time one of his passes hits the dirt or sails into the stands. I'll call him "70 percent" all game. Hopefully, he'll be able to hear me over chants coming from the student section if the game is played in my stadium. "70 PERCENT, 70 PERCENT," over and over.
You can sit there and tell me all day that these kids don't let that stuff bother them, but you and I both know you're wrong. We are talking about 20-year-old kids. Eventually, it will become too much, and his play will be affected by it.
Ideally, he dodges the question, changes the subject and goes into Bill Belichick mode, perhaps turning the focus on how Rex Burkhead will again play to the point of exhaustion, carrying the weight of the Husker season on his back with little help from the rest of the offense. He would talk about team goals, maybe shooting for a division title and getting a chance to catch lightning in a bottle and win the Big Ten.
But he didn't. He went down a different road, one that I'm not sure he has the ability to stay on.
Maybe I'll eat my words and Martinez will rule the Big Ten and earn a trip to New York City for the Heisman presentation. Maybe all of you come back to this article to post countless comments about how wrong I was, how much of an idiot I am and how Taylor Martinez made me look foolish.
I am, admittedly, a gambling man. And I'd be willing to bet with the greatest of confidence that not a single word of the previous paragraph comes to fruition.
The question is, would any of you?
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