It's officially summer. That's great news if you love to play golf or enjoy watching major league baseball.
I'm a lousy golfer and I think MLB games are way too long, so I tend to just obsess about Nebraska football all summer. And since you are reading this site right now, I'm willing to bet you do too.
Lately, it’s the Huskers' 2008 schedule that's been knocking around my noggin. Here are some of my recent thoughts on the upcoming slate of games.
Generally speaking, Bo Pelini really could not have inherited a better first slate as head coach. Sure, there are tough games—it's the Big 12 conference and Nebraska. There are always tough games.
But he has a home-heavy schedule with his first five contests in Lincoln, and he gets to play his toughest division foes at home. He can't ask to be more set up for success at this point.
I see the schedule breaking down into sections. Each of the sections is important, but for differing reasons. Each section also has a varied degree of difficulty.
To open the season, the Huskers face Western Michigan, San Jose State, and New Mexico State at home. No offense to any of these programs, but I don't think fans would be too shocked to see the Huskers open 3-0.
It would be more shocking for NU to lose to one of these teams, that much is sure. Yes, NU didn't have a winning season last year, but neither did any of these schools. NU should have the talent and home field advantage.
This is an important stretch for the players and coaches to build confidence in themselves and each other. They will need it as the season gets much tougher.
The game to keep an eye on is the Western Michigan game. Sure, it is the home opener, but it's also the first time we'll see the Huskers face the much-discussed spread formation offense under Pelini. It's a possible preview of coming events.
The Turning Point
Any Husker fan who has sneaked a peek at NU's schedule knows they have a very tough three-game stretch in late September and early October. They play Virginia Tech and Missouri at home in consecutive weeks, followed by a road trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech.
That's when we'll all find out what kind of team the Huskers have.
Pardon me if I sound skeptical, but if the Huskers manage to win one of those ball games, I'd take it. Seriously.
It's easy to picture them going 0-3 in that stretch. Virginia Tech is the defending ACC champion, Missouri is the favorite in the Big 12 North, and Tech is the en vogue pick in the South who the Huskers have hardly thrived against in recent outings.
If you pressed me to pick the one game of the three I would want, I would take Missouri every time. Others might like to see a "signature win" against Virginia Tech, but I'd value a victory over MU more because it would give NU the early driver's seat in the North division race.
And if the Huskers could win another one? Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Get Well Games
Nebraska follows the tough stretch with games against arguably the two weakest teams in the conference. They play at Iowa State and then get Baylor at home.
Look, I'm not trying to knock on either school. Frankly, I believe both schools made good hires with their coaches and could get better in 2008. But this portion of the schedule just screams "get well" for the Huskers.
These are the kinds of games teams like Nebraska need to salt away as they try to gain bowl eligibility. Of the two, ISU concerns me most, for good reason. The game is on the road, and the Cyclones showed some signs of life late last year. They could be improved.
Husker fans would hate for that to be a game that trips up the Big Red.
There is no cute way to describe NU's stretch run for the season. It's November, folks. Good football teams play their best ball in November—at least if they want to be playing in December or January.
Nebraska opens November with a doozy...playing Oklahoma in Norman. I've said how strongly I feel about this game. But seriously, who's not counting this as a likely loss? Bob Stoops doesn't make a habit out of losing at home.
Then the Huskers must try to avenge the whooping that Kansas put on them last year, as the Jayhawks come calling to Lincoln. I don't think KU will be what they were last year, but that doesn't diminish the importance of a stretch run.
NU goes back on the road to face KSU. T he Wildcats are certainly not the preseason favorite, but they have so much incoming JC talent it is hard to know what they may be playing like in November.
Finally, the Huskers face Colorado at home. The game against CU has had major implications in the past and could again in 2008.
For the Huskers to meet or exceed the expectations of fans (bowl eligibility, at least eight wins, etc.), they will likely need to win three of those last four games. Considering OU opens the November slate, that is no small task.
I would love to talk about the Husker's prospects in any postseason games—but I'm not so bold to assume Big 12 title game berths or bowl eligibility just yet. Those 12 regular season games provide ample worry for my Husker obsessions in the summer.