Here I go, joining the millions of other Cornhusker fans playing Sunday (ok, this time Monday, but it will be Sundays in the future) afternoon coach - assuming that I actually know how best to run the team and prepare for the next opponent. For the record, it's been established that I do not believe this is true.
However, what fun is college football if you don't weigh in with an opinion or at least stir up a little controversy - no matter how ill-informed the opinion is? The question for me is how to approach this task.
I have a long history of dwelling in cubicles, developing marketing plans, sitting in mind-numbing meetings about budgets and forecasts, and analyzing target markets and competitors in my 20+ years of marketing experience in the business world. On the football side, how often have you heard coaches talk about bowl games being a "business trip" or players doing their job on the field? Remember the "Unfinished Business" t-shirts worn by the 1994 Cornhusker team referencing their close loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl that would have given them three national championships in a row?
So I plan on really exhausting the "football is business" analogy by conducting a SWOT analysis for each game and how the outcome impacts the "business campaign" that is the 2010 season. In the business world SWOT means:
- Strengths - Something the team has in abundance and will need throughout the 2010 campaign.
- Weaknesses - Something the team doesn't have that will be sorely needed.
- Opportunities - Something that if no action is taken or the action is ineffective the team will not receive the potential benefit.
- Threats - Something that, if not eliminated or mitigated, will have a negative result that will impact the team.
Strengths and weaknesses come from within. Opportunities and threats are external. And, in analyzing how the SWOT analysis impacts the campaign, let's assume the goal is to become Big 12 Champions. I'm still not ready to anoint this team national championship caliber even though some sports writers have named the Huskers dark horses in the hunt for the ultimate prize.
So, on to the first game - if you're still with me . . .
Repeat after me: It's Western Kentucky. It's Western Kentucky. It's Western Kentucky. It's Western Kentucky.
There now. Any analysis done on this game will keep in mind that the opponent is a third year FBS program with 21 straight losses.
- Yahoo! A mobile quarterback! Again! It was like old times seeing redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez take off from the line of scrimmage as if he actually wanted to run the football. Nebraska hasn't had a QB rush for 100+ yards since Jamal Lord and it was beautiful to behold.
- Offensive offensive linemen. Used to be that Nebraska's big uglies on the offense would insist on moving a minimum of four yards up the field. It didn't matter if the opponent put 8 or eleven men in the box. Then there was a period of time when Nebraska took to throwing quick slants and flares out of the backfield on third and one. It was good to see the boys in the trenches opening gaping holes again.
- Hello? Helu? Starting senior running back Roy Helu was used sparingly in this game and, yes, that's a very good thing. Nebraska will need this very talented and experienced running back in Big 12 play and Roy is known for being injury prone.
- Youth movement. The coaches have been glowing about the experience and depth of the team, especially on the lines. But look who else is playing - a lot; redshirt freshman Martinez at QB (backed up by sophomore Cody Green); sophomore Rex Burkhead at running back; redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles and freshman Andrew Rodriguez on the o-line, and sophomore Ben Cotton at tight end. And there were a number of underclassmen contributing on the defensive side including Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, and P.J. Smith.
- Defensive defensive linemen. There were too many holes in the middle of the defense - against Western Kentucky! All world tackle Suh will be missed but the cupboard is far from bare with a lot of experience on that front line. It's true that there were communication issues from the linebacker spot but these guys should not be getting pushed by Western Kentucky.
- A QB for the "D"? Speaking of the linebacking, Nebraska suffered in this area due to injuries to Will Compton and Sean Fisher (his being season-ending) during fall camp. Although junior college transfer Lavonte David was an animal - leading the team with 14 tackles - the inexperience at the quarterback position on defense showed in mis-aligned players which allowed some of those up-the-gut gains from Western Kentucky.
- Part-time Paul. There's no doubt that senior wide receiver Niles Paul is a star on the team and will be very productive in the NFL. But his occasional lapses on the field are getting aggravating. A great catch here, a dropped pass hitting him in the numbers there. An outstanding kick-off return here, a fumbled ball there. Sure, labeling this as a weakness is a little harsh but Niles - by his own admission - needs to step up his leadership by consistently playing at a high level.
- Huskers won't be Vandalized. Although Idaho, 8-5 last year with a bowl win, will be a stronger test than Western Kentucky they should not threaten to take down the home team. The progression in quality of Nebraska's opponents - with a trip to Washington after the home game against Idaho - should help as the youth movement matures.
- Horses are a comin'! Daniel Thomas (K State), Kendall Hunter (Okie State), and Tre' Newton (Texas) are all way more formidable runners than Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey who rushed for 155 total yards - the most by a running back against Nebraska since 2007.
As far as the Western Kentucky game's impact on the 2010 campaign - well not much can be said. It was a blowout, but not particularly impressive for some reason. Probably due to the lapses on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe Western Kentucky will win the rest of their games this year. And maybe Warren Buffett will name me his sole heir in his will. Let's just consider this a pre-season game. Sort of like when the Huskers basketball team plays the San Juan YMCA to warm up for the season.
Only, let's hope the football campaign turns out a lot better than the past few basketball seasons have.
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