Mea Culpa, Nebraska Fans, Mea Culpa!
Well, I wrote this column questioning the Nebraska hype a few months back. Not the general direction of the Nebraska program, mind you, but the Nebraska hype THIS SEASON. And after Nebraska lost in what was CLEARLY an aberration to the Texas Longhorns, I thought that I was vindicated. Well, as it turns out, Nebraska fans know a lot more about their own coaches, athletes and program than I do. Shocking, isn't it?
My challenging Nebraska's bona fides was based on two things: that Nebraska lacked elite talent—especially on offense—and that Bo Pelini lacked a signature win. Well, Texas, Florida, FSU, Miami, Georgia and USC are stocked with elite talent (according to the recruiting analysts and whatnot) and a fat lot of good it's doing them. Regardless of what the recruiting analysts say, Nebraska has guys who can play, and know how to use them.
And as far as the signature win thing goes...well actually I should have put this up last week when Nebraska beat Oklahoma State (whom I regard to be pretty good), but after they beat up on Missouri that settles it: Pelini has his signature win. For that matter, Nebraska is until further notice the best team in the Big 12.
Missouri beat Oklahoma, and Nebraska crushed Missouri (and Oklahoma State). So who else is there? Baylor? I like Baylor, and was incensed when they were nearly forced into the Sun Belt this offseason, but let's face it: Nebraska would destroy them on a neutral field. Forget it: they'd destroy Baylor in Waco.
I still say that Nebraska is going to have a very tough time beating Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Oklahoma has some talent, and Bob Stoops is an experienced big game coach who has won a lot of these before. But the fact is that Nebraska will likely be favored going into the game, and it would surprise no one if they were to win.
And if they do so, Nebraska will get most of what they wanted, which is to leave the Big 12 as the conference champs, a national title contender, and sending a signal to the rest of the college football nation that they are back. And by getting big time recruit Aaron Green, sending the signal that, yes, they will still be able to recruit Texas.
As for the Big 12 that they are leaving behind: wow. While Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State etc. are nice stories, that conference's long term viability depends on Texas and Oklahoma remaining top 10 programs. It is debatable whether Oklahoma will ever return to what they were before losing back-to-back national title games in 2003-2004 (not to mention losing a BCS game to Boise shortly thereafter).
And can the Texas problems be fixed? How can a program with that much talent be so horrible on both sides of the football? There have long been concerns about Brown—whom I have tirelessly defended for years—and Greg Davis—whom I haven't—but what does the debacle this year say about Will Muschamp (maybe Muschamp should have taken those head coaching jobs that came his way after all)?
We just can't assume that Texas will be back next year, because going back to his time at North Carolina, Mack Brown simply hasn't been able to do much while attempting to run a traditional pro-style offense that Garrett Gilbert needs.
Incidentally, why do all these big time pro-style QBs keep going to play for Mack Brown to begin with? And why does Mack Brown keep trying to recruit the next Dan Marino anyway when it is obvious that he has more success with QBs like Vince Young and Jay Stanicek?
Well, the problems of Oklahoma, Texas and the Big 12 are no longer Nebraska's problems. If those programs continue their downward spiral, Baylor, Texas Tech and the other Big 12 programs may need to start looking around for a place to land. Join the Mountain West while you still have a chance (then again, as the Mountain West just added Fresno and Nevada and is considering Utah State, maybe not)!
Bottom line: I was totally, completely 100 percent wrong about EVERYTHING, and Nebraska fans were 100 percent right. Sorry. Good night, good luck, and good bye to all that.
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