This week’s Drake’s Takes features thoughts on the beginning of NFL football, the continuation of college football and some reflections on how far I’ve come in the past year or so.
Don’t take Buffalo lightly
This weekend will be huge for Nebraska football.
You could probably use that statement for every weekend this season, but I find this game particularly interesting. The Huskers are double-digit favorites, and they could definitely win by a couple scores. Perhaps they should. But don’t overlook the Bulls’ chances.
Last season, Buffalo reached the Mid-American Conference Championship. It lost that game to Ball State, but still ended the year ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25. The Bulls weren’t picked to finish highly in the MAC this year and haven’t gotten any love in this year’s polls yet, which is reasonable. They lost head coach Lance Leipold to Kansas and star running back Jaret Patterson to the NFL. Buffalo started the season with a dominant 69-7 win, but that came against Wagner.
There’s still reason to be concerned about this game for Nebraska.
The Bulls actually remind me of Illinois quite a bit. Both have a new, defensive-minded head coach, an impressive multi-back rushing attack, and a seemingly average quarterback that can get the job done. The biggest difference is the level of their conferences, and their positions in them.
Buffalo’s new coaching staff is fun too. Head coach Maurice Linguist previously spent his entire career as a defensive backs coach, and was hired for that spot at Michigan in January.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost mentioned that he’s gone up against Bulls defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen before, and Frost’s side got “whipped.” That game was the 2016 Cure Bowl against Arkansas State, which closed Frost’s first year at UCF.
The Knights lost 31-13, their worst scoring performance of the Frost UCF era. They turned the ball over three times and only gained 2.9 yards per play for a total of 223 offensive yards.
Does this mean anything? Probably not. The situation is completely different now. But here’s another Illinois comparison — Nebraska will be guessing again. Frost said earlier this week that the Bulls did different things throughout their win against Wagner, creating a bit of a “guessing game.”
The Huskers got punished both on the field and off it when they guessed wrong against Illinois. If they get caught off guard again, the game may depend on how fast Nebraska can adjust, if it can at all.
NFL is back
In other football news, the NFL opened its season yesterday with a wonderful matchup between Dallas and Tampa Bay.
It was a great game, and I could spend a while talking about that. I won’t though. It’s just fun to have both college football and professional football back, and I forgot how enjoyable fantasy football drafts are.
Football is interesting to me because it’s the only major sport where I don’t strongly prefer the professional game over the college level. A few years ago I probably would’ve said I liked college football better. Now, they’re about equal.
That’s not about college football becoming less appealing to me though. There are a lot of exciting things right now and on the horizon, including NIL, conference realignment and playoff expansion. Covering a college football team helps too.
The talent is insanely better at the professional level, but the variety in offense and general stupidity of the college game evens out how I see the on-field product.
Honestly, it’s just hard to top a league where Lamar Jackson is playing quarterback.
Reflecting a bit
This is more of a personal reflection than anything else, but around this time, I can’t help but look back a bit on what the last year has been for me.
I think one of the recent transformative points for me in my still-budding career, and even personal life, was covering a rally put on by Nebraska’s Minority Student Athlete Collective. I know I’ve expressed multiple times before in different ways, so for the ones that have followed me for longer, I hope I’m not sounding too repetitive here.
I bring it up once again because this upcoming week will mark a year since that rally and my subsequent thread on the lack of coverage. To be honest, I still get a little surprised looking back on the latter.
For some reason, my very shy and non-confrontational 19-year-old self decided I needed to speak up about something that was important to me, and continue to do so in the coming months. I’m not sure what I was on for that span that gave me such confidence, but it pushed me to where I am now, writing deeply personal reflections in the same column that references 2016 Arkansas State football.
The main point here is that I’m blessed to do this work. There have been a lot of people bringing these stories to light before me, there are others doing it now, and there will be those after me.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near done. I’m still a young, Black writer finding his voice and doing what I can. I’ll always embrace that.