I have an exciting investment opportunity for you guys. Today you are going to be offered the chance to invest some fake money – preferred currency: pride sterling – in the future of one football program or another. Your job is to pick which program you think will have the better 10 years ahead.
How will we determine which school had the better decade? In most cases I think it should be pretty apparent; School A had X conference titles, Y bowls, School B is on its third coach and so on. In instances where the argument for one school or another is less apparent, we’ll just pick one as the winner based on a shaky majority because that passes for tradition in this sport.
Given where you came to make your fantasy investments (i.e. here) Nebraska will be one of the schools in each of the following three propositions. You probably don’t need me to recap the Huskers’ standing as of Feb. 2018, but I will in the interest of completeness.
There was a 40-year stretch at Nebraska where no team in the country won more games at a higher clip than the Huskers. Over the last 15 or so years, teams like Houston and Brigham Young won as often as Nebraska. There are many explanations for this, all of them are at least partially relevant and Husker fans have explored each of them so no need to rehash them here.
But there’s hope now. The hottest coach in the country is back home, the spring game sold out as proof and Big Red is presumed to be on its way back. The Huskers’ stock is trading pretty high already. If you’d purchased yours during the first half of last fall’s Ohio State game and sold it right now, you’d make a nice profit. You might also miss out on some bigger gains ahead.
So with that all in mind, which team are you betting has the better decade ahead? Nebraska or . . .
I don’t know off the top of my head how much money Barry Alvarez makes as the Badgers’ athletic director, but it’s probably not enough. He has figured out how to take decent-to-good coaches and mentor them into producing great results. This is Alvarez’s alchemy. It doesn’t seem to matter who coached the Badgers over the past decade, that guy was probably going to win 10 games a year. Since 2008, Wisconsin has won 74.8 percent of its games, four division titles and three conference titles. The Badgers are the class of the Big Ten West, which isn’t enough on its own to crack the uppermost tier of the game at the national level.
But Husker fans would take being the class of the West as a starting point, making the Badgers Nebraska’s most imminent target. Head Coach Paul Chryst is a Madison native, and, as long as he keeps winning, will probably want to have that job forever, so there’s little danger of Wisconsin losing its coach to greener pastures. But it is likely that Alvarez, age 71, steps away in the next 10 years. What then?
So which team has the better decade ahead, Nebraska or Wisconsin? (Note: I’ll make my picks in the comment section below.)
The schools that make up college football’s ruling class are a pretty insular group. It’s very rare for them to kick a member out of the club, and almost as rare for them to admit a new one. During the 2000s, Oregon was the school that demanded to be noticed. It didn’t dress the way the ruling class preferred (a strike against), but it won like an elite team for a good stretch and that was impossible to ignore. Much like Nebraska’s greatest era under Tom Osborne, the Ducks did it with a signature offense and some recruiting challenges that required the importation of many of the raw materials required to make the machine run.
When the creator of that offense left Oregon followed the natural succession plan (Mark Helfrich) and it failed. Then the Ducks went next-big-thing route, hired a good coach in Willie Taggart, but maybe he was too good because when his home-state school called he listened. Rather than jump into the coaching waters again after just a year, the Ducks promoted Taggart’s co-offensive coordinator, a guy that Florida International fired six years ago. This was a horrible mistake on FIU’s part, but, still, it happened. So what is Oregon now? The brand is strong, but things seems different. The creator of the offense is back in the college game at a conference rival, and his top protégé is at Nebraska.
So which team has the better decade ahead, Nebraska or Oregon?
I know, I almost can’t believe I’m including the Sooners either. Once rivals and twin pinnacles of plains football, Nebraska and Oklahoma barely occupied the same planet for the past 10 years. During that stretch, Oklahoma was winning like Oklahoma is expected to do and Nebraska was winning like Navy. There’s no question as to which team has had it better recently, but what about in the future?
Lincoln Riley did a very nice job in his first year as head coach, but it may have been something of a turn-key operation in year one. Can he maintain the high standard Sooner fans have come to expect? There are no reasons yet to think he won’t, but coaching changes always open the door to potential change and the Sooner standard is pretty high. This proposition pits two of game’s bright young coaches against one another, and, interestingly enough, there was some chatter among Oklahoma fans back in 2015 that Scott Frost should join the Sooner staff as offensive coordinator. That job, of course, went to Riley and here we are today.
So which team has the better decade ahead, Nebraska or Oklahoma?
I won’t write full breakdowns for these, but if you like this game here are a few other 10-year, take-your-picks involving other schools that I’ve been thinking about lately:
- Texas or Texas A&M: The Longhorns have history on their side, but Texas A&M went out and made hire meant to change that.
- Clemson or Georgia: Two schools separated by 90 minutes, one has already stared down and beaten the beast that is Alabama, the other got its shot to do the same way ahead of schedule.
- Alabama or Ohio State: Teams 1 and 1A at the moment, but how long will they be under the rule of their currently iconic leaders?
- Michigan or Penn State: The Nittany Lions are doing everything right at the moment, while Michigan enters an angsty season that could really shape the decade ahead.
The Grab Bag
- Here is ESPN's post-signing day Top 25.
- Chip Kelly stuck to his Oregon blueprint in recruiting. Be interesting to see if the Bruins and Huskers run up against each other often on the trail.
- Good numbers-based breakdown of 2018 recruiting.
- ICYMI: Jacob Padilla gets you ready for Nebraska-Maryland, Derek Peterson revisits Isaiah Roby's unforgettable dunk and 2018 signee Miles Jones appears to be a key cog in the Huskers' recruiting class.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.