The first great calamity of Nebraska’s 2017 offseason — don’t worry, there are only perceived calamities in the offseason for all schools — was when ESPN’s FPI projected 5.5 wins for the Huskers. The second great calamity was when CG Technology, a “gaming technology solutions provider” and a great name for a random evil corporation in a B-movie, released its win totals for the 2017 season and largely agreed with FPI by setting the Huskers’ total at six wins.
Bovada released its win totals on Wednesday and it was not a Nebraska calamity. At least I don’t think so. The Huskers’ total was set at 7.5 at Bovada, but the story here is not that that feels about right to most people.
No, the story is that jump from six wins to 7.5.
The original CG Technology (which I assume is also involved in the manufacture of humanoid robots) release included win totals for 47 Power 5 teams. Bovada released 46 win totals — sorry, Kentucky — and 38 of those were the exact same number CG Technology (which I assume also dabbles in foodstuffs of unknown origin for a dystopian future) released a couple of weeks ago. Here were the differences:
>>Indiana from 5.5 to 6 wins
>>Ohio State from 10 to 10.5 wins
>>Miami from 8.5 to 9 wins
>>Kansas State from 7.5 to 8 wins
>>Texas Tech from 6 to 5.5 wins
>>UCLA from 6 to 6.5 wins
>>Washington from 9.5 to 10 wins
>>Nebraska from 6 to 7.5 wins
One of those things is not like the other, and not just because I put Nebraska’s entry in bold. The Huskers were the only team to jump by more than a half win. In context, that feels like a significant course correction, so, if you felt slighted when a six showed up alongside Nebraska’s name back in May you can probably feel a little vindicated here at the start of June.
Things are looking up. Literally.
Everything in the offseason tends to become a referendum on program standing. It has felt like the dominant topic of the last few weeks in this daily morning space. Nebraska isn’t a king anymore. It’s doomed to never be great again. The win total seems low.
Even the release of five game times yesterday, and the networks that will broadcast four of those games for Nebraska, can serve that purpose if you want it to. Nebraska’s four announced TV games are all on Fox networks as part of the Big Ten’s new rights deal. More specifically, three of those games are on FS1, a network it seems like most of America isn’t used to watching yet. It certainly isn’t ESPN, which almost everyone is used to watching.
Just another sign of Nebraska’s declining national appeal? I don’t think so. Will the ratings be lower? Probably a little bit. FS1’s ratings were typically lower than its top cable competitor last season, but that’s part of the reason why FS1 spent a boatload of money to get some Big Ten games. So much of this depends on the appeal of game to the casual fan — when FS1 had a game that is of national interest, its ratings were fine — but for your average matchup I’m guessing you’ll see FS1 narrow the gap with ESPN a bit in 2017 with more games to offer. That’s because the networks don’t generate the interest, the games do. That’s why the games are expensive. And the bigger the inventory the better the odds to land on games the average fan cares about.
But the bigger question is why do we care? (Or, perhaps, do we only care because it’s news in June?) I suppose the thinking is that exposure is good for a program and exposure is always about recruiting. But if that’s the case, I would argue that traditional television exposure probably isn’t the way to reach those recruits. I’ve always gotten the sense that we overestimate the number of recruits who are sitting down and watching the teams that are recruiting them. In my occasional conversations with those players, I rarely get the sense that many of them are what you’d call football junkies. They’re 17. They care about other things. If you really wanted to reach that specific audience, a Twitter streaming deal might be your best bet.
That hasn’t happened for the Big Ten yet, but in the meantime I don’t think any schools are losing recruits because those recruits don’t get FS1. If the kids want to see the games, trust me, they’ll find them.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska joined the Holy Cross-Yale travel party to Corvallis yesterday.
- ESPN’s Big Ten bloggers make their over/under picks for the Big Ten West based on the initial totals from CG Technology (which I assume also continues to finance costly space-colonization missions despite numerous human casualties).
- College Football News previews Oregon’s upcoming season.
- Dan Wolken of USA Today makes the latest pitch to ditch divisions in college football, which continues to make a lot of sense.
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.