I've made it my offseason quest to chart just how much hype Nebraska is or is not receiving in 2019. Why? Good question, and I don't have an answer beyond "I like to archive things" or something like that.
I might also add that this offseason should be somewhat unique in Scott Frost's oeuvre. He's been here before with UCF, of course. The Knights improved in Year 1 and found a quarterback of the future. The Knights then took a huge jump in Year 2, and that example becomes tough to ignore when Nebraska did similar things in its first year with Frost (despite the record) and is now rolling into the second season with quarterback Adrian Martinez leading the way.
But this will be the last offseason where a neat-and-tidy past performance potentially influences perception of a Frost-led team because there is no precedent for Year 3 under Frost. He hasn't had a Year 3 yet, so next offseason should be free of any direct comparisons. That's probably a good thing. The key question with this offseason, however, is still how much should what happened at UCF inform what people expect at Nebraska this season?
I don't know the answer to that question. It's not totally irrelevant information, nor is it totally relevant. The UCF arc always just seems to be "there," something to contend with and consider. Would Nebraska be showing up in too-early top 25s without the undefeated season at UCF?
Probably. Would the Huskers have as much buzz as they do right now without that example fresh in everyone's minds? Probably not as Nebraska just keeps picking up a little steam with every passing month (without football).
Nebraska showed up in two more post-spring top 25s since I posted this recap of those rankings last week. The Huskers landed at No. 24 at Sports Illustrated and No. 20 at ESPN.
That's right in what's becoming the normal range for Nebraska this offseason and wouldn't be that notable if not for one detail: The Huskers moved up in both rankings from their initial release in January. Nebraska was receiving votes in the initial SI rankings in January, so that's a jump of at least two spots, and was 24th in the first set of ESPN's rankings. The Huskers have moved up in five of the six post-spring rankings I've seen. Stewart Mandel's list for The Athletic is the exception. Nebraska went from receiving votes to off the board there.
Not bad for a spring that showed some signs of life on defense but also didn't do much to indicate replacements are ready to go (right now) for a couple of key departures at key spots on offense (interior o-line, Stanley Morgan Jr., Devine Ozigbo).
But it's not all wine and roses. Perhaps because Nebraska continues to build a little momentum with each step towards the 2019 season, the Huskers are now overrated according to at least one outlet.
Saturday Down South listed the Huskers as one of the teams "getting too much national love":
One of which is the elephant in the room. Despite that impressive finish, it was still a 4-win team. An extremely flawed 4-win team, at that. The Huskers were atrocious from a discipline standpoint (No. 116 in penalty yards per game). For a team that essentially attempts to play bend-don’t-break defense, that doesn’t work. This team, which ranked No. 88 in scoring defense last year, has major questions to answer on that side of the ball, which isn’t exactly Frost’s area of expertise.
And yeah, while this is Year 2 with Frost, Penn State and Purdue are actually the only teams in the Big Ten who return less of their production from 2018 (top receiver Stanley Morgan, leading rusher Devine Ozigbo and top defensive playmaker Luke Gifford are all gone).
Penalty yards are, in my mind, always an odd thing to introduce into evidence, but the returning production piece is important. I'm not really trying to evaluate the argument anyway. It's just more notable that it's here.
Nebraska, off its 4-8 season a year ago, has built up enough buzz for there to be a slight backlash. I had a feeling last fall that the Huskers were going to have a "good" offseason for preseason rankings. They had the right profile––late surge, close losses in a Year 1––and, again, the UCF arc (for better or worse). I did not, however, think it was going to include this much positive momentum.
If playing football goes as well as ranking football teams has for the Huskers, it should be a pretty good year.
The Grab Bag
- Rutgers added McLane Carter, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech, over the weekend.
- Derek Peterson reevaluate is his pre-spring position rankings for the Huskers.
- Tony Tuioti is looking for masters rather than jacks-of-all-trades on the defensive line.
- Uhhh, not a good weekend for Nebraska baseball.
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.