It was a good spring for Nebraska football apparently. I say apparently because this is something I always struggle with during spring football. What's reasonable to expect from 15 practices? What's the best-possible spring for a football team look like? What's the worst-possible spring look like?
I'm pretty certain that the best-case scenario includes no injuries and the worst-case includes many injuries, but beyond that I don't have answers to any of those questions. You observe what you're allowed to observe in the spring, see what sort of thoughts that shakes loose and try to avoid making any big assumptions.
And then you update your Way-Too-Early Top 25. If you have one, that is. Part of the reason for doing a too-early top 25 is so you can update it after various offseason events (signing day, spring football, maybe transfer season now).
Those updates arrived this week and in three of the four I've seen so far the Huskers moved up based on the spring.
Nebraska jumped two spots in Paul Myerberg's rankings at USA Today. The Huskers are one of six ranked Big Ten teams. Most notably, Northwestern went from unranked to No. 17––the top-ranked team in the West––while Iowa dropped out.
The defense is going to be better, maybe even significantly so. The Cornhuskers have a Heisman contender in quarterback Adrian Martinez but need to add depth at the skill positions and are again not entirely trustworthy along the line. Overall, however, this is a team set to take the next step under Scott Frost.
Dennis Dodd moved the Huskers up one to No. 17 in his post-spring top 25 for CBSSports.com. More notable here, however, is that Dodd has eight Big Ten teams in the ranking including a West-Division crescendo with Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa ranking 23rd-to-25th.
How do the Cornhuskers show up in the top 25 after a 4-8 season? Nebraska responded nicely under Scott Frost after an 0-6 start. Quarterback Adrian Martinez should take a giant leap forward.
Nebraska joined the top 25 at The Sporting News, checking in at No. 25. Bill Bender's ranking includes six from the Big Ten.
Scott Frost enters his second season with the same expectations after the Huskers appeared to turn a corner last November. Adrian Martinez is among the Heisman Trophy sleepers, and he will continue to get better under Frost. The defense must improve after surrendering 31.2 points per game last season. The Sept. 28 matchup with Ohio State is a candidate for ESPN "College GameDay."
The only slight regression for the Huskers––again, that I've seen so far––came from Stewart Mandel at The Athletic. Nebraska was in the "Just Missed" category in January, but has now missed by a more conventional amount. Mandel lists six teams from the Big Ten including Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern from the West.
While it's probably not wise to make any conclusions based on these new rankings, I do have two B1G-picture observations.
One, the relative uncertainty around Ohio State means the Big Ten doesn't have a sure national-title contender. At least based on these rankings. All of the above have the Buckeyes ahead of Michigan, but Ohio State isn't ranked better than No. 5 in any of them. Mandel has Ohio State at No. 8 followed by Penn State(!) at No. 9 as his top two Big Ten teams.
Two, nobody's quite sure what to do with the West. Still. Wisconsin (ol' reliable) and Northwestern (last year's division champ) are the only division teams to appear in all four rankings above. Nebraska makes three appearances, Iowa two and Minnesota one. Having that many teams from the West in the hunt for being ranked, however, is at least a slight indication that the division's long-tarnished reputation could be polished a bit in 2019. The West will really be cooking if we get to a point in the years ahead where there are teams you can’t ignore rather than “just throw some West teams in the back half.”
The Grab Bag
- Derek Peterson writes that last weekend’s draft shutout isn’t likely to be the case going forward.
- Devine Ozigbo shares what the final day of the draft was like for him.
- Greg Smith looks at the impact a big season could have for the Huskers in recruiting.
- Nebraska football picked up the pace under Scott Frost. Jacob Padilla looks at how the same could be coming to Husker basketball under Fred Hoiberg.
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.