2007 was a very good year in college football. Unless you lived in (or rooted for) Nebraska.
SB Nation unveiled a massive celebration of that year this week. Why 2007? Well, because Appalachian State beat Michigan, because the Wildcat was at its zenith, because one of the biggest games of the year ended up being Pitt-West Virginia, because one of the biggest games of the year ended up being Kansas-Missouri, because ULM beat an Alabama program finding its way under an upstart coach in Nick Saban and because Jim Harbaugh’s team beat Pete Carroll’s team as a 40-point underdog to name a few reasons.
Nebraska fans will be forgiven if they’ve forgotten most of that stuff. Such was the misery of that 2007 season for Husker fans and it really started at Missouri. But before that there was the usual amount of hope for Nebraska of that era, bolstered a little bit by the arrival of hot-shot quarterback Sam Keller from Arizona State.
The Huskers opened the 2007 season ranked 20th in the AP poll. Nebraska rolled over Nevada in the opener, escaped from Wake Forest with a win in week two and got its shot to host mighty USC. In retrospect, that Wake Forest game looks like the canary lying dead at the bottom of the cage the moment it was brought into the coal mine. Bad things were on the way.
The Trojans trounced Nebraska. A week later, Ball State should’ve beaten the Huskers. Nebraska beat Iowa State to stay ranked, but then the bottom fell out. Loss to Missouri by 35, loss to Oklahoma State by 31, loss to A&M by 22, loss to a ranked Texas team by 3 (perhaps worse than the expected blowout) and, to close the five-game losing streak, a 76-39 loss to Kansas.
The Huskers put up 73 points a week later in a win over Kansas State — you could argue this was actually the saddest part of the season — and then lost 65-51 to Colorado to finish the year and the Bill Callahan era. Given all of that, where do you think the Huskers ranked at the end of the year?
Nebraska wasn’t ranked in any polls, of course, so instead we need some sort of power ranking. If you go by S&P+ rankings, also an SB Nation production courtesy of Bill Connelly, those 2007 Huskers may have been better than you remember because they finished 27th in the final rankings. At 5-7. That might be a bit of an outlier, as Sagarin had the Huskers at a more reasonable 61st. But a year later both ranking methods had Nebraska in the top 25 at the end of the year. And both had the Huskers in the top 15 in 2009.
We tend to look at 2007 as an end, but it may have actually been a beginning to the build towards 2009/10, the height of the Bo Pelini era. Joe Ganz came on late in the 2007 season and posted a very good QB rating that would be a preview of what was to come in 2008. Per McIllece Sports’ ratings, that 2008 team had a higher talent level than any of the 10 teams that have followed it. If the Huskers had a defense capable of giving up, say, 32 points per conference game instead of the 42.4 it actually allowed, that season might end up with the Huskers ranked somewhere close to where they started in the AP poll.
I’m not saying you should be “actually, the 2007 Huskers were good” guy, but I am saying there is more of an argument there than any of us might remember. Looking at it again, it’s kind of a bizarre case of negative momentum. Was Nebraska really three-scores worse than half the teams in the Big 12 that year? Probably not given some of the players that were on that team.
But that’s what the scoreboard said.
The Grab Bag
- Nebraska will unveil a new (alternate?) uniform today, but there’s already a new Huskers jersey posted on adidas.com.
- This is a really well done video on the injury struggles that have plagued former Husker Mohammed Seisay during his NFL career.
- The Pac-12 is testing shorter halftimes and fewer TV timeouts in an effort to shorten games.
- A couple of days late on this, but here’s a little more background info — and it’s quite the story — on how Hugh Freeze’s career unraveled at Ole Miss.
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.