I have an announcement nobody has been waiting for: I think Athlon has officially surpassed Phil Steele as my favorite national preview magazine. That's sacrilege in some circles, particularly football writer-y ones (which I suppose should be a spheroid) but every edition of Steele has been the same ever since I started buying it more than a decade ago.
And that's its biggest asset. As a historical reference, Steele is great. When I want to know what Boston College's two-deep looked like going into the 2007 season I know exactly where to go. But the magazine isn't all that readable, I don't want to read the "Turnovers=Turnaround" article again, there are two pages in that magazine that simply list some of Steele's notable Twitter followers and I'm convinced there's definitely something fishy going on with the accuracy numbers (which nobody cares about as much as Steele does).
Athlon, on the other hand, surprises me most years with its complement of features and it is easily the best when it comes to providing unique numbers that actually tell you something about what's happening with these teams.
Athlon also has the anonymous coach quotes, which is a delightful reminder each summer that the coaching industry is as catty, snarky and gossipy within its own ranks as any other trade. Only one of those quotes per team usually makes it in the magazine, but Athlon published all of the anonymous quotes it collected yesterday.
Nebraska's quotes are pretty tame considering it's Scott Frost's first year. The one that made it in the magazine was about the offensive and defensive lines at Nebraska not being up to snuff, and was probably the "harshest" (though still relatively tame). But what I found interesting about the cutting-room-floor quotes published yesterday was that two of them mentioned toughness.
One was talking about the quarterback position:
"He’s going to find a tough guy — I’m telling you, he’s serious about that — who’s talented and who wants to learn. A lot like the kid (McKenzie Milton) he just coached the last two seasons at UCF."
The other mentions that every coach says he's going to make his new team tougher, but the coach supplying the quote notes that it really means something at Nebraska:
"He knows how important the idea of being tougher than the guy across from you is to those in that program. You might think these are little things, but believe me, these little things have all been overlooked by everyone after Osborne."
Couldn't agree more on either front. So with that still relatively general commentary out of the way, bring on the snark elsewhere in the Big Ten.
"They don’t have a quarterback, they are terrible on defense and they are one of the worst teams we’ve played in the last six or seven years," said one coach of, you guessed it, Illinois. (Sorry if you guessed Rutgers. The coaches quoted at Athlon actually like the job Chris Ash is doing.)
Iowa's reputation among coaches appears to be pretty similar to what most non-Hawkeye fans would assign to the Hawkeyes –– up and down, but the ups can be really up. The coaches are all also jealous of Kirk Ferentz's job security. "I wish it was like that for all of us, but more and more, I’m beginning to think it’s like that for only one of us. Not just in this league, but the entire country," one said. That's a well constructed quip.
You want some Spartan snark? Here's some Spartan snark: "You want to know how you go from three wins to 10 wins? You play defense and you find a QB. How about that for a recipe of winning? You’re a genius, right coach?"
I love this feature so much, and could keep going but you should probably just go check it out for yourself.
Top of the Mountain
Speaking of historical references, one of my favorites is the Associated Press poll. It dates to 1936 and is still around which provides a nice scale for a wide swatch of college football history.
I wrote about poll percentage last week, a topic I had previously tackled in the 2017 Yearbook. While the data here is in a slightly different form, if you wanted a visualization of what Nebraska's poll dominance looked like Virginia Tech site The Key Play has you covered.
That red peak that towers over all others is driven by the Huskers' insane streak of being ranked in 348 consecutive AP polls between 1981-2002. Alabama is the current active-streak leader with 163 consecutive rankings since 2008. There are between 15 and 16 polls each season. Let's call it 15.5 for simplicity. At that rate, the Tide just needs to stay ranked four 12 more seasons to tie Nebraska's record.
The Grab Bag
- Jacob Padilla looks at the Huskers' QB race with one number that must improve and one Nebraska will hope to maintain from last year.
- Derek Peterson asked a few seniors to list the freshmen and newcomers who impressed over the summer.
- Thomas Allen talks about the back-to-school drive he's helming this weekend for Everett Elementary.
- ICYMI: I don't really go in for the conference-strength wars, but I do find the recent hires in the Big Ten and SEC interesting as a means of comparision.
Today's Song of Today