Maybe I'm reacting too positively to Nebraska's 44-8 win over Northern Illinois. It was easily the Huskers' best game of the season. Far from perfect, of course, but a game that Nebraska controlled from start to finish. Don't take that for granted, no matter what team it's against.
But the reason I'm wondering if I put too much stock in that victory is because I clicked on ESPN's latest bowl projections. I don't typically do that, but when it landed on my feed at some point after midnight I bit.
Christmas in Detroit, anyone?
Both Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach have Nebraska slated for the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, which is played on the night of Dec. 26. Depending on how some optional selections shake out, the Quick Lane Bowl gets either eighth or ninth pick from the Big Ten.
Schlabach has the Huskers facing Louisville in this game, Bonagura Florida State. I'm trying not to overreact to this, but there's specific sort of sadness to the two winningest programs of the 1990s playing the day after Christmas in a dome in Detroit that makes me think we may have reached the dystopian future so often written about.
In this one, the seas have claimed most coastal cities, but definitely the Orange Bowl. Pollution has driven us all indoors permanently. Ironically, the Motor City, which produced the goods that helped bring us to this point, is one of the only places where you can still play college football. The Quick Lane Bowl is basically a national day of mourning, where everyone gets together to watch to former powers in hopes it will remind us of the good old days wheree, y’know, we could play games outdoors.
In reality, I would be pretty curious to see what this would look like. Husker fans turn up for everything always, but the day after Christmas? In Michigan? That's a tough ask unless you're a Nebraska fan already living around the Great Lakes.
I don't think we'll find out, however. Nebraska isn't the eighth/ninth-best team in the Big Ten much less the eighth/ninth-most appealing selection. The Huskers are still a work in progress, but they're doing too many important things well even through an up-and-down start for me to think they're fated for Ford Field.
Rank and File
Nebraska's 44-8 win over Northern Illinois wasn't enough to put the Huskers back in the polls––not that anyone thought it would be––but reactive rankings are kind of just a curiosity at this point.
Predictive rankings, that's where it's at. The Huskers' win over the Huskies had a pretty nice impact there.
Nebraska entered Saturday at No. 52 in Bill Connelly's SP+ rankings, judged to be 3.8 points better than the average team in college football. After Saturday, the Huskers were up to No. 39 with a 7.5 rating. That said, a pretty big shakeup in those rankings is probably coming for a lot of teams.
Btw, week 4 is the last of what amounts to the opening stage of the SP+ season. Starting next week, preseason projections are phased out more quickly, and the more heavy conference adjustments start taking effect.
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) September 15, 2019
The Huskers rose 10 spots in FPI, from No. 44 to No. 34. After a two week win probability setback, the NIU win plus Illinois' home loss to Eastern Michigan puts the Huskers back as decent favorite against the Illini this week. FPI puts Nebraska's win probability at 74%.
And, finally, the old stalwart––Sagarin. Nebraska jumped 20 spots here to No. 41. That's good for eighth in the Big Ten at the moment, so maybe that Quick Lane Bowl is happening after all.
The Grab Bag
- There were some encouraging signs from Nebraska’s ground game on Saturday writes Derek Peterson.
- Jacob Padilla on Nebraska’s latest fill-in kicker, Lane McCallum. (Premium)
- Recruiting analyst Greg Smith caught up with so many visitors on Sunday, that I can’t even link them all. Just go to the recruiting page and start catching up.
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.