Mailbag: Patrick O'Brien
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Do You Hear that Buzzing?

August 25, 2017

While it won’t be the full buffet of a college football Saturday, the sport is back in bite-size pieces this weekend, and, hey, who ever turns down appetizers? Especially if those appetizers signal the end of talking season.

It’s been an interesting one for Nebraska. One of the first data points, if you will, was ESPN’s FPI prediction of about six wins for the Huskers in 2017. I don’t think that set the tone for the offseason by any means, but it was a cold, hard look at just how many questions Nebraska had going into the spring and summer.

Those questions didn’t get answered. The Huskers are still a team with a lot to replace from last season, but it does have two at least promising unknowns — quarterback Tanner Lee and a Bob Diaco defense.

Lee has become the pied piper of football pundits and prognosticators this offseason. He’s got quite a few people following him at this point, and, for a season at least, he’ll lead the notebook-toters and stopwatch-watchers through Lincoln. That’s been worth a little buzz.

I think there are some very good reasons to be buzzing about the Blackshirts, but that one’s a little tougher to see with the naked eye. Still, you can find some people who are buying stock on this side of the ball.

I think Nebraska is being totally overlooked. People are getting fixated on the returning starters number, but Mike Riley has recruited well since he’s [been] there.
– Stewart Mandel

Those two things alone weren’t really enough to nudge the needle on the buzz-o-meter. But when you combine them, add in some in-person views of what it could look like and a little more time to evaluate what it could mean, and it feels like Nebraska is getting some buzz here at the end of talking season. A little bit. A tiny bit of buzz.

The BTN crew wrapped up its annual bus tour yesterday with a segment on overall impressions from the trip. Host Dave Revsine asked if anyone’s opinion changed on anything.

Analyst Gerry DiNardo said his opinion didn’t change so much as it was shaped during his Nebraska visit.

“What Mike Riley is now doing on offense and now what he’s doing on defense is really how he wants to build that program,” DiNardo said. “He couldn’t do it the first two years for a bunch of reasons.”

Small sound bite, but an interesting one. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that DiNardo has been somewhat skeptical of Nebraska’s path under Riley. Now he’s looking at it with fresh eyes, and, based on a visit, apparently liked what he saw.

(DiNardo also noted that Purdue is further along than he thought it would be and Minnesota is the opposite, which is great news for people like me who are #TeamBrohm.)

But wait, there’s more.

About a month ago, The All-American editor Stewart Mandel was on The Football Analytics Show podcast and was asked to highlight some under-the-radar teams in 2017. One of those teams was Nebraska.

“I think Nebraska is being totally overlooked. People are getting fixated on the returning starters number, but Mike Riley has recruited well since he’s [been] there,” Mandel said. “It’s his third year now. I think it would be surprising if they took a step back. I don’t think they’re going to win the Big Ten, but I’m sitting here looking at an Athlon that has Nebraska ranked 43rd and I think that’s selling them way short.”

Yeah, about those numbers. I mentioned above that FPI had Nebraska at “about six wins.” Well, back in April it was 5.5 wins. Now it’s 6.1.

While that’s nothing to write home about and I don’t know fully why it happened (nation-wide attrition and injuries, I guess), it’s something. A little bit of buzz the week before the season starts. A tiny bit.

Who says you never win anything in the offseason? Or, wait, do we all say “games are won and lost in the offseason”? 

At the end of talking season, it gets hard to keep the clichés straight.

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