With Questions Looming
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: How Healthy is the Huskers’ Program?

February 03, 2017

Now that signing day is in the books, we enter a strange but brief middle season for talking about college football. It’s not too late to take deep dives on what happened last season (though it’s close), and, despite what the cheeky headline writers want you to believe, it’s not way too early to start looking ahead to 2017 (Arizona will start spring ball in 27 days). Every day during this middle season can feel like a fork in the road, should we go forward or backward today?

Today, I choose backward so we can look at two recent program rankings — Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings and Brian Fremeau’s FEI rankings. Both outlets released their updated five-year rankings this week.

This won’t come as much of a surprise to Husker fans who have watched the games, but Nebraska didn’t gain ground over the past half-decade. Nor did it lose a lot of ground, but it lost some.

Last year, Nebraska’s five-year S&P+ rating was 8.7 (measuring the 2011-15 seasons), which ranked 32nd nationally. Drop 2011 and add 2016 for the new five-year rating (7.5) and Nebraska now ranks 36th. That puts the Huskers on the level of Virginia Tech, Pitt, Texas and Arizona State over that span.

Using that same rolling five-year method for FEI, the Huskers dropped from 26th in the program rankings a year ago to 47th this year. Nebraska’s closest contemporaries headed into 2017 using this method are Oregon, Memphis and San Diego State.

Thanks to the fact that these FEI program rankings go back to 2008, we know that this year’s ranking basically puts the Nebraska program back where it was at after one year of Bo Pelini, but not quite as low as when Pelini took over. Here are those rankings over the years.

The 2017 season already felt to me like something of a hard reset (the offense is probably moving more towards the pass, the defense is totally changing), and rankings like this make it feel like exactly the right time for that.


Pittsburgh hired a new offensive coordinator yesterday, one that spent some time in scarlet and cream. Shawn Watson will take over the Panthers’ offense.

“Shawn Watson was one of my first mentors in this business,” [Pitt Coach Pat] Narduzzi said. “He sat me down as a young coach and taught me how to work with wide receivers in my first full-time job at Miami in the early 1990s. Ever since that time, we have always talked about being able to reunite on the same staff again. I’m really thrilled that the time has finally arrived and he’ll be joining us at Pitt as our new offensive coordinator.”

If you’re scoring at home, this is Watson’s fifth offensive coordinator gig: Colorado (2000-05), Nebraska (2007-10), Louisville (2012-13) and Texas (2014-15, though not in title, which was a whole thing).

Texas’s current coordinator, another former Husker OC in Tim Beck, is also compiling quite the collection of coaching polos. Beck has now been the offensive coordinator at Nebraska (2011-14), Ohio State (2015-16) and Texas (2017-present). The lesson here seems to be pretty clear: If you coordinate the offense in Lincoln, prepare to become a journeyman OC.

The Grab Bag


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