Ranked in the top 25? Check. Playing in games with College Football Playoff implications? Also check.
On paper at least. We are talking about the 2019 season here, and those games are hundreds of days away. It's all theoretical, best-guess stuff at this point, but according to Wayne Staats of NCAA.com Nebraska has at least one game in the season ahead that will impact the playoff.
Ohio State's trip to Lincoln on Sept. 28 is one of 15 games on the list:
In each of the last two seasons, blowout Big Ten losses on the road left Ohio State on the outside of the College Football Playoff (55-24 at Iowa in 2017, 49-20 at Purdue in 2018). This game might fit that pattern, if it's to continue. The Huskers were only 4-8 last year, but don't be surprised if coach Scott Frost starts turning things around and brings Nebraska into Big Ten West contention.
Notice the comparisons there? Ohio State, in this example, is on upset alert the way it was going to Iowa City (at night) in 2017 and to West Lafayette (at night) in 2018? I guess a team like Ohio State is on upset alert most of the time, because it's favored most of the time, but I'm not sure how real the danger really felt to Buckeye fans and general college football observers going into those games. Ohio State was favored by 20.5 at Iowa two seasons ago and by 12.5 at Purdue last season.
As a double-digit favorite on the road, that's the difference between being in an upset warning and an upset watch. When you live in upset country –– and Ohio State does –– you feel like you're perpetually in an upset watch. You barely pay attention to the watches. The warnings? Those you have to at least acknowledge even if you know the odds are you'll probably be fine.
Since we're all making predictions for a season that's still seven months away, here's one: Nebraska-Ohio State will be more of a warning than a watch for the Buckeyes.
Based on the "way-too-early" view of Nebraska that's building, I don't think the Huskers will be a double-digit dog in that game. Nebraska will be favored in its four games before Ohio State with a decent chance to be 4-0. The Buckeyes will be favored in their first four –– Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, at Indiana, Miami (Ohio) –– as well, though that game against the Bearcats might go in the upset-watch category.
And if both teams head into that game (presumably at night) at 4-0 and ranked, it will receive a drastically different billing than Ohio State's trips to Iowa City and West Lafayette did. Part of the reason those games were as shocking as they were, beyond the margin, was that 2017 Iowa was 5-3 when it demolished the Buckeyes and finished 8-5. Purdue was 3-3 and finished 2018 6-7.
Maybe Staats is trying to tell everyone something about the Huskers' ceiling in 2019, or maybe he's just connecting the dots. Do the latter and this game probably is a decent bet to "impact" the playoff race. It's the only game involving a Big Ten West Division team to make the list.
Michigan, however, made it three times: At Penn State on Oct. 19, home against Notre Dame a week later and then hosting Ohio State in the regular-season finale. Good luck out there, Jim Harbaugh.
The Grab Bag
- Junior college defensive end Soni Fonua was one of the visitors to Lincoln over the weekend. Greg Smith caught up with him and got a rave review of the visit. (Premium)
- Rex Burkhead scored his first career postseason touchdown as the Patriots crushed the Chargers on Sunday.
- Jacob Padilla previews tonight’s matchup between Nebraska and Indiana.
- Nebraska women’s basketball fell to Rutgers, its third consecutive loss.
- Check out our photos from Saturday night’s Tumble N’ Rumble at the Devaney Center.
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.