It has been a busy week in Nashville in preparation for the Music City Bowl, but all of that stuff is over now. Today it’s game day. I have no real idea what’s going to happen in the game, which is generally true for me of all bowl games. That said, my best guess is that Nebraska has to hang in early. No big plays allowed, no ugly turnovers. If Tennessee gets an early two-score lead, the Huskers are in trouble.
If Nebraska’s right there or leading deep into the second half, however, it’s game on. I’ve liked the Huskers’ demeanor all week. I honestly haven’t been around the Volunteers enough to have a read worth mentioning on them, but I do know it’s an anxious time for Tennessee football. Butch Jones has the air of the most successful salesman at a healthy car dealership in a small city. His jokes felt like the perfect fit for the rubber-chicken banquet yesterday. That’s the vibe I get from him. And, four years into his tenure, Vol fans are tired of being sold. They want some returns.
Should some of that angst start to creep into a close game, Nebraska could absolutely leave Nashville with a win.
Cleaning out a couple of other notebook items:
>>Jones on bowl games: “It’s very typical of a first game. First game is a game of mysteries and unknowns. A lot of times playing a bowl game is the same way because of the time of preparation you’re able to put in, different schemes, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. That’s a challenge in and of itself.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
>>The Pride of All Nebraska was greater than the Pride of the Southland last night during a battle of the bands on Broadway. At least that’s what the on-stage host of the event decided. That’s a good event. Seeing both schools’ bands in the heart of downtown Nashville was certainly one of the more memorable moments from the week. Overall, Nashville puts on a good bowl game and it feels like it’s only growing in stature.
>>Both coaches were presented with acoustic Fender guitars during Thursday’s media gathering. It’s the sort of gesture you’d expect in Nashville, but Mike Riley seemed genuinely delighted by it.
“This is what I really wanted to be,” Riley said while posing for photographs with the guitar. Then, a minute or so later, as bowl staffers whisked the guitars away and set up a table for the press conference, Riley said “that’s a very nice instrument” to one of the presenters.
>>Defensive coordinator Mark Banker is always good with a quip. In response to a question about playing without safety Nathan Gerry, Banker explained how the Huskers played most of their final two games in 2015 without Gerry, who had to sit out two halves due to targeting penalties.
“I guess it’s only natural that Nate wouldn’t be here for our game,” Banker said. He did go on to note how much Gerry has meant to Nebraska’s program over the past four years.
>>Tennessee has two pretty good running backs it can throw at the Blackshirts, including the always entertaining Alvin Kamara, who may be playing his last game as a Volunteer. That had Banker’s focus yesterday.
“We understand that between that offensive line and the running backs that they have, it will be a long day if we don’t handle their run game and try to make them as one-dimensional as possible,” Banker said.
>>The same thing might be true the other way, too. How well can Nebraska run the ball? That’s how teams have stayed on schedule and beaten Tennessee this year. Can the Huskers’ do the same? They might have to because pure passing downs against this Vols defense are trouble with a capital (power) T.
The Grab Bag
- House hunting in Boca Raton with Lane Kiffin. Good read from Pete Thamel.
- Rose Bowl tickets are going for more on the secondary market than tickets to either playoff game.
- Interesting stuff from Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com on the pay for bowl directors.
- Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports that there’s some support among Group of 5 leaders for a playoff for those non-Power 5 schools. Also some opposition, notably from the AAC, which sort of views itself as the “sixth Power 5.”
Today’s Song of Today
Easily my favorite song of the year and it wasn’t really close…
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.