When Tanner Lee said the words on Monday, you knew he’d just delivered the pull quote of Nebraska’s opening week of the 2017 season. Here it is pull-quoted in one of our stories, but the full thing for context (emphasis mine):
“I’ve been an underdog more often than not in my playing career and it’s going to be a lot of fun to have a great home crowd,” Lee said. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted and dreamed about just like all of us. I’m just really looking forward to it.”
He’s talking about playing in Memorial Stadium, where he’ll have all but a sliver of nearly 90,000 people in his corner. And Lee’s team will be favored. Both are departures from what life was like at Tulane.
And that’s not to disparage Tulane. The Green Wave have a great name (obviously), a gorgeous color scheme, a nice new stadium and ardent supporters of their own. You can’t hate on a team that does this . . .
. . . it’s impossible. But Tulane wasn’t drawing 90,000 and it was an underdog “more often than not.” It felt true when Lee said it, but if you want to know just how often “more often than not” actually was, I took a look at the lines because no stone left unturned and all that.
Lee appeared in 19 games over two seasons at Tulane. He was a favorite three times (15.8 percent). In 2014, Lee’s freshman season, Tulane was a 1-point favorite over FCS program Southeastern Louisiana. In 2015, Tulane was the favorite twice: -11 over another FCS program, Maine, and -1 over UCF.
Overall, Lee went 7-12 against the spread. Tulane went 2-8 against the spread with Lee in 2014, which included an outright upset of Houston as a 17-point underdog. Things improved the following year, as Lee-led Tulane went 5-4 against the spread, including outright wins over Maine, UCF and Army as well as covers against Navy and Bob Diaco’s UConn.
So there you go, a precise accounting of just how often Lee was an underdog. He probably undersold things.
But the good news for Husker fans — Lee was 3-0 as a favorite.
Blackshirts Back, All Right!
As you no doubt know by now, Blackshirts were handed out on Monday. Here’s the video in case you missed it.
⚫️☠️⚫️ #BLACKSHIRTS pic.twitter.com/DDlLbQY9W4
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) August 28, 2017
Two quick thoughts on this:
1. For all of the debate this process has created over the years, it’s still one of the coolest things to happen in all of college football. And if the Blackshirts start playing like one of the nation’s best defenses — something befitting the fierce and historic logo — it only gets better.
2. Sixteen players earned the coveted practice jerseys, a number that included a couple of surprises. But that’s telling, too. It tells us that Diaco’s not kidding when he talks about getting specialized with personnel. It’s also an indication, to me at least, that he gets what this is about — a mentality and not just a spot on the depth chart. I’ve always been in favor of giving Blackshirts to the starting 11 no matter what, that’s the tradition. But if five others could be starters depending upon sub-packages and all that, or if they've simply displayed the Blackshirt mindset, they should be included, too.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: The Huskers' offensive coaches talk about dealing with Arkansas State's pass rush, Mike Riley's 30-minute press conference boiled down to five greatest hits and two volleyball updates from Monday.
- Mark Schlabach of ESPN offers some "bold predictions" for 2017.
- Michigan and Florida are playing a dumb game of depth-chart checkers ahead of their opener this weekend.
- "Guarantee games" will be worth more than $70 million to visiting schools in week one of the college football season.
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.