The time for preseason rankings, thankfully, is nearing its end. We still have the preseason Associated Press poll to come in a couple of weeks, but after that it’s actual football. And that will feel good.
But we’re not quite there yet. CBSSports.com released its 1-to-130 rankings this week and you’ll find the Huskers in the expected range at No. 35. That might even be the upper end of the range, for human-based polls. Nebraska landed at 37th in the recently released Coaches Poll. The stat-based rankings, in general, have been quite a bit lower.
In combination, we get it at this point. Nebraska offers plenty of question marks and few knowns to point to that might say “here’s why it will be better (or worse).” The Huskers’ ranking at CBSSports.com put its among Oregon, BYU, Mississippi State and Iowa. Again, not a surprise.
But having seen enough of those comparisons this offseason, I decided to take a quick look at what happens to teams that have started in that mid-30s range based on the preseason consensus. This isn’t anything too rigorous, just a quick check.
Based on the last five years, you can safely call this range the Make-A-Bowl Class. Looking just at teams ranked between 34th and 37th in the preseason, including any ties, 68 percent of those teams finished with six, seven or eight wins. Only one of the 22 teams over that time frame had six wins and none had fewer. It’s the shoulder shrug span, populated by solid Power 5 teams and a couple of Group of 5 teams. Last year that group included West Virginia (10-3), Washington State (8-5) Mississippi State (6-7) and Auburn (8-5)
There were four teams to jump up from that preseason range to record double-digit wins. West Virginia did it last year, its two regular-season losses coming to top-15 teams Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Jim Harbaugh’s first team at Michigan was 37th in the preseason consensus and finished 10-3, setting up preseason top-five rankings for the 2016 season.
In 2013, Northern Illinois was the consensus 36th-ranked team and went 12-2, costing itself a shot at a second consecutive BCS bowl with a loss in the MAC title game. In 2012, preseason No. 34 Cincinnati went 10-3.
All of that pretty much conforms with how I view Nebraska going into the season. Seven or eight wins is probably the most likely outcome, but, if two of the Huskers’ key questions end up being strengths (and I could see that happening), a run at double-digit wins isn’t out of the question.
Turns out that’s sort of life when you start a season in Make-A-Bowl range. It’s a small sample of course, but you could say every team in that grouping the last five years fulfilled one of those two destinies.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: Platteview (Neb.) center Brady Heiman committed to Nebraska last night. He is the first in-state commit under Tim Miles.
- We debuted a new column yesterday from former Husker setter and All-American Lauren Cook. If you want to dig into the intricacies of volleyball, this is going to be a fun one each week.
- If you want to raise your young kids the Bill Snyder way, he has a new children’s book out.
- Fun story from Alex Scarborough of ESPN on college football paranoia.
- Kent State freshman Tyler Heintz died during conditioning drills this summer, and the university cannot produce proof of certification for its strength coach in charge at the time.
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.