The Hail Varsity readers came through this week with some interesting questions to dive into.
This week’s mailbag is packed with interesting thoughts dealing with the Super Bowl halftime show, Amy Williams’ women’s basketball team and, of course, some college football transfer portal talk. Oh, and Fred Hoiberg—what’s his future look like?
Enough talk. Here’s the latest edition of the mailbag.
Who is your way-too-early pick for next year’s Super Bowl halftime show? (@marcus_scheer)
Jacob Padilla: Nickelback. (That one’s for you, @Corn_Huskers.)
Steve Marik: Run it back with everyone who did this year’s. That was fantastic.
Erin Sorensen: I want it to be Taylor Swift, but I think it might still be a couple of years still before she does it. She originally couldn’t perform at the halftime show because of her partnership with Coca-Cola (the halftime show is sponsored by Pepsi) but that has since ended. Now I think it’s just a matter of when her re-records are finished (so she can perform a full catalogue of music she officially owns). In the meantime, I’m fine with whomever. I always enjoy the halftime shows and I especially loved this year’s.
I know it’s not the end-all, but after whooping Indiana, Nebraska’s NET rankings have them in 18th. The top 16 seeds get to host an NCAA game — is it possible to go from unranked to hosting a postseason game? What do you think it will take to get them in position to do so? (@huskerfan4life9)
Mike Babcock: A strong finish, including some success in the B1G tournament.
Drake Keeler: If it’s possible, a very strong performance in the Big Ten tournament would be needed. For reference, Nebraska is sixth in the Big Ten standings and currently projected as a No. 7 seed for the NCAA tournament. Only three teams in the conference are projected to be in those top 16 seeds right now. Winning out against four teams in the bottom half of the conference standings probably won’t push the Huskers up much, although Northwestern would be a solid win. I’m thinking Nebraska would need to win every game until the conference championship to be in the conversation for a top-16 seed. Assuming conference standings stay mostly the same, that’d equate to three wins in the Big Ten tournament, possibly including two against ranked teams. It’s not impossible, but it’s an uphill battle as of now.
Steve: I’m with Mike and Drake, they’d need to win out in these next four regular-season games and then go on a deep run in the Big Ten tournament. Not impossible obviously—they knocked off Michigan and Indiana—but the Big Ten is a beast.
Is there still talent in the portal that there is a mutual interest? And, what’s the level of concern for attrition in the running back and defensive back room? (@Oblivio60072055)
Jacob: I’m sure Greg would have a better answer, but he’s on vacation so you’ll have to settle for me. At this point, I think Nebraska’s probably just in wait-and-see mode with the portal until they get through spring ball. We could see another wave of portal movement after depth charts start to emerge across the country. As for the running back and defensive back rooms, unless the Huskers lose a safety, I think they’ll be just fine even if they do lose a body or two from those groups. They put a lot of resources into the running back and cornerback positions this offseason and have plenty of depth at those two spots.
Steve: Nebraska should—and will, Scott Frost even said so—always be keeping its eye on the portal for potential additions, and I think the current Husker staff has shown an ability to reel in talented players looking for a reset or fresh start. Those players might not view Nebraska as a potential landing spot initially, but if you get Mickey Joseph, Bill Busch and Mark Whipple in a room with them so they can use their recruiting pitches, that could change. The addition of Vince Guinta as the program’s senior director of player personnel and recruiting should help in this, too. Want a few names that I’m interested in? You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. One of the high-profile transfers in the first wave of the portal craziness back in December was Jared Verse, an edge rusher from FCS-member Albany who eventually went to Florida State. Verse, who had a Nebraska offer, looks like a future multi-contract NFL player in my opinion, and the Seminoles got lucky there. But the Huskers should still try to find someone like Verse (easier said than done, obviously, because these guys don’t grow on trees) along with more help at offensive line and interior defensive line. The top guy right now to keep tabs on is the 6-foot-5, 257-pound edge rusher Ochaun Mathis, who had 15.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss the past three seasons at TCU. He’s still in the portal and hasn’t released a list of final contenders yet. I’ll also be interested in the Murphy brothers from North Texas, Grayson and Gabriel, who both were redshirt freshmen last year. Grayson had eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss while Gabriel added seven sacks and 12 TFLs. Thing is, everyone will want Mathis and the Murphy brothers, so if the Huskers are interested, which they should be, they’ll need to beat out basically everyone else. As for the o-line, I’m interested in Western Kentucky’s two first-team all-conference linemen, Mason Brooks and Cole Spencer. The Hilltoppers had a great season and that high-scoring, high-volume-passing offense of Zach Kittley turned heads and created opportunities for himself and his players at the Power Five level. Kittley has since been hired as Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Joey McGuire and Brooks has already signed with Ole Miss, so you take him off the board. But Spencer is still available, at least publicly. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Spencer follow Kittley to Tech or make the jump to the Big 12 or SEC, perhaps Kentucky, his home state. Speaking of Western Kentucky, let’s give a shoutout to Boe Wilson. The former Husker o-lineman earned second-team all-conference honors last season for the Hilltoppers. As for attrition at running back and defensive back, I think it’s likely. Is it a concern? I don’t think so, as the ones who do end up leaving probably see the writing on the wall that they won’t see much playing time.
Why do you think Nebraska women’s basketball is not ranked? And will they be with this upcoming set of rankings? (@SFSbasketballJC)
Mike: Great start, but against not-so-great nonconference competition. After upsetting then-No. 8 Michigan early in Big Ten play, however, I figured they’d at least get in the Top 25. Now they’re 8-6 in the conference, following the huge, decisive upset of Indiana. If they win the next two games, at Penn State and against Minnesota (both of whom they’ve already defeated), one would think they’d be in the rankings, though high up, next week. We’ll see. They got one vote in this week’s Associated Press rankings, one vote.
Drake: Along with the nonconference part Mike mentioned, timing is a factor as to why Nebraska hasn’t cracked the rankings. It did get close the week of December 27, being 12-0 and effectively being No. 29. Then the Huskers lost to a Michigan State team that hadn’t been playing well, which lost them votes. The week they beat Michigan, they ended up losing to No. 22 Iowa, a team which had been struggling prior to beating Nebraska. Between then and the Indiana win, Nebraska simply didn’t do anything impressive enough to warrant a ranking. It beat the worse teams of the conference and lost to the better ones. However, blowing out the Hoosiers snapped that trend. For the second part of the question, if the Huskers win their other two games this week, I think they have a good shot at sneaking in.
Yes or no — will Fred Hoiberg be the Huskers’ coach next year? (@BetsBruce)
Mike: Yes. And I think he should be.
Erin: Yes. That might make some people unhappy, but I think his buyout is too significant right now. I could see his contract and buyout renegotiated like how Trev Alberts handled Scott Frost’s contract and buyout.
Steve: Yes, he’ll be here.
Guess on the baseball team’s starting lineup? (@BetsBruce)
Steve: The batting lineup will be tricky to guess. What we do know is that Max Anderson, Nebraska’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year from last season, will be hitting in the first inning this season, maybe in the No. 2 or No. 3 spot, which is a change from his normal five-hole from last year. Cam Chick and Brice Matthews are also safe bets to get at-bats near the top of the order. As for the defensive lineup behind Friday starter Kyle Perry, here’s my guess: catcher, Griffin Everitt; first, Jack Steil; second, Jackson Core; short, Brice Matthews; third, Anderson; left field, Cam Chick; center field, Luke Sartori; right field, Leighton Banjoff.