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Mailbag: Football is Back, Questions Remain

September 21, 2020

With the Big Ten breaking major news on Wednesday, we kicked the mailbag to a new day this week to make sure all your questions about the new season were covered. The Hail Varsity staff runs through a lot, let’s get to it.

By the time this article is published will this madness be over? (@GBR1995)

Derek PetersonYes!

Erin Sorensen: Define madness.

Greg Smith: Define over.

Jacob Padilla: Nothing is ever truly over.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE SELLOUT STREAK!?!?!?!? (@Spacker22)

Brandon Vogel: With no tickets to sell, one can’t fail to sell all of them.

ES: I’d argue the Big Ten should give every school one ticket to sell. Boom. There you go.

Do the actions of Husker Nation as a whole (administration, team, family members, and fans) warrant the same legendary retelling in the future as some of the other notable Nebraska led revolutions in the game of College Football? (@grantgaither)

ES: Why stop there? Make it a “30 for 30.”

DP: I won’t go so far as to call what happened here a “college football revolution,” but Nebraska does deserve a pretty kind remembrance when this is all retold. While I don’t think Nebraska should go around asking for thank-yous or pats on the back, it can’t be underscold that literally an entire state fought the Big Ten on a decision it felt was wrong. Not a decision that was just unliked (which it was), but one the entire state felt was flat out wrong. Ohio State and Penn State being in the same corner helped a lot. They have more weight to throw around in the conference. (That distinction is important for me to make, before anyone yells at me.) But Nebraska’s unity throughout this whole process has been rather remarkable to watch, especially in an age where everyone is arguing about everything at all hours of the day.

In honor of LeBron getting All-NBA for the 16th time & an OKC Thunder player making 1st or 2nd team for 11 years straight…. Which Husker (any sport) was most consistently the best for an extended period? (@Simba_Simms)

BV: I assume we’re talking only college here? If so, Mikaela Foecke was the first name that came to mind, though Nebraska volleyball has a handful of good candidates. Foecke earned Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Championship as a true freshman, did it again as a junior, won two national titles and played 500 sets for the Huskers. Kelly Hunter is another one worth consideration. In football there are plenty of “best” candidates in the discussion, but in terms of consistency and longevity it’s tough to top Ralph Brown. He started 52 games for Nebraska, that’s every game he could’ve started and it was second-most in NCAA history at the time he graduated. If we’re combining college and pro careers, isn’t Lavonte David rocketing up the chart?

Mike Babcock: My nomination for football is Grant Wistrom, who played on three national championship teams (two as a starter) and elected to stay for his senior season when he could’ve been a first-round NFL draft pick after his junior year. Wistrom was a two-time consensus All-American, the 1997 Lombardi Award winner, first-team Academic All-American twice, and is in the College Football Hall of Fame. Ralph Brown would also be in that discussion but Wistrom gets my vote. As for Foecke and volleyball, I’ll defer to Brandon and Jacob.

JP: As someone who’s only been covering the Huskers for the last five-and-a-half years, Mikaela Foecke is unquestionably the correct answer for me for all the reasons Brandon laid out.

Hypothetically our crossovers are OSU and Penn State. What is our record after 8 games? What would you deem “bad,” “ok,” and “great?” (@InDaWilderness)

BV: I’ll go with 5-3. That’s probably better than I would’ve predicted with the 10-game schedule that was announced and that schedule included Rutgers and Michigan State, two games Nebraska would almost certainly be favored in. Why the slight uptick in optimism? Unless there are complications that have yet to be made public—and I’m not implying there are or have been, more just allowing for that to be the case—I think Nebraska has come through this, all things considered, in pretty good shape from a football perspective. No damaging opt-outs, the ability to get back to some form of team workouts earlier than most, no pauses to those team activities, etc. And, Nebraska is on a bit of a free roll here in my mind. The Huskers need to show improvement after back-to-back losing seasons with this staff, but they’re not in, say, Penn State’s position where everything seemed poised for a big year until the year looked unlike anything most of us have ever seen. And the Nittany Lions might still be great. It’s just a mental hurdle, potentially, that Nebraska doesn’t have. The Huskers are still making the climb. If 5-3 is my optimistic number—so slightly above “OK” — it probably takes 6-2 for “great” and anything .500 or under would feel “bad,” though in a season with as much uncertainty as this one could have, almost anything might be easy to explain away.

MB: I’ll say 4-4, for much the same reason(s) as Brandon has outlined so well. I’m not sure the Huskers have reached that constant winning mentality, though. On the plus side, in the division I’m not sure how ready Minnesota will be to play, so that could take one team that might’ve been more competitive away. Even so, that leaves needing to win both cross-divisional games plus Wisconsin and Iowa—4-4 looks reasonable enough.

JP: This is so tough. Honestly, Illinois might be the only team on the schedule I feel pretty confident that Nebraska will beat. I’d like to add Purdue to that list, but we just watched Nebraska lose to a Rondale Moore-less Purdue team last year. With the addition of Peyton Ramsey at quarterback, Northwestern should be better than last year too. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa were all clearly better than Nebraska last year and were expected by most to be better again this year. The opt-outs and practice disruptions further muddy this picture. Nebraska’s probably not beating Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State (even without Micah Parsons). I’m looking at the three to five win range so I’ll settle on 4-4. I’d consider a winning record great, four wins OK and a losing record as bad (though I could talk myself into three wins being OK depending on how things play out).

DP: Great would be 5-3. And that’s what I’m going with.

Can you give us a list or B1G impact players that have opted out at this point? (@InDaWilderness) AND
Any kids that have opted out, come back to play (i.e. Micah Parsons)? (@tchristensen43)

BV: Yes. The following are probably the biggest departures at this point: Illinois’ leading returning rusher RB Ra’Von Bonner, Minnesota all-conference WR Rashod Bateman, Purdue All-American WR Rondale Moore, Northwestern’s best draft prospect OL Rashawn Slater, Penn State superhuman LB Micah Parsons, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas and Ohio State first-round DB Shaun Wade. Maryland also had six players opt out, Michigan State four (though the Spartans got LB Marcel Lewis back). James Franklin didn’t make it sound like Parsons was likely to return, but the Nittany Lions did get TE Pat Freiermuth back, and that’s big. Ohio State also got OL Wyatt Davis back and Ryan Day made it sound like there was still a chance Wade could reconsider. Based on all of that and the overall talent level of the teams mentioned, I would say Minnesota and Purdue were probably hit the hardest despite only losing one player each.

How much sense does it make to begin padded practices on the 30th versus immediately like Alvarez said? (@Go_Big_Red)

GS: That gives teams a couple weeks to level-set with conditioning to get their players ready for padded practices. It sounds better to say “let’s just get into padded practices immediately,” but you do need time to ramp up. I just don’t know if one week would be as good as two. The Huskers haven’t hit since the Iowa game so it’s been a long time.

MB: Probably an attempt to level the playing field. Not all programs are as prepared for this as Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

JP: Based on what Bill Moos said, the delay has more to do with getting daily testing set up at all 14 schools than anything else. Like Mike said, not every school is as ready to roll as Nebraska appears to be.

What happens in a Green/Red testing scenario? (@davereid)

DP: Presumably the team wouldn’t be able to compete. I don’t think this option will come up fairly often because to get there you’d need to have fewer than seven positives for the first metric but upwards of 15-ish for the second metric. I don’t know. This whole thing is confusing and I’d like for someone to explain it to me like I’m five. (If you get the reference, you’re my friend.)

Considering those who have opted out, what are your revised East and West projections? Who’s going to cover the tourney at the Pentagon? How badly affected was OU by the Big 12’s week one performance? (@3rdLargestCity)

JP: I haven’t really done my homework just yet on where the rest of the Big Ten stands with all the dust starting to settle. I’ll take Ohio State first and Rutgers last and everyone else somewhere in between, though. As for the Pentagon, I’ve got first dibs if we’re allowed to go. The last two times I went up to the Pentagon for basketball I’ve come back with tournament titles. I’m on a good run up there. As for Oklahoma, it’s one week in a really weird season. I’ll give the Big 12 a pass if they can figure some things out and manage to produce at least a couple teams that Oklahoma can count as good wins.

How many fans responded in the NU survey that they were interested in game tickets? (@husker_gobigred)

DP: Bill Moos said Wednesday that only 20% of respondents asked for refunds on their tickets. Pretty good number to be at. The rest either put it towards a credit on next year’s tickets or donated the money to the athletic department.

Will this change anything with recruiting? Will they be able to have official visitors come in and look at the facility and be there for a game? (@GBRUnited)

GS: No it won’t change anything. In fact, the NCAA extended the dead period through Jan. 1.

JP: Which means recruits won’t be able to take official (or even unofficial) visits before the December signing period. Best of luck to these kids as they go about trying to make their decisions.

Does this decision have anything to do with other sports like volleyball or is it strictly football? (@khyelnderson15)

ES: The decision you’re referencing (or at least I’m assuming) is football only. The other sports had a decision that came later in the day on Wednesday. For volleyball, the regular season has been recommended to begin Jan. 22. Women’s soccer would begin Feb. 3, while cross country is scheduled to conclude March 15. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors will vote on those next week.

JP: Football is the only sport still planning to have its championship this fall/winter, so that’s why it’s separate. Volleyball will be just fine waiting until the spring because that’s when the NCAA Tournament will happen.

Everyone keeps talking about schools cutting sports so let’s go in the opposite direction. If Nebraska could add any NCAA sponsored sport, what would you like to see as the newest Cornhusker sport? (@JEREIH)

ES: I’d like to see hockey, if it was able to be added. You’d have to factor in Title IX, so why not a women’s team too?

GS: Hockey would be a lot of fun. I agree, lets add a men’s and women’s team.

JP: Men’s soccer. Creighton and Omaha have built up very successful programs and it would be fun to add the Huskers to the mix as well.

DP: Jacob is now my favorite.

With the Taylor Kissinger news that she is not coming back due to injuries, will the Husker women’s basketball team miss the NCAA tournament again? (@dmhusker1)

MB: Taylor’s not the only significant loss, right? I think Amy Williams’ team will have a tough time making the tournament. Hope I’m wrong.

JP: Including Kissinger, Amy Williams lost five of her top seven scorers from a team that was on the fringe of making the tournament last year. Her 2021 recruiting class looks pretty good and we’ll see what kind of impact the transfers can make both short-term and long, but right now it doesn’t look like this season will end in a tournament berth.

DP: It’s not looking good. This feels an awful lot like a transition kind of year for the reasons Jacob just pointed out. All that being said, Sam Haiby is a threat to be one of the best players in the league next season—a pick-and-roll partnership with her and Issie Bourne is really, really intriguing—and start familiarizing yourself with sophomore guards Trinity Brady and Makenzie Helms.

What’s the HV crew’s favorite high school football stadiums in Nebraska? (@HuskerPower66)

ES: Having coached cheerleading at Boys Town, I had the privilege of seeing a lot of C-1 stadiums in Nebraska. I’m a fan of small-town Nebraska football fields. And while it’s not a small town, I’ve always been fond of the Boys Town “Corral.” It’s unassuming, but it’s a great field in the middle of a big town. That would be high on my list. I’d put Ashland-Greenwood high on my list too. Also, have you seen the Louisville High School stadium? That’s really nice.

GS: There are two that stand out to me. York is really fun. Classic smaller town field and they play a loud siren when they score touchdowns which makes me jump every time. Beatrice also stood out to me as well but it’s been since Cam Jurgens was a senior since I’ve been out there. For an out of state pick, Lawrence Free State where Turner Corcoran went to school is one of the nicest I’ve been to as well.

MB: I’ll agree with Greg on York (because it’s where I grew up and I’ve seen the evolution). A negative, according to my wife, is the cannon that explodes after scores by the home team. The field at McCool Junction isn’t any different than most now six-man fields, but I like the familiarity. As the McCool coach and one of the officials were walking off the field at halftime of a game a couple of seasons ago (I have a brother-in-law who went to McCool), one said to the other (I don’t recall the names), “Hey, Joe, your tractor part came in this week.” I no longer see high school stadiums. I used to see a lot of fields when I wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star. I think Seacrest Field in Lincoln is a great facility, too. Nebraska played a spring game there long ago.

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