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Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit: Quentin Lueninghoener

Mailbag: Game Week Predictions for Nebraska-Illinois, Alliance Talk and More

August 25, 2021

It’s game week for Nebraska, which means a portion of the mailbag is dedicated to the matchup with Illinois. We also have some Alliance talk and much more.

We also welcome some new individuals to the mailbag this week. Let’s get to it.

What’s your final score prediction for Saturday? (@InDaWilderness) 

Brandon Vogel: 34-24, Nebraska. 

Erin Sorensen: 30-21, Nebraska. 

Jacob Padilla: 31-20, Nebraska. 

Greg Smith: 31-30, Nebraska. 

Steve Marik: 27-24, Nebraska. 

Drake Keeler: 24-20, Nebraska. 

Mike Babcock: 35-31, Nebraska . 

Which RB takes the first snap on Saturday? (@InDaWilderness) 

BV: Sevion Morrison. I think he’s the most versatile of the group, but I think we’ll see all of the top three. 

ES: Morrison was going to be my pick as well, but Brandon is right. I know they’ve said they have a “top guy” at the spot for Illinois, but we’re going to see all three we’ve heard heavily mentioned through fall camp.  

JP: The last time I answered the question about who was going to be the starting running back, I think I said Sevion Morrison. But I’m free to change my mind and that’s what I’m going to do here. I’ll lock Gabe Ervin Jr. in as my final answer. 

GS: I think I’ve changed my answer here three times during fall camp. My final answer is Gabe Ervin Jr., although I think you’ll see plenty of Sevion Morrison and some Markese Stepp. 

SM: Multiple guys will get a shot to win the job, but for the first snap, I’ll go with Gabe Ervin Jr. He’s gotten a lot of praise this offseason. During the spring game, it looked like he has that good blend of size and speed that you’re looking for in the position. 

MB: Markese Stepp, though maybe he’s not completely healthy—no one picking Marvin Scott III? 

How does this impact recruiting? “The Huskers now have 49 of their total 85 players on scholarship listed as either freshmen or redshirt freshmen on their updated scholarship distribution chart.” (@ghostest) 

JP: I’ll let Greg answer in more detail, but that fact coupled with the existence of the transfer portal is why Nebraska is looking at a small 2022 high school recruiting class. The uncertainty about players using their extra season of eligibility probably impacts that as well. 

GS: It impacts recruiting in that high school prospects will be squeezed out for Nebraska this cycle. The thing that keeps getting lost in the conversation about having a small class in the 2022 cycle is that Nebraska will still take a handful of transfers. The program has been successful at identifying and landing those guys. Several are in the projected two-deep. The portal has changed the game everywhere but it’s going to be a bigger factor at Nebraska this year and potentially next year. 

When an athlete gets injured and requires surgery, who pays for that surgery? (@TwinTwisterDad) 

ES: Interesting question. I had a hunch what the answer might be, but I did a little Googling to be sure. The NCAA requires student-athletes at member institutions to have insurance for medical expenses that would be related to athletic injuries, per NCAA bylaws (Certification of Insurance Coverage) and (Amount of Coverage). Schools are not required to provide insurance for student-athletes nor are they required to cover what insurance does not, which would then leave it to the student-athlete to handle the rest out of pocket. The NCAA does have a Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program that covers the cost when treatment for an injury exceeds $90,000. Also, student-athletes participating in NCAA championship events are fully covered by the NCAA’s insurance policies through the Participant Accident Program. 

With that said, the schools can choose to provide some level of coverage for their student-athletes that would then essentially help cover the cost of those surgeries. Some stipulate that coverage is only available for sports-related accidents and not for illnesses, injuries or other medical costs that are not related to athletics. 

Forbes had a story on this in the spring of 2020, mostly exploring what universities would do with health insurance related to the number of student-athletes returning due to the extra years of eligibility. From that article, here is how Penn State looked at the student-athletes responsibility, regardless of their status as a full scholarship, partial scholarship or walk-on student-athlete: 

“Failure to report up-to-date insurance information may result in an athlete’s ineligibility. All student-athletes whose families do not have an insurance plan are required to purchase an insurance package that does not exclude intercollegiate athletic sports injuries.” 

Forbes went on to explain that many athletic departments assume the student-athlete’s insurance will cover the first 80% with the rest being handled by the university’s policy. It seems to require quite a bit of paperwork and understanding as to who ultimately pays what in the end. 

Regardless, another level of this I hadn’t even considered was just the sheer volume of student-athletes that universities must factor in to whatever medical coverage they have. Another piece to the COVID puzzle that will be interesting to watch as schools navigate the finances of taking on additional athletes that use their extra years of eligibility.  

Which female Husker athlete in a sport other than volleyball is the most underrated? (@dmhusker1) 

BV: Keep an eye on Eleanor Dale. Despite playing only half the matches last season she led the Huskers in goals last season, and she has two in two games so far this season (plus an assist). 

ES: Senior golfer Megan Whittaker is my pick. She isn’t underrated in her sport—just look at her honors and awards!but you may not know her if you’re not following the women’s golf team. You need to know her though. She’s very good and I’m eager to see what she can do as a senior for this team. 

JP: I’ll go with Issie Bourne. The Aussie forward took a huge leap last year as a sophomore and was second on the team in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (7.5). Sam Haiby is the best player on Amy Williams’ squad, but Bourne is a strong No. 2 and if she can take another step forward this year she can push for all-conference honors. The next step for Bourne might be to improve her perimeter jumper from the 31.7% she shot last year, which seems like a realistic goal considering she shot 39.1% over the second half of the season (albeit on just under two attempts per game). 

DK: Love this question, and it already has some solid answers. I probably would say Bourne — but to give someone else, I think Sami Hauk of the soccer team would be a good player to watch early on. She was just named Big Ten goalkeeper of the week for helping the Huskers start the season with two straight shutouts. That hasn’t happened since 2003. 

MB: Bourne. 

If Nebraska was still in the Big 12, do you think they would have trouble finding a conference since they no longer have AAU status that seems to be a prerequisite for Big Ten membership? (@dmhusker1) 

SM: I don’t think Nebraska would have trouble finding a new home. Husker athletics are a moneymaker and the fanbase is passionate and cares. That’s worth something. Other conferences would be glad to have Nebraska.  

ES: It’s not so much about Nebraska not finding a conference—if the Big 12 implodes, the remaining schools will find homes somewhere—as much as it would have been what would be the best fit. We focus a lot on football and its role for Nebraska—which is fair considering football does generate a significant amount of money for the university and its conference—but it’s not the only consideration. Nebraska volleyball is appealing. Baseball is too. The Nebraska Medical Center is a selling point for having Nebraska part of your conference when you look at the academic and research side of things. If Nebraska wasn’t already part of the Big Ten, the AAU piece would probably be a holdup and maybe keep Nebraska out of the Big Ten today. With the Big Ten potentially out of the running then, I don’t think you’d have conferences kicking down Nebraska’s door but there would be interest. My question would be what does that interest look like and where would Nebraska best fit? I’m torn. 

With the Alliance, what teams from the other conferences should football schedule in the future? (@Sal_Vasta3)  

ES: Miami is an obvious choice, just from a historical standpoint. Florida State, too. Since I have a bit of a historical element to my choices already, you might as well throw Colorado on the list too. It’s going to be some time before any of these games happen because schedules are set so far in advance. Guess we’ll find out what “The Alliance” does a decade from now. 

BV: I always like to look for uncommon matchups when given the opportunity. To me, that’s why you opt for the B1G PACC, and it feels like Miami and Nebraska played yesterday (it was six years ago). So, I’ll go a different direction. Nebraska has never played Boston College, so let’s get a home-and-home with the Eagles arranged. It has only played North Carolina once, the 1977 Liberty Bowl, so the Tarheels are near the top of the list and that would be a fun one. Georgia Tech is the same—just that Citrus Bowl matchup in 1991. The ACC offers most of the unfamiliar territory here, but from the Pac-12 I’d throw Utah on the list. The Utes have been to Lincoln three times, but Nebraska’s never been there. 

GS: A home and home with Florida State is my pick here. It would historically be a fun matchup. We could get an AAC rematch between Scott Frost and Mike Norvell if it happened soon. 

SM: I’m sort of stealing Erin’s answer here, but for me, nothing got better than those games with Colorado. The fans got into it and I always felt the energy ticked up a notch when those two met. It’s a great football atmosphere when the Huskers and Buffs meet. 

DK: I’m a huge fan of the Colorado and Nebraska matchups. The Huskers came out on the losing end in both 2018 and 2019, but I’d say that those were two of the most entertaining games Nebraska has played since Scott Frost arrived. A lot of the ACC matchups seem interesting. I randomly own a Pitt hoodie because I thought it looked cool, so I’ll advocate for that. The last time those teams played, the final score was 7-6, though. 

MB: Stanford, rematch the ‘41 Rose Bowl. Plus, those who travel would enjoy a trip to Palo Alto. Next Florida State; it’s staying in the ACC, right? Tradition there. And then Notre Dame—oops, not an ACC participant in football. But it has an agreement to play a certain number of ACC opponents. Gotta have Notre Dame in the Alliance. 

When will the Big Ten switch to eight football conference games a year? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: Hopefully soon. At the time it felt like a cool move because more conference games that matter is preferred. However, beating each other up during the regular season and hurting playoff chances is a major pitfall. 

Do you think Nebraska would ever do an after-game movie on the big screen?? Or are Husker football games just too big?? If they *DID* do one, which movie would you pick? (@marcus_scheer) 

ES: I doubt Nebraska would do a movie following a game, but the Huskers have hosted a movie night in Memorial Stadium post-Fan Day before. That happened in 2017 and fans had the opportunity to vote on the movie that was played. Fans ultimately picked The Lego Batman Movie. Reports on how many showed up for that range from hundreds to thousands, but I was in the press box for a bit of that evening and I would err more on the side of hundreds. People were able to spread out on the field and in the stands, and it seemed pretty enjoyable. If Nebraska were to do something like that again, a football classic like Remember the Titans or Rudy would be my pick. You have to keep it family-friendly, of course, and those would work while adding to the theme of being inside Memorial Stadium for the movie itself. 

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