Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: How Many Football Games in 2020?

August 18, 2020

It’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means it’s time for another mailbag. Let’s get to it.

Assuming 2020 happens: Is there a situation, since there are more conference games, where we see some of those additional B1G games on non-traditional days in primetime, thus potentially increasing TV revenue? (@3rdLargestCity)

Greg Smith: That’s a great question that I hadn’t really considered. My gut reaction is: maybe? In theory with less TV inventory overall, you’d want maximum exposure for the games. So you can’t play every game in the same time slots. This makes some sense but I wonder if you’d get the same complaining about having to move a Saturday home game to Friday or another day that we already get.

Derek Peterson: You’d also need to convince coaches to play on a Friday or a Thursday. No one likes short weeks, and everyone hated Friday night games when the Big Ten tried to phase them in a few years back. Maybe everyone’s more open to it if it’s a matter of money.

Brandon Vogel: If there are no fans in the stands (or maybe even a severely reduced number) I think it would be crazy not to look at alternative days and time slots. The biggest hurdle to moving a Big Ten game to Thursday or Friday is logistics. Think of a standard Saturday in Lincoln, now move it to a Thursday, when local schools are in session, standard workdays are going on, etc., etc. To move 90,000 people in and out of there requires a coordinated, city-wide effort. To just do that on a Thursday because ESPN would like that a little better is really, really hard. But if you don’t have to move that many people, then, sure, TV appeal becomes a more valid reason, and with everyone trying to limit the lost revenue here, I’d honestly be surprised if we didn’t have college football during the week. (Assuming there’s any football, of course, and assuming limited/no attendance.

If 2020 goes well and a “proven” testing formula is at least semi-adopted by P5 conferences, do you see a regional bowl schedule or, potentially, a traditional bowl schedule? How do you envision the ranking system taking place in 2020 with the potential of 0 OOC games? (@3rdLargestCity)
What’s Hail Varsity’s opinion on how/if the National Championships/playoffs will shake out if there are only conference games? Do you picture a scenario like the old voting days and do you think people will dispute who the real “National Champions” are? (@BenzelLukas)

Erin Sorensen: I do not see a bowl season, no matter what. Even if the conferences get through a modified schedule of some sort (which we don’t fully understand at this point), I worry about what things will look like post-Thanksgiving. Will flu season escalate this situation further? Maybe. If by some miracle things are looking up, maybe you find a way to make bowl games work, but I just don’t see a path toward it right now. With that said, I think each conference could have their champion based on record but I’m not sure how you would determine a national champion from that. Voting would probably be the only way, but would it make sense in this scenario? You’d forever have debate over who really is and isn’t the true champion. Anyway, I’ve only added more confusion to this entire scenario than I have any clarity, so I’ll simplify it to this: No bowl games. No national champion. Conference champions can fight about it.

GS: Right now I can’t see any type of bowl season. In my mind, we end up getting conference champions and that’s it. Maybe the CFB Playoff committee meets to determine who is 1 and 2 to put on one extra game? I’m pretty pessimistic about anything close to a full bowl and playoff situation occurring.

Jacob Padilla: If they manage to make it through the whole season without having to shut things down, I’d imagine they’d at least try to put together some kind of College Football Playoff. I don’t think it would be too difficult to regulate testing and create some sort of a bubble for a small number of teams to make it as safe or safer than the rest of the games during the season. How exactly they’d determine who makes it without any interconference play I’m not sure.

Moos wants to play 12 games. What’s your prediction on how the schedule is arranged? Is it possible that the Big Red would play a big 10 team twice? (@CarnesRegg)


We’ve heard everything from 8-12 football games this season, also allowing games to be canceled/moved. How many games do you think will actually get played? (@Sal_Vasta3)

ES: I think 10 games is probably the most realistic. Twelve will be hard to get to, but Nebraska could play a team twice in that scenario. Heck, the Huskers could play a team twice in a 10-game scenario but it seems more likely if you go to 12.

DP: I think they’ll sit at 10, add an additional game to the schedule and try to rework some things so no one is looking at a 4-6 or a 4-5 home-road split. Moos’ take on divisional games—having them in the middle as opposed to frontloaded or backloaded—makes a lot of sense to me. I think if they put 10 on the schedule, everyone takes things seriously over the next three, four months, we could get in eight or nine games this season.

BV: The easiest path is for every school to keep the current conference schedule it has, move it up so you’re finished with the regular season by mid-November, and have the West teams with four home games and another East team so everyone plays five at home and on the road. I messed around with this last week to satisfy my own curiosity and it can be done. The best path, however, might be to start over with an emphasis on reduced travel. So, you play everyone in the division and the four closest East division teams, five at home and five on the road. That offers the most flexibility with dates.

Husker Nation has been excited by Zach Duval’s videos of the work being done in the weight room. If the HV staff got to train with Duval for a year, how much iron are you all throwing around by the end? (@Sal_Vasta3)

ES: All of it.

GS: After getting over the initial shock I’m confident I’d make some solid gains. The big problem Duval would have with me though is that I don’t really squat. My knees are awful and I feel like he might judge me for that, ha.

DP: Well I’d be dead after the first week, so.

JP: I wouldn’t even make it that long.

Mike Babcock: Bit of history. Long ago, when I was writing for the Lincoln Journal and Star, Boyd Epley, the strength and conditioning coach, offered to put three of us on a weight program. Assigned us lockers (extras, in the coaches’ area, I think). Anyway, we lasted maybe two days and he gave up in frustration.

Assuming a season, and assuming NU lets some fans in to watch a game; the tunnel walk and unity walk have to be fan-free, right? Last thing staff wants is some asymptomatic fan high-five Martinez, Frost, Robinson, etc. and suddenly lose all your starters for 2 weeks. Thoughts? (@Sal_Vasta3)

GS: I don’t even think we will have fans at games so I can’t see the unity walk or tunnel walk having fans.

DP: I just can’t see a scenario where it makes sense to put fans in the stands. The other sports models that are working right now have created fan-free environments. Why is college football different? You’re probably right in thinking that if a limited number of spectators are allowed in the stands, they won’t be lining up for a tunnel walk or a unity walk, for the reason you gave.

MB: No fans. But even if there were some, there would be no Tunnel Walk or probably other productions that would accompany a regular game. Not sure how much graphics and so forth there would be regardless.

Who gets the most touches after Mills this season? Johnson? Morrison? Scott? Thompkins? Robinson? (@Sal_Vasta3)

GS: I’m going to go with Rahmir Johnson. I really like the freshmen running backs but I think if Johnson can put it all together, he could be a great compliment to Mills. Then in 2021 you have a nice three-headed rushing attack.

BV: I assume we’re talking just carries here. Give me Scott, though Morrison is probably 2A for me.

JP: I still don’t have a great feel for that backfield situation, so I’m just defaulting to the guy with the most experience. I think at least one of the two true freshmen will play, but I still don’t know which one has a leg up. But the real answer is Adrian Martinez.

How much stock should we really put into this football season (assuming it’s held)? Further, should the coaches just consider this season an extended development opportunity? I know it sucks for the seniors, but if there’s only going to be 8ish games (hopefully) should they consider getting the next guys ready with in-game experience? (@Sal_Vasta3)

DP: It’s an interesting thought. I can’t see many coaches losing their jobs for so-so seasons given everything going on, and Frost wasn’t on the hot seat this season to begin with, so he might have carte blanche in a 2020 season to do whatever. You don’t want to waste another season of Adrian Martinez, but at this point, NU could go 8-0, 9-0, or whatever and it would be all for naught anyway; I don’t know how we have a Playoff. That’s not to say bench Brenden Jaimes for Turner Corcoran, but maybe we see some less-established guys getting more reps than expected. Of course, the flip side of this is if NU views the year as a wash anyway, it’ll want to save redshirts for as many guys as possible.

BV: In theory, this should be a hot-seat-free season, but I learned long ago to stop expecting college football to be rational. It seems unthinkable that, with reduced revenue all over the place, a school would agree to pay an $8 million buyout because its coach went 4-6 under once-in-a-lifetime conditions. That means it will almost certainly happen, this being college football and all. As for how much stock, if there’s a full-ish season, conference champions will still be crowned and I think you can still play the Playoff. Those will get written down in the record books, same as normal. It’s every non-champion, however, that will have some parsing to do to determine just how things went. Rough seasons will be written off, but it’s the “good” seasons I wonder about. How will those be viewed? If Nebraska goes 6-4 against an all-league schedule, that would be considerable progress in my mind, but I don’t fully know how that would be received in a broad context. Locally, I think people would be pretty happy.

Does the Hail Varsity staff believe that there will be a true race for starting QB? Or is it Martinez’s job no matter what? (I feel McCaffrey could end up the starter but mostly due to Martinez being injury-prone.) What QB fits better for what Frost wants to do? (@thawildbunch)

ES: The job is Martinez’s to lose. We’ve answered this a couple of times before, and my answer really hasn’t changed. Martinez is your starting quarterback and will be your starting quarterback unless he’s injured. In that case, Luke McCaffrey is your guy. As for the QB who best fits… How about Logan Smothers?

DP: A true race? Yes. Will it be Martinez no matter what? I don’t think so. He’ll have to earn it. I think all three of them fit nicely with what Nebraska wants to do.

JP: With the condensed off/preseason of work, I think it will be harder than it would have been to hold a true, extended competition. Coaches are going to have to move fast to determine their rotation so they can focus on getting the guys ready to play. I think McCaffrey will get his reps early, but it’s Martinez’s job to lose and I don’t see him losing it (or McCaffrey taking it from him at this point in his development).

MB: Would I like to see a race? Yes. Will there be one? I doubt it, for reasons stated above. Martinez is the starter. Time is definitely a consideration. Also, we don’t see everything the coaches do. I have to remind myself of that when I get carried away thinking someone else should be playing—as I implied earlier, probably—and not just at quarterback. Coaches aren’t going to think: “Well, Luke’s better. I can see that. But I’m going with Adrian because, well, I’m the coach so I can.”

Over/under 4.5 B1G football wins this season? (@Sal_Vasta3)

DP: Over.

BV: One of these years the over has to hit for a Nebraska season win total, right? I’ll take the over as well, but I don’t feel great about it. (Especially since 3.5 seems to be the number at most sports books.)

MB: Under. And I’m not saying that just to be different.

JP: Things are gloomy enough in the world right now. Might as well go with the over.

Do you think if football goes to the spring, will we see any spring sports consider switching to the summer? (@dmhusker1)

ES: It gets messy fast if football goes to spring. I’m not sure you can push those spring sports to summer in all instances. Maybe you can adjust timelines a little bit, but how can you completely? And if you’re moving football, are you moving volleyball, soccer and cross country too? Those are Nebraska’s fall sports, so imagine the schools that have more. It’s just a messy deal all-around and I’m just glad I’m not the one having to sort it out.

MB: “Messy” is the word. Theoretically speaking, if there’s no fall football, push it to the fall of 2021. But the money’s in football, so that takes precedence over the other sports. Baseball and softball would probably have to consider summer or back away, though if both are played in empty stadiums, or limited fans, there wouldn’t be the burden on parking lots at Haymarket on game day. TV time would go to football, of course, though there’s always BTN Plus for an extra charge—if there are students to handle games.

JP: The sports already set to take place in the spring are one of many reasons why spring football should be an absolute last resort. It would put an unbelievable strain on the athletic department to have almost every sport going on at the same time.

Which Husker sports team will be most impacted by a Big 10 only schedule? (@dmhusker1)

Assuming they play a season, how has COVID affected the outlook for Husker Volleyball and Soccer? Does the delay and an all-Big Ten schedule provide a competitive advantage or disadvantage for the Huskers as compared to other teams in the Big Ten? (@Shortguy1)

JP: If we’re looking at all sports and not just fall ones, if basketball follows the same game plan I’d have to pick Fred Hoiberg’s bunch. For one, that team needs those nonconference games to figure each other out with so many newcomers. Second, we saw how difficult wins were to come by in Big Ten play for the Huskers last season. I think this year’s team will be significantly more talented, but that’s a lot of should-be easy wins wiped off the schedule. In football, they’re only losing three games and two of them could end up being pretty tough. I wrote recently about what losing nonconference matches means for the volleyball program. Advantage or disadvantage will depend on what the schedule actually looks like and how even the strengths of those schedules is.

DP: Soccer had four noncon games canceled: Creighton and Colorado at home, Arkansas and Kansas on the road. Arkansas and Kansas each won 17 games last season, and Colorado had 12, so those were going to be pretty tough games either way. But Nebraska might be looking at something of a rebuilding season—it needs to replace its best player on defense, in the midfield, and up top, while also needing to replace a goalkeeper who played a lot of ball for the Huskers. Like Jacob said with volleyball, it sort of just depends on what their conference schedule looks like. The Big Ten’s decision could have removed a couple of probable losses from the schedule, or it could have cost NU some key developmental time at the beginning of the year. We’ll have to wait and see.

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