Hail Varsity Mailbag
Photo Credit:

Mailbag: Lots and Lots of Big Ten, Nebraska Schedule Talk

August 27, 2020

It is not Wednesday, but rather this week the mailbag is coming to you on a Thursday. With all the news that dropped Wednesday, we figured wait 24 hours and react to the most recent information regarding the Big Ten, its newly-released schedule, and how it impacts the Huskers. So, let’s dive in.

Assuming all games have been played, what do you predict the record will be for the Huskers heading into their bye after Week 6? (@Corn_Huskers)

Brandon Vogel: I’m pretty close to throwing out almost everything I think I know about teams for this season given that this has been the ultimate outlier of offseasons, but I’ll go with 3-3. Wins over Rutgers and Illinois, losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State, split with Iowa and Minnesota.

Greg Smith: It’s tough because, like Brandon said, you have to throw out a lot of what you think you know about teams. The only thing I’m confident in picking is that Ohio State is the best team in the league. I can see anywhere from 2-4 all the way to 4-2 for Nebraska after six games.

Jacob Padilla: I’m going to echo Brandon’s answer here and say 3-3 with the same wins and losses. With everything Iowa’s gone through this offseason and with Bateman opting out, Iowa and Minnesota both look a bit more beatable than they did initially.

Mike Babcock: Three wins seem reasonable, but “reasonable” hasn’t characterized the past two seasons. So I’ll say 2-4, reluctantly—assuming the season lasts six games.

Derek Peterson: I’ll say 3-3. Getting Wisconsin and Iowa early is certainly better than playing them in November, and Minnesota now doesn’t look as exciting as they did when last season ended. We’ll see.

Any idea how NU (and the rest of the Big Ten) works with Rutgers & New Jersey (and other states now) on the state’s Travel Advisory for a 14-day quarantine mandate? (Sal_Vasta3)

BV: If I’m reading it correctly, it’s merely an advisory and not a mandate. So, Nebraska (or any other Big Ten team playing at Rutgers) could take that advice and, well, determine it isn’t really feasible. The optics of that aren’t great, however. I’m guessing the Big Ten has to get involved here.

JP: Pro sports teams are exempt from the travel advisory, so I’m assuming college teams could get a waiver for the same exemption.

How much will Rashod Bateman opting out affect Minnesota’s offense? What about Micah Parsons and Penn State’s defense? (@InDaWilderness)
Do you think we’ll see a high-profile NU player make the same decision? (Sal_Vasta3)

BV: Minnesota’s ceiling on offense was already lower than a year ago given that it was losing two running backs who combined for 1,500 yards and one of its two 1,000-yard receivers. Now the Gophers have lost both of those receivers and its returning production would indicate a regression is in order. Minnesota is also breaking in a new offensive coordinator. It does have Tanner Morgan back at quarterback, and he’s quite good, as well as a strong offensive line so maybe not all is lost, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Gophers fall from the 34 points they averaged a year ago to closer to 28 in 2020. As for Penn State, Parsons was the type of player who impacted every play just by being out there. Teams had to account for him no matter what it wanted to do. That would be true if Penn State was returning everyone on defense but him, but the Nittany Lions aren’t. They were already having to replace two d-line starters and two linebackers. Now take Parsons out of the equation and there’s a lot Penn State has to sort out when it comes to making negative plays behind the line of scrimmage, a strength a year ago.

JP: As for Nebraska players opting out, most of the “high-profile” players shared the #WeWantToPlayFootball hashtag on Twitter yesterday, so at this point I’d be surprised to see any significant opt-outs. Nebraska doesn’t have any players who have shown enough to sit out the season and still get drafted in a decent spot like Bateman or Parsons, and I don’t know of any big-name players with notable health concerns that would make them high-risk.

What will be the hardest game on the schedule? Seems like we have that four-week hell walk early on. So, I assume one of those? (@InDaWilderness)

BV: Ohio State. Until some team proves otherwise, the answer is always Ohio State. But especially on the road and as the sixth game in a six-week stretch.

GS: What Brandon said. For me it’s Ohio State and it’s not close. It’s the only game you can’t make a reasonable argument that Nebraska can win.

Erin Sorensen: I, too, agree that Ohio State is the game. If I had to offer up another, I would say the game at Northwestern simply because of the history between the two and what happened in 2018. Coming off a bye will be helpful, but the team prior to the bye is… Ohio State. I guess at least those two aren’t back-to-back.

MB: Clearly, I think, The Ohio State.

Do you think that 4.5 is a good over/under? Also, do I need to dunk on JP? (@3rdLargestCity)

BV: I think Nebraska could be favored in five games with two games (Iowa and Minnesota) that will be close enough on the Vegas line to be tossups, so 4.5 is pretty close with the addition of Michigan State.

JP: I think you’d get some pretty good juice on the over with that line, but that would probably be because you’re dealing with Nebraska fans. Based on the team’s recent history, I think that’s more than fair. And if you try to dunk on me, just know I’m not afraid to give a hard foul if the situation calls for it.

Is Week 1 against Rutgers actually a sneaky good time to play them? The NJ area is no longer a hotspot and while Rutgers is currently experiencing a breakout, you’d think it would be under control a month from now and large portions of their team would then have temporary immunity. (@Huskerlandblog)

JP: You make decent points, and you didn’t even mention how much their preparation has been set back by having to quarantine at this point. They’ll likely have to start camp late and won’t get as much time to prepare for week one as Nebraska will get. If things are still bad within the program, the game won’t happen and Nebraska will look to reschedule something for one of their bye weeks.

Do you think this new 2020 schedule is actually easier for the Huskers than their old 2020 schedule? (@adam_furley)

BV: Yes, but only a tiny bit. Using the preseason SP+ ratings, Nebraska’s projected conference winning percentage with the old, nine-game slate was .533. With the addition of Michigan State, and flipping the home game against Purdue for a home game against Wisconsin, the projected winning percentage is .550. Now, those preseason ratings were made before Nebraska lost Spielman, Minnesota lost Bateman, etc., etc., but on paper this schedule is a fraction “easier.” That said, it would be better to get the Spartans early, given that they needed a spring more than most with a new staff in place, than late.

Does the new schedule effect your rankings of the Big 10 West teams? (@dmhusker1)

BV: Not really. I try to come up with my personal power rankings without record being the be-all, end-all anyway (which probably angers some) so the projected record is yet another step removed. That said, Wisconsin is probably a bigger division favorite now. The Badgers were already scheduled to miss Ohio State and Penn State and their additional East game is Rutgers. That’s a fortunate draw. I remain optimistic on Northwestern for a bounce-back year, but getting Michigan as its additional game definitely didn’t make things any easier.

With the young man from Indiana being sick, do you honestly believe we will have a season? I would love to see a season but I am a little skeptical. (@MarkNewbeans)

ES: I assume you’re talking about this situation and you’re right to be skeptical. I am. I’m skeptical because of stories like that one, as well as the one from Eastern Kentucky’s kicker who has ended his career and was very scathing—but fair—in his writeup explaining why. There are a lot of very real concerns at all levels of competition and those concerns will have to be addressed as we go. In the Big Ten’s case, a number (as in 1,000) of players made very sensible demands of the conference for player safety and Commissioner Kevin Warren hasn’t shown much disagreement with any of it as of now. I’m still 50-50 on whether or not a season happens (or I guess happens in full), but we’re going to see more stories like the one from Indiana. We need to be prepared for that and how we respond.

MB: I’ve been skeptical all along and remain skeptical. Maybe they’ll get started. Maybe. But I remain skeptical of even that.

If a player opts out of season now under the circumstances, is he allowed to return during the season once he feels safer about how it is being handled? And are they allowed to participate in team workouts and practices if they opt out? (@cuzcastderrick)

ES: My understanding is that once you opt out, you’ve opted out from the entire season. You would not be allowed to participate in practices or team workouts during the season. I’m guessing you’d be allowed to return when winter conditioning rolled around. It’s just too much of a risk (and a can of worms) to have players coming and going as they feel safe. It also could mess with eligibility, so it’s just easier to rip the Band-Aid off. Once you’re out for the year, you’re out.

Michigan State vs. Nebraska. Do we finally beat Mel Tucker? (@HuskerTom1997)

GS: Assuming that game is played, yes, the Huskers get over the hump against Mel Tucker. MSU’s best returning pass rusher opting out certainly helps. But I think the Huskers should just be better than the Spartans this year.

JP: I think Tucker’s in for a rough first season in East Lansing, and if the Huskers can’t get a win in that Michigan State game then I’m going to assume he has some sort of Nebraska voodoo doll somewhere on his sideline.

ES: I’m not convinced that game happens, so that’s the only issue with your question. Nebraska doesn’t get the win if the game can’t be played, but maybe we will get there in the season. It feels 10 years away at this point.

With Wisconsin now being a home game, do they change that long-term or does Wisconsin have to come to Lincoln three years in a row? (@cuzcastderrick)

JP: I believe they said this year’s shuffled locations will impact future schedules.

ES: Jacob’s right. The Big Ten released a statement on it yesterday, essentially saying they’ll have to reshuffle locations for a few games going forward, but it should be easy enough to do. It actually might balance Nebraska’s future schedules a bit more too, which is a positive in all of this.

How would you categorize the overall recruiting and “overhaul” efforts of Coach Bolt and staff? Over/Under in MBB wins in a 20-game schedule? (@3rdLargestCity)

MB: Recruiting went well in the context of what Bolt wanted and where he felt he needed to find it, relying on junior colleges for some experienced pitchers. The thing is, with young players returning and seniors indicating they would take advantage of the opportunity to return for another season, Nebraska’s roster needs to be reduced—even with a larger roster allowed for one season—and will be at some point in the not-too-distant future. I’d go with over, depending on how the schedule is arranged.

If college football is moved to spring, when would it likely start? Further, does the NFL Draft get moved out of necessity? If not, what would that mean for NFL-caliber players deciding whether or not to play/practice? (@Sal_Vasta3)

GS: I think if the season gets moved to spring (a last resort) you’ll see a mass exodus of top players. The reason is that the NFL Draft wouldn’t move. I can’t see the NFL altering that for anyone or anything.

JP: I agree with Greg. The only reason the NBA moved its draft is because the league decided to try to finish the season, and they can’t have a draft without a draft order or teams knowing needs heading into the following year. The NFL isn’t going to move its draft unless it has to, and I’d expect that most players projected to be drafted would sit out a spring season.

MB: The NFL won’t move its draft. I might be remembering this wrong, but I thought that was already made clear.

We know that the players in the Pac-12 won’t get everything (or even most), of what they are asking for. But if real bargaining takes place as opposed to pandering and signaling, what aspects of their request do you think are realistic options and implantable at this time? (@InDaWilderness)

ES: The health and safety measures for the season will be top of the list. They’re the most obtainable in the short term. Some of their other demands (that essentially push the name, image, likeness stuff along faster) are not possible in the next few weeks. I think a conversation explaining the plan for those things that are not obtainable right now but what they could look like in the future will be key. The biggest thing here (and I thought Derek did a nice job explaining all of this in his latest column) is the ability to have conversation. Negotiation starts with big asks. You don’t come to the table with a small ask, because then you lose all of your negotiating power. If you’re the Pac-12, you start with health and safety and you discuss everything else as you’re able. Also, Commissioner Larry Scott is already on the health and safety pieces of this all and has reached out to those behind the #WeAreUnited movement.

I don’t believe the Big Ten will cancel football, but say they do. Would NU be able to schedule its own games or would it be strictly forbidden from doing so? I realize that most Power 5s have no non-league games, but NU could scrape something together I would think. (@thawildbunch)

ES: Oh, if only we had the answer. Do I think programs like Nebraska would want to schedule their own? Sure. Would it happen? No idea.

MB: If that were to happen, could happen, the question (unanswerable) I have is how would things such as eligibility for the next season be handled? Seems as if Nebraska could put together some sort of schedule but many—or most—Big Ten teams didn’t, it would throw things out of whack for the Huskers when the conference returned to action, presumably in 2021. For example, if Nebraska played a 2020 schedule of some sort but others didn’t, how would that affect scholarship numbers going forward? What about the Big Ten teams that didn’t play? They’d still have 2020 seniors playing in 2021, presumably, which would mean fewer 2021 scholarship recruits, right? Or the scholarship numbers would have to be adjusted somehow. I think conference teams have to go along with what the conference decides.

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Tags: Mailbag