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Mailbag: Predicting Headlines For a 2020 Nebraska-Ohio State Clash

January 29, 2020

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s once again mailbag time.

Everyone at Hail Varsity gets to look into the crystal ball again. What will be one or two headlines we can expect to see the week of October 25th leading into the tilt with Ohio State? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Erin Sorensen: Nebraska will have played seven games prior to that matchup — Purdue, Central Michigan, South Dakota State, Cincinnati, Northwestern, Illinois and Rutgers. It’s not the most difficult seven-game leadup to Ohio State, but there are some games to be concerned about. I think it would be a mistake to assume Nebraska will be 7-0 by Oct. 31, but I could still see a headline—regardless of record—about that Ohio State matchup being a major test for Nebraska before having to face Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota (because that back half of the Huskers’ 2020 schedule is a doozy). But I could also see some headlines about Halloween. Will Nebraska and Ohio State be a trick or a treat? Book it now. 

Brandon Vogel: I think Erin is right, a good chunk of the trend pieces at that time will be about how Ohio State kicks off a tough closing stretch for the Huskers. Mix in some recent Husker-Buckeye scores and it’ll really drive the point home. I also think that this time will be talking/reading about how Adrian Martinez is looking like the QB everyone thought he’d look like at the end of 2018. 

Derek Peterson: Brandon’s last point was the one I was about to make, so I’ll go a different way. Perhaps we get to that eighth game and there’s a conversation to be had about the number of offensive weapons Nebraska has “now” compared to the year prior.

Five former Huskers are on XFL teams, which starts soon. Is there anything you're interested in specifically watching with this league (rules, players, etc.)? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

Mike Babcock: The only reason I will watch this is to see how the former Huskers are doing. Otherwise, I have no interest, which, no doubt, says more about me than the XFL. 

Greg Smith: I’m with Mike. I’ll check in on how the former Huskers are doing but won’t actually watch the games.  

Jacob Padilla: As of now, I don’t plan on watching the XFL, but if I happen to have some down time and there’s nothing else on I’m interested in watching I might flip over to at least check it out.  

Winter conditioning seems to be pretty quiet… do you think they will ever go back to publishing strength and conditioning numbers? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: Ah yes, back in the day Boyd Epley held news conferences to announce the strength and conditioning numbers. It served a motivational purpose. The coaches play such things close-to-the-vest these days, probably for good reason. With analytics and everything, the less a team shares with other teams, the better, even strength and conditioning numbers. So I don’t think Frost will go back and allow such things to be published. Maybe particular things will be mentioned in passing, about a specific player. But rank-ordering them for reporters? No is my answer.  

GS: I think Nebraska will go back to publishing results. When Frost first arrived, he mentioned wanting to do that again. However, I think things were so bad he elected not to. Once the team gets good enough I can see it coming back.  

What is the current football scholarship count at? How many more transfers can we expect over the summer? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

ES: Based on our count, it’s currently at 84. The Huskers will still need that number to drop a bit (considering they still have some open spots for a couple of commitments or the transfer market, plus the addition of Isaac Gifford’s scholarship come fall). My guess is that we see a few more transfers by summer. 

Do we start a new NFL draft streak starting this year? And who do you think is going where? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

ES: Brandon had a good breakdown of how Lamar Jackson and Darrion Daniels did at the Senior Bowl in yesterday’s Hot Reads. Both received some praise, but neither made WalterFootball.com’s mock draft of the top 32 picks from just the Senior Bowl rosters. That obviously doesn’t mean neither will get drafted, and I do think Daniels has a good shot at it. So, sure, I'll say Nebraska starts its new NFL draft streak this year. All it takes is one player to make it happen anyway. 

MB: I’m going with Daniels to start the streak again, even though he only played the one season here, so he would sort of restart the streak, I guess. 

JP: We should find out in the next week or so who receives an NFL Combine invitation, and that should tell us a lot. But unless Lamar Jackson flubs the pre-draft process I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get drafted. I think Darrion Daniels and Khalil Davis also have a great shot of getting picked at some point. 

DP: Yes. I could easily see Lamar Jackson going in the first four rounds.

The Kobe news has touched countless fans, casual fans to the hardcore & everything in between. How is it that sports make such a meaningful connection with us? Genuine, powerful emotions tied to those who are more or less strangers. (@Simba_Simms) 

MB: We see ourselves in these situations, project onto the athletes, who live in highlights and now on YouTube. Fame and money. We’re reminded that life is transitory for everyone, no matter how “great” or famous, the end uncertain. Was it Thomas Gray who wrote: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”  

ES: Someone like Kobe Bryant feels invincible. He’s bigger than life and he feels like a constant in some way for both his fans and casual observers. When we lose someone like that, it’s a harsh reminder that life is fragile, and no day is guaranteed. In sports specifically, we see athletes’ greatest triumphs and their greatest struggles, often living through those moments with them. That ultimately builds a connection, making it feel as if you know that person even if you’ve never met. Kobe Bryant was that kind of person.  

GS: Because sports become part of our identity. It ends up being part of what people identify you with. For me personally, how long would it take those who know me to mention the Lakers or Kobe if asked to describe me? So, we end up having strong attachments to people we’ve never met. We watch them grow through struggles and triumphs. As fans we feel part of that. That person is ours even if we never met them. When that connection is broken by something so tragic, it feels like there is a hole. 

DP: I saw someone the other day to compare the way athletes touch lives to the way artists like musicians and actors touch peoples’ lives. You see a movie or hear a song and it’s the finished product. You don’t see the flubbed lines or pitch breaks that have been redone. You just see the perfect end product. We don’t only get perfection with athletes. We see them struggle and fall down and we live that with them. Makes the journey more real. I also think in Kobe’s case, you see him completely destroy a finger on his shooting hand yet not miss a single and tear his Achilles yet stay in to shoot free throws, essentially finishing a job. As everyday people, we can’t relate to an athletic specimen’s dunking ability, but we can relate to that. 

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