We open the mailbag this week with a top-of-the-line prop bet and get into plenty of talk around culture, Saturday's game against Wisconsin and more. It's a full-staff effort, with Brandon Vogel, Erin Sorensen, Greg Smith, Jacob Padilla and Derek Peterson in to share their thoughts.
Last year, Jonathan Taylor ran for 13 yards less than Tanner Lee had passing and Devine Ozigbo ran for 1 yard less than Alex Hornibrook had passing. Which has a better chance of happening again: the Huskers rushing for as much or more than Hornibrook throws or Taylor rushing for as much/more than Adrian Martinez throws? (@Corn_Huskers)
DP: This is hard. I’ll go with Taylor getting close to Martinez’s passing numbers. If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Nebraska can move the ball if it gets clicking. I don’t expect that to be the case all game, but Martinez could have 200-ish yards passing and I feel like that’s where Taylor’s going to end up. Wisconsin’s going to run it a ton.
BV: This is perhaps the ultimate prop bet: Taylor averages 157 yards a game, Martinez 177. Hornibrook’s at 200 yards per game, Ozigbo just 65 but his last time out he went for 170 on 17 carries. Derek’s probably got the favorite’s side here (Taylor equaling Martinez), so I’ll play the underdog and take the Husker running game/Ozigbo. (Do I get rushing yards total or just Ozigbo?) Even if it’s only the latter, I don’t think it’s out of the question, just unlikely. The Badgers’ got hit for 190 yards on the ground against BYU.
GS: What a tremendous prop bet! Not a good news prop bet but still outstanding. I’ll go with Taylor rushing for as much/more as Adrian throws for.
JP: If Nebraska is running the ball well and hanging around with the Badgers, I feel like Paul Chryst is probably going to try to keep it out of Hornibrook’s hands to minimize risk of an untimely interception and rely heavily on Taylor. That being said, I don’t think you can bet that way based on how the season has gone to this point for Nebraska. I don’t think either one will happen, but if I had to pick a side I’d go with Taylor out-gaining Martinez. Great question.
Should the Huskers pull off the upset Saturday, how would you see that changing the trajectory of the season? Not just in the win-loss column but the morale of the locker room? (@thefrostyhusker)
DP: It’d be so, so huge. Talking with Deontai Williams Tuesday, he said this is like the Super Bowl for Nebraska. They just want one win, and if they get it, they can start to build some confidence moving forward. The way Williams framed it was like this: one win shows them they can. I think that’s all they need at this point, to see they can.
BV: Nebraska’s offseason was a long, anticipation-filled climb up the hill then, with the 0-4 start, the roller coaster just stopped before the best part. It still hasn’t started. Nebraska needs a push, both for the fans and the team at this point, and I would argue there’s no bigger, more powerful push on the schedule than Wisconsin. Not Ohio State. Not Iowa. For various reasons, knocking off the most consistent king of the West Division when you’re winless would be a massive boost of positivity at just the right time.
GS: A win Saturday would be massive. Suddenly the talk around this team would shift immediately to their path to a bowl game after starting 0-4.
ES: What everyone else said. It would be a momentum changer. It might not mean Nebraska goes undefeated the rest of the season, but the confidence gained would be invaluable.
JP: On top of the momentum and confidence boost the others mentioned, I think a win would signify significant progress as far as cleaning up the mistakes that have led to the 0-4 record to this point. If something finally clicks enough for Nebraska to get a win against the Badgers, I doubt that would be a flash in the pan. I think that would show that they’ve figured things out and can start playing the kind of football Scott Frost wants to see.
On what day did Nebraska stop being elite: home win streak getting broken (47) by Texas in 1998, the beatdown in Boulder in 2001, the firing of Frank Solich, the 70-10 loss in Lubbock, or other? (@HarlanCoLaker)
BV: I guess elite is somewhat subjective, so for me it has to be after 2009-10. During that stretch it looked like the Huskers were getting back to top-10 status and they played in back-to-back conference title games. Then it fell apart quickly. Nebraska clawed back to a title game again in 2012 and we all remember that humiliation. That’s the moment for me. Since that game, Nebraska has been ranked in 32-of-90 possible AP polls (35.6%). That’s almost the same as the four Callahan years (31.3%), but the difference is Nebraska steered out of those depths, at least for a little bit. It hasn’t, in my mind, been able to free itself of that Wisconsin loss yet so it sort of wins by default.
GS: If pressed to pick one of these, I always point to Boulder in 2001. In my mind, Nebraska hasn’t had any “elite” moments since then even though they have fielded some good teams here and there. That’s a sobering thought since we’d have to reach back to 2001 for a time when the team was elite.
Of the factors BV identified that are key to winning, which ones appear most likely to be achieved Saturday? (@CoryHonold)
BV: Football is a cruelly enticing puzzle in this regard because there are a lot of factors that can add up to a win. In general, if you had to pick a category for your team to win every game in hopes of ensuring the most wins over a long span you should pick efficiency (success rate, staying on schedule). It’s not the sexiest, but it works really well for Wisconsin. It’s the part teams should have the most control over and, while it’s not the type of pressure people easily recognize, the consistent pressure of staying ahead of (or putting the opponent behind) the chains is as sure a thing as erosion. But, one game isn’t a long span and the most efficient team doesn’t always win. I’d say the next best way to win would be the splash-play approach — have more big plays and win the turnover battle. I think that’s how Nebraska would have to do it on Saturday. I feel good about the Huskers’ chances to win the big plays part. Turnovers haven’t gone their way this season, but that can always flip at any moment. For Nebraska to pull an upset in Madison, I think that’s the way it has to happen.
The captains held a players-only meeting Sunday after talking to Coach Frost about what needs to be done to improve. How big of a difference do you think it will make on the team going to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday? (@_LilBigRed12_)
DP: If Purdue really was the watershed moment Frost said it was, and these guys took that meeting seriously, it’ll show up in the penalty department, specifically the personal fouls, and on third down. Fixing those two could go a long way toward making this game competitive.
ES: I agree with Derek. If the players truly took the meeting seriously, then it hopefully makes a difference with penalties. Nebraska is not good enough of a team just yet to withstand those types of mistakes, and they have to stop beating themselves. If that meeting helped solve that (even a little bit), they’ll be in better shape.
Might have asked this before, but I simply do not understand how guys who get a scholarship to play Division I football, and who presumably want to play in the pros, don't give 110% in practice and games. What is going on? (@thawildbunch)
DP: Practice under this staff demands 110 percent all the time. Previous practices didn’t. And if guys don’t perform well in practice, they don’t play in the game. That takes time to adjust to.
GS: Presumably, you also know people at your job or that you have worked with at some point who despite getting paid, don’t give 100%. It’s life, this stuff happens and I’m not sure why we think it shouldn’t ever exist on a football team. It’s the coaching staff’s job to work around that and get as close to 100% as they can but it’ll never actually be 100%.
JP: Another thing to consider is that one person’s understanding of playing and practicing hard may not line up with what the current coaches expect from their players. A guy may think he’s playing hard based on what the previous coaches asked of him, but perhaps the new coaches know the player is capable of more and that it will take more to achieve their goals.
ES: Jacob was typing his answer as I was typing mine, so I clearly agree: 110 percent can vary based on the individual. In fact, I know my perception of hard work varies from others having worked with a variety of people over the years. That’s not saying I’m right or someone else is wrong either. Now, if you’re a coach and building YOUR team, you have the right to determine what that hard work threshold needs to be. Same as a boss in any job. If you find a player, or employee, who isn’t the right fit for that, you move on and find those that do.
When do we start to see some trick plays dialed up? Jeff Brohm's squad had a nice wide open flea-flicker following a turnover. (@HarlanCoLaker)
DP: I think we won't see trickeration until the staff is confident in the offense's ability to consistently execute the basic stuff. If you can't block for normal pass plays, dialing up a flea-flicker is the kind of high-risk move Nebraska doesn't have the margin for error to make.
What’s your take on Nebraska and UCLA both being winless? (@IBeLionsBeats)
JP: I think in both situations, the program was left in a pretty bad spot and the new coaching staff moved in with a completely different approach in terms of coaching style and on-field systems. The players have struggled to make the transition. Both programs had to take a step back from an already tough place in order to move forward under their new coaching staffs.
BV: Jacob hit on the key points, but there’s one more I want to add: Frost has been adamant about staying the course and not sacrificing long-term gains for short-term results. I’m going to guess Kelly’s in much the same boat. And I think they’re both in the same spot (i.e. a little defiant) because they’ve seen this program work. Do they want to be winless? Of course not, but I think they both have an eye for the bigger picture because they’re supremely confident in what they do.
Seems like at this point, before we get good, it might help to slow the pace down a bit. No? (@thawildbunch)
DP: I asked Ryan Held about this Wednesday. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. This staff was brought in to playing fast, they’re not going to slow down or change who they are. Guys need to learn to do it at this tempo.
GS: There is a better chance of me becoming the new head coach next week than Scott Frost slowing down his tempo. To be honest, they haven’t gone as fast as he would probably like. This is what got him here, it’s who he is. He coaches aggressively.
Of the changes to the depth chart this far. What changes do you see sticking that way all season? (@tklim2430)
ES: I imagine Kade Warner will continue to start at wide receiver. I also expect Eric Lee Jr. to stay where he is, but could also see someone taking his spot along the way. Tricky question.
JP: I honestly don’t feel like any of them are set in stone. Perhaps Carlos Davis will continue to start at nose tackle all the way through the season (it seems like they’re bringing Damion Daniels along slowly and we have no idea what to expect from Mick Stoltenberg), but that’s about it. I think that third wide receiver spot is wide open and will continue to be. Nebraska has had a different guy be their best running back in each game and Devine Ozigbo’s running style fits better against some opponents than others, so i wouldn’t say he’s locked in as the workhorse back. Maybe Lamar Jackson never gets his spot back, but will Eric Lee Jr. be able to hold off the likes of Cam Taylor as well as Jackson? Taylor was ahead of him until Taylor got banged up. Jaron Woodyard looked pretty scary as a kick returner, so I don’t know if he holds onto that job the rest of the way. I think J.D. Spielman probably sticks at punt returner.
Is there a ‘Redshirt List’ yet? Will Honas should get a medical redshirt, no? (@navymousel)
DP: We started a redshirt tracker here. Honas might get one depending on what the staff wants to do. He’s still eligible for a regular redshirt.
JP: Since Honas only played in four games, I think they’ll just use his available redshirt rather than going through the process of applying for a medical one. As for others redshirting, the coaches have been pretty mum in regards to specific names, but if a guy hasn’t played at all or more than once yet, I’d expect a redshirt.