It’s Northwestern week, people. That means it’s the battle over the use of ‘NU’ between the Nebraska Huskers and the Wildcats. It’s a big deal. When we asked for mailbag questions, we can’t say we were shocked that ‘Northwestern’ and ‘trap game’ came up from quite a few people. It is what it is, so we tried to figure out what it all means (and more!).
Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.
Q: The Northwestern trap game. Will our momentum after this be an Ore-gain or Ore-gone? Sorry about the dad jokes. – A.R., Bellevue, Neb.
BV: I thought the dad jokes were pretty good. I could see that very Oregon construction being an actual topic on one of ESPN’s afternoon yelling shows. That said, I think Nebraska is in for a traditional tough game against Northwestern, but the Huskers should win. Ore-gain for me.
ES: Are you secretly Adam Jacobi?
Q: Is this a type of game where the Huskers would benefit from a fast pace to take advantage of Northwestern depth? – C.H.
BV: Not a bad idea. People are down on Northwestern for the two losses, but the actual strength of this team hasn’t really changed much in my eyes. I still view this as a tough road game against a defense that’s really good at preventing points. I don’t think the Huskers are just going to line up and run it at Northwestern with a ton of success, so pace could be an alternative way to try to exploit the Wildcats lack of depth.
JJ: This game is going to be a slugfest no matter what tempo Nebraska plays at. I don’t think the offense scores much (24 points tops), but the defense should come out strong. Wouldn’t surprise me if Nebraska flirts with a shutout Saturday.
Q: Are there any lawn care companies in the greater Evanston area with Husker ties? – Z.H.
ES: If anyone out there knows of any, let us know. We’ll send the contact info straight to Northwestern. Need to get that long grass cleared up.
Q: It’s alternate uniform week! Are you ready for this discussion?? #AllWhites – E.J., Lincoln, Neb.
JP: I’ll leave this to Brandon.
BV: As a uniform guy, I’m always ready for this discussion and it’s sort of always ongoing for me. Here were my initial impressions of Nebraska’s latest alternate. Not much has changed since then. Still really like the look.
ES: The coaches will be wearing black pants though, so LOOK OUT.
Q: Does the B1G have the deepest conference this year? – M., Omaha, Neb.
JJ: I’d have to say the ACC is the deepest conference this year. Louisville emerging puts them just ahead of the Big Ten. SEC still has the best overall team in Alabama, but the SEC is the definition of a one-team conference this season.
BV: I’m not ready to go quite that far yet. I still think there’s a pretty significant gap in the Big Ten between the top two (Ohio State, Michigan) and the second group (in no order: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State). That said, that’s still eight teams that are all what I’d call at least “pretty good”. Not saying this is the way to measure this — it’s just literally the first idea that came to mind — but if you take ESPN’s latest FPI rankings and average them for the top half of the conference (same standard for each conference) as well as average for the top eight teams (based on how deep I think the Big Ten is), you can ballpark the depth discussion a little bit. Here are those ranking averages for the Power 5 conferences (top-half | top-eight): SEC 11 | 13.25, ACC 15.2 | 18.9, Big Ten 19.7 | 22.3, Pac-12 22.7 | 28.0, Big 12 24.4 | 39.0.
Q: What’s going on for the Illinois game? I’ll be there. – H.W.
ES: The Hail Varsity Tailgate, of course! Come join us on Friday, Sept. 30 for free craft beer samples, food, prizes and more. We’ll also have former Huskers on hand to kick off another great weekend. Put it on your calendar now!
JJ: As for Saturday, I’ll be there for a bachelor party after the game. It should be pretty fun if you want to tag along.
Q: Was this this biggest win of the HCMR era (MSU, UCLA, UO)? On a scale of 1 to Janovich; how tough is Tommy? – 3.L.C.
JJ: Without a doubt, yes. Nebraska needed this to prove that what Mike Riley & Co. is doing is working.
BV: I would say that it is simply because the stakes were a) the same for both teams, and b) relatively high. This was sort of a mile-marker game for both teams. Where is Nebraska at this early juncture in Riley’s second season? Where is Oregon’s program relative to the heights it was at in the recent past? Option A wasn’t true for last year’s Michigan State game. The Huskers had nothing to lose at that point, the Spartans had a lot to lose. Even though the point spread didn’t view it as much of one, I still look at that game as an upset and if Nebraska’s program is at the level people want it to be at, upsets shouldn’t be much of a factor. Option B wasn’t really true for the Foster Farms Bowl. It may have been a significant change for the coaching staff and how it handled this offense run by this quarterback, but I tend to always value most bowl-game results a little less because they’re so far removed from the usual pattern of regular-season football.
Q: What else does Tommy Armstrong have to do to gain the respect of Husker Nation? – D.W., Lincoln, Neb.
JP: Win a conference championship.
JJ: Not throw any more #YOLObombs.
Q: What active Nebraska football player would make the best president? – F.B.
JP: Michael Rose-Ivey. Rose-Ivey is a smart, experienced player who seems pretty aware of the world outside of Memorial Stadium and its problems. He’s a leader on the field who shows great passion for what he does. I think those traits would make for a good president.
JJ: Mick Stoltenberg, because he could beat up all the other presidents.
Q: What’s your early prediction for Nebraska vs. Ohio State? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.
JP: That it won’t happen for almost seven more weeks.
JJ: That Ohio State will look really super duper fast in warm-ups.
Q: Any idea how Riley will keep Tavita Thompson on the staff after this season? Need to find him a spot. – S.S., Omaha, Neb.
JJ: The most popular choice among fans seems to have Bruce Read taking more of an administrative role, allowing Thompson to take over tight ends and special team duties.
Q: What steps do you think Riley and Co. are taking to bring everybody back down to earth? – C.I.
JP: I don’t think they’re doing anything special. It’s business as usual for them. Michael Rose-Ivey referenced the 24-hour rule after the Oregon win, and that window is officially closed. Northwestern has seemingly always given the Huskers problems, and a loss in Evanston would negate a lot of the positive Saturday’s win produced.
JJ: They should do whatever Tom Herman did after Houston won the Peach Bowl. That seemed to have worked.
Q: Where does Tommy Armstrong and Jordan rank on Nebraska’s greatest WR-QB duos? – J.O.
JP: Before I answer this question, I’m going to have to know how many previous prolific passing duos were roommates. Erin?
JJ: Jammal Lord and Wilson Thomas. No debate.
ES: This seems like a feature I need to do some heavy research on.
Q: Best roommate you had? – M.
BV: I lucked out, I guess, because most of roommates have been pretty great and remain good friends of mine. I probably have the fondest memories of my grad school roommate. We had a lot of fun living together in Boston, watching soccer (something I didn’t do before meeting him), talking about books, walking everywhere (because we didn’t have cars) and trying to become better writers. Fun times.