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Mailbag: Val Kilmer’s Batman? Football Optimism? Nebrasketball Win?

November 13, 2019

It’s Wednesday. You know what that means.

Was Batman Forever the best Batman film? Val Kilmer baby!!! (@Moostakes) 

Derek Peterson: No. It wasn’t even the second or third best. Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are the unquestioned best of the franchise and there will never be another Batman movie as good as The Dark Knight. 

Jacob Padilla: I am in agreement with Derek on this subject, but I did laugh out loud when I opened the mailbag and saw this question (which drew a strange look from Derek).  

Greg Smith: No way. That one isn’t even better than Batman & Robin. 

Brandon Vogel: Batman Forever isn’t in the top three, but it does hold the title of Second-Best Soundtrack. First, of course, being Prince’s soundtrack for the 1989 Batman film. We don’t talk often enough about the fact that one of the greatest artists of the last 100 years decided to make an entire album for a comic book movie. We should just bring this up on the first day of each month and then stop and reflect on how strange but awesome that is. That’s the respect it deserves. 

With Illinois and Minnesota taking jumps ahead, two straight losses to Purdue, always to the last second tussles against NW, and no optimism for beating Wisconsin or Iowa anytime soon how realistic is it that we might be picked next preseason to finish last in the division? (@Cody_TipToes) 
Same question, only picked to finish first in the West next season. Seems like the kiss of death & they gave it to us numerous times. (@HuskerMan4Life) 

Mike Babcock: Don’t expect first or last pick next preseason. And I wouldn’t say there’s no optimism for beating Iowa, at least, sooner rather than later. I’d expect that game to be a scrap this year. 

BV: Nebraska won’t be picked to finish last in the West next year. The talk around Nebraska will be about what happens if they don’t show progress in Year 3. Don’t know if there will be any actual meat to that statement, but it will be the narrative and the Huskers will be slotted middle of the pack. These are all guesses at this point, but I’d project the offseason narrative for the rest of the West to go something like this: 

Illinois: Whoa, great job! Can the program take the next step? Iowa: Gotta find a new quarterback and why is the run game still missing?; Wisconsin: Gotta replace Jonathan Taylor, but like that’s ever been a problem for the Badgers. Minnesota: Great job! Now do it again. (Guessing the Gophers will be overvalued for 2020.) Purdue: Lot of freshmen scored a lot of those touchdowns. (Will get some dark horse love.) Northwestern: Well, the offense can’t be worse, right? 

Win, lose, or draw over the next three conference games, which Husker(s) from each of the three phases will outperform their play, stats, contributions from the previous nine games? (@Corn_Huskers) 

MB: That’s the problem, players seem to have settled in. Wan’Dale, for instance, can’t do much better. I’d expect Martinez to play better than he has, as he regains health and confidence—and if not, put in Vedral of McCaffrey, of whom I’d like to see more. Otherwise, it’ll be business as usual I’d guess. 

GS: Give me Adrian Martinez on offense and Collin Miller on defense.  

JP: My biggest issue with this season is the reason I don’t have a good answer to this question: it just feels like there’s been a team-wide lack of consistent improvement. For every stride they make, then follow it up with a step back. They’re still making a lot of the same mistakes. I don’t know that I can single out somebody from the two-deep that has noticeably improved steadily throughout the season, so it’s hard to pick anybody that will suddenly do it in the last three games. 

What positive signs, if any, have you seen from the basketball team under Hoiberg that lead you to believe they are on the right track to get that first win under their belt? (@JJStark8) 

MB: That the Huskers had a substantial lead against Southern Utah, 14 points, but couldn’t hold it for whatever reason. Building the lead was a positive sign. Failing to hold it was not. 

JP: Like Mike said, they played well for a few stretches during that game. I think they’ve played together pretty well and while the defense has been incredibly streaky, they have at least shown they’re capable of locking in and making things tough on teams. Kevin Cross’s offensive performance against Southern Utah was good to see as well. But what this comes down to for the most part is they have to start hitting shots. If that happens, I think we’ll see a lot of improvement across the board.  

When is the Nebrasketball men’s team’s first win? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: South Dakota State . . . OK, or Southern. 

JP: I’ll give Hoiberg the benefit of the doubt here and say Nebraska wins on Friday. It’s not going to be a great look if the Huskers lose to South Dakota State with two Nebraskans in the lineup. 

If Nebraska wins against Wisconsin, then _____ likely happens. If Nebraska loses against Wisconsin, then ____ likely happens. (@Sal_Vasta3) 

MB: If the Huskers win against Wisconsin, fans might relax a bit and see something positive in what’s mostly negative right now. But the players would still need to pay attention to Maryland. There are no givens with this team. If Nebraska loses against Wisconsin, well “told you so,” and the chances of a bowl are reduced by one-third. 

DP: If Nebraska wins against Wisconsin, then Adrian Martinez has reminded everyone why Frost picked him to lead the rebuild in the first place. If Nebraska loses against Wisconsin, then Jack Coan was allowed to look much better than he is. Nebraska could keep things respectable against Wisconsin, which many probably don’t believe right now, but I do. Jonathan Taylor is going to get his; Coan determines the margin.  

Due to the lack of offensive consistency, I still have no clue what NU's scheme is supposed to be. What NFL team do the Huskers hope to resemble closely and how? Ravens with Lamar Jackson? Seahawks? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: I think the offense is supposed to look like it did at Oregon but a bit slower. Up-tempo, heavier run than you realize that sets up passing lanes with a QB who can make accurate throws and quick decisions. It hasn’t all come together in 2019 but I think that’s the plan. 

JP: Definitely not Baltimore’s offense because they don’t want to run Adrian Martinez more than they have to, even though the quarterback run game is an important part of the offense. It’s not Seattle either, because the Seahawks don’t do as much designed quarterback run game; most of what Russell Wilson does with his legs is on scramble plays. I don’t know that looking to the NFL is the best way to get a feel for what a college offense might look like. These days, the NFL tends to follow what college football is doing instead of the other way around. 

So, right now, the AAC has as many or more teams ranked then every other conference but the SEC and Big Ten. And S&P+ has them right in the mix with some of the weaker P5 conferences. How real is the Group of 5 and P5 distinction and how imagined is it? In terms of quality, at least, not money. (@InDaWilderness) 

MB: You’ll get much better answers, so I won’t try, except to point out something that should be taken into consideration. ESPN is behind the SEC and ACC networks, right? And ESPN is the most influential sports network. So teams in those conferences have ESPN’s influence in addition to talent; plus, recruiting can be influenced by such exposure. All that should be taken into account. 

BV: The AAC has made “Power 6” its mantra for a reason. It is as good as some of the power conferences, but I think it stands alone in that regard from the rest of what we consider the G5. Mountain West is having a great year, too. That’s probably the next closest one and it’s not that close. I do think, however, that the labels we’ve given these two groups probably emphasize a difference that is generally smaller than the names suggest. (Aside: I think “group” might be more damning a label than calling it the Weak 5. At least we’ve bothered to classify those conferences in the latter example.) 

Can you give Nebraska football fans a reason to be optimistic for the 2020 season? (@dmhusker1) 

MB: To quote Nick Saban, “Trust the process.” We’re only two seasons in. 

Erin Sorensen: Bo Pelini was big on trusting the process too… I’m kidding. But really, Mike is right. We’re two seasons into the Frost era at Nebraska, and that should provide some optimism on its own. Nebraska’s 2020 schedule has some potential for bumps in the road (I don’t love that Cincinnati nonconference matchup, for example) and Ohio State and Wisconsin on the road isn’t ideal. There’s also Penn State at home, and that’s not even deep-diving into it all. The 2020 schedule is tougher but I don’t think it’s a lost cause already. There’s room for improvement and hopefully the Huskers make some of those improvements in the offseason. And if none of that helps, just think about Garrett Nelson. He provides some optimism, right? 

BV: Short and simple—Nebraska's returning production should be quite high. That’s generally a good sign for teams in the year ahead. 

DP: To quote the late, great Sam Hinkie: “Trust The Process.” 

What one change would you make if you were Scott Frost? (@dmhusker1) 

MB: Maybe had Rahmir Johnson prepared to play this season in the almost certain absence of Maurice Washington. Robinson has had to carry too much of the load at running back. 

GS: Get back to having fun. Seriously. It looks like no fun is being had on this football team right now and everyone (especially Frost) is too tight. Loosen up and let her rip. 

Come next fall, is Luke McCaffrey a quarterback? We saw that Luke is a special athlete vs. Indiana. Do you think we move him around in favor of getting on the field sooner? (@j_sanatez) 

MB: I’d give him a real shot at the starting job in the spring and fall. I think he has the ability to be the man. And that’s no disrespect to Martinez, who, when healthy, is a special talent as well. 

ES: He’s already a quarterback, for what it’s worth. But there will be a “quarterback competition” this spring. I don’t know if I think anyone unseats Martinez unless they all just make giant leaps ahead and he stays stagnant though. And I don’t think McCaffrey moves positions. As Verduzo has said before, McCaffrey is a quarterback and so he will stay put.

JP: Luke McCaffrey came to Nebraska to play quarterback. That’s the position he’s going to play. 

Who are some players that could have a breakout year next year? (@HuskerNation540) 

JP: Give me Deontai Williams (since he didn’t get to play this year), Braxton Clark, Nick Henrich and Jahkeem Green on defense. On offense, I’ll go with Rahmir Johnson. As for the receivers, maybe Darien Chase is the best bet, but it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on in that receiver room. 

DP: Give me all the guys Jacob mentioned and add one more name: Garrett Nelson. 

Why hasn’t Nebraska offered Luke Gifford’s brother yet? (@brooks_layne) 

GS: I think the Huskers wanted to let the process play out about more before making a move on Isaac. I will say that I think there is a good chance that he picks up an offer from Nebraska before the season ends. 

Will the Huskers be following the Nebraska State Football Championships to find more in-state talent? (@huskerfan_95) 

GS: Yes, they will be following it. Just like last year, I expect to see coaches including Frost pop in and watch games. The players did last year too. I remember Adrian Martinez being amazed at 8-man football. There was a rule change last year that allows coaches to check games out in their home stadiums and not have it count against their allotted evaluation days.

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