Friday Forecast: If It's a Win for Nebraska in Week 1
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Mailbag: What Should the Expectations be for the 2019 Season?

May 22, 2019

The full Hail Varsity staff is back for a new mailbag. Let’s get into it.

Agree or disagree? The Colorado game will determine NU’s season. Win and ESPN College GameDay is coming versus Ohio State. Eight-win season. Lose and we are looking at a six-win season at best. (@Shortguy1) 

Jacob Padilla: I don’t know that it will determine the season, but it is the first big test to see how much progress the team has made. Even if Nebraska were to lose that game, the Huskers could easily rally and still win eight or nine games. We saw how much better the team got throughout last season, after all. But if Nebraska wins that one, especially if it does so convincingly, the hype will start to build leading up to that Ohio State game for sure. 

Mike Babcock: I’m with Jacob on this. The season doesn’t rest on the Colorado game, nor on whether College GameDay comes to Lincoln or not, though that other Herbie would probably like to accompany his Buckeyes to town. Eight wins are possible without Colorado among them. Still, a solid win in Boulder would be a good foundation, as well as good feelings for all the abuse Husker fans took over the years there. Friendly, Boulder is not. It’s a mini version of how the San Francisco Bay Area is sometimes described: A few square miles surrounded by reality. An embarrassing loss there might be a different matter. But there could still be eight wins on the schedule. 

Derek Peterson: This is where I’m at: the Colorado game won’t determine Nebraska’s season, but the Colorado game will determine how the Ohio State game goes and the Ohio State game will determine Nebraska’s season. Nebraska shouldn’t have trouble with South Alabama or either of the Illinois teams on its schedule, but I don’t believe Colorado will be a cake walk. That’ll be a tough road environment to play in for Week 2. If things go as most in Lincoln hope, Nebraska should enter the Ohio State game with as much confidence as it has had in years. If the Huskers win that game, everything — and I mean everything — is on the table, as I see it. 

Let's say the money for playing 4 Big 12 home/away games would be 15 percent more than playing 4 SEC home/away games in the next 12 years. It's guaranteed they will win 6 out of 8 of the games. Which conference do you choose to play? (@Corn_Huskers) 

Greg Smith: Give me the SEC games. If Nebraska is going to continue trying to recruit down South, it’d be smart to play some games down there. Plus, I don’t have the nostalgia for playing old Big 12 foes outside of Oklahoma so I’d rather see something new. 

MB: I have the nostalgia, so show me the money. Oklahoma and Texas, home and home, four humiliating wins against the Longhorns, two against the Sooners. You know money will win out, anyway. 

Brandon Vogel: Now you’re in my wheelhouse. I like to think I’m one of the leading advocates for Nebraska to play more home-and-homes with SEC teams. The reason is simple: They’re incredibly rare. Nebraska has only played four true road games against SEC teams (not including bowls and not including Missouri and Texas A&M here for obvious reasons). Ever. The last such game was at South Carolina in 1986. The Gamecocks weren’t in the SEC then, so the real last SEC road game the Huskers had was at Auburn in 1982. These are some of the best venues in college football and in most cases Nebraska hasn’t played in them. Novelty alone, however, isn’t enough to take 15 percent less money, so there’s also this: It’s a pretty good bet that a) playoff expansion is happening in the next 12 years which is why some teams are racing to get high-profile opponents on the schedule now, and b) the SEC will provide a bigger schedule boost than the Big 12 most of the time. This is an easy pick for me. Please sign my petition to send the Huskers south. 

If you could create a fantasy-style starting five to fit Fred Hoiberg’s system using past Nebrasketball players, who would you choose, and why would they fit? (@JJStark8) 

MB: I’m terrible at tactics. I leave that to our hoops experts, starting with Jacob and Derek. But I’ve got four obvious players to consider: Eric Piatkowski, Erick Strickland, Tyronn Lue and Stuart Lantz—who played before the 3-point shot. He could get up and down the court, make things happen, and though he was 6-3, he led the team in rebounding two or three seasons. I’m less certain about big guys in Hoiberg’s system. 

DP: I’m just going to offer one name: Isaiah Roby. That might be salt in the wound, as I think he’s most definitely staying in the draft, but if Fred Hoiberg could have three or four years with a player that has Roby’s frame and skillset, I think he could build something really special.  

JP: Mike covered a lot of the historic names but I’ll leave them out considering I didn’t get a chance to see them play personally. My knowledge of Nebraska basketball goes back to 2006 or so, so I’ll choose players from just the Sadler and Miles eras. The frontcourt probably has to be Isaiah Roby and Isaac Copeland Jr. with their versatility and ability to step out on the perimeter and shoot. Aleks Maric is the best big man that has played for the program since I’ve been following I, but I don’t know about his fit (recruiting a guy like Yvan Ouedraogo makes me question that, however). At the point I’m going to have to go with Lance Jeter who is probably the best distributor I’ve seen in a Nebraska jersey and who can at least knock down an open 3-pointer, even if he isn’t lights out from deep. From there it gets difficult. James Palmer Jr. and Terran Petteway are very talented, but would they fit? I’m not so sure. If we’re going for talent that isn’t a perfect fit, I’m actually going to take Shavon Shields, who developed into a decent 3-point shooter by his senior year at least. This last pick might not be super popular with Nebraska fans considering he only played one season in Lincoln and then bounced, but Andrew White III would be terrific in Hoiberg’s system. I like Ryan Anderson as my sixth man coming off the bench to rain 3s. 

Choose one player from the offensive and defensive sides of the ball to play on the other side. Who would you pick and what new position would they play? (@Corn_Huskers) 

GS: I’d like to see what would have happened if Maurice Washington ended up playing defensive back. Also, Lamar Jackson as a wide receiver would be intriguing to me. 

DP: Alex Davis moves to tight end, I’d be curious about what his combination of size, athleticism and physicality would look like on offense. I’d be interested in seeing Lamar as a wideout, though. Offense-to-defense would be Mike Williams moving to corner.  Crazy fast and one of the strongest guys on the team, pound-for-pound. If he was a little taller I’d think he’d make a really good safety.  

BV: Let me see Cam Taylor on offense. He was a heckuva dual-threat quarterback in high school. Nebraska doesn’t need a QB right now, but I’d give Taylor a look in the slot. Offense-to-defense is a harder pick. While I’m very interested to see him at center, if you told me Cam Jurgens was a defensive lineman now I wouldn’t be sad about it. 

What's your projected starting three-deep at RB now that Mills is in? And does it stay that way through the season? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

GS: Washington, Mills, Johnson has been my top three for a while and I think it stays that way through the season. 

JP: I’d agree with Greg’s list. The question is what kind of work load can Washington handle and can he stay healthy? If he gets banged up or they just choose to limit his reps to keep him fresh, that could open the door for Mills to get more carries even if Washington is the “starter.” 

MB: No disagreement here. Eligibility for Mills is huge. I also don’t know how Washington will fit in. Mills might carry more of the load.  

DP: Mills, Washington, Johnson. Washington ends the season as the starter. 

Could Nebraska ever have a men’s soccer team? Or rugby? (Not intermurals) (@AlpineAddiction) 

Erin Sorensen: Could they? Of course. However, it’s not as simple as just adding a new sport. The NCAA has to abide by Title IX, which “requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation.” A men’s soccer team comes with 9.9 scholarships, so you’d have to match that with women’s scholarships. Each team has a cap on how many players can be on an active roster, so there’s that as well. But if Nebraska wanted to add a men’s soccer team, it could. It would just have to find a way, and let’s just put it this way: It’s not easy to find the right number to equal what you need.  

With all that said, rugby is actually not governed by the NCAA. It’s governed by USA Rugby, so it does not fall under the rules of the NCAA—except for 15 women’s NCAA teams. Those 15 teams fall under the “Emerging Sports” list and help support athletic opportunities for women in college. Once added to the emerging sports list, the sport has 10 years to find 40 NCAA member schools to sponsor the sport. Previous emerging sports that have moved to NCAA status are rowing, ice hockey, water polo, bowling and beach volleyball. Equestrian and triathlon are the other two in consideration currently with rugby. Archery, badminton, squash, synchronized swimming and team handball were all once on the list but never moved to NCAA status. 

MB: Erin nailed it. Because of Title IX and scholarship limits, there will be no men’s soccer team. It’s the reason there is no longer a men’s swimming and diving team as well as the reason there are women’s bowling (very, very good) and rifle teams. For starters, football’s 85 scholarships are difficult to balance. I think there is, or was, a club rugby team. 

What's the staff’s favorite away stadium to attend a game? How can we make 96 days go by faster? Do you believe in time travel? Whose culture is easier to install, HCFH's or HCSF's? Fred's because of smaller size? Thor and Dachon stay? (@ChuckandM) 

GS: If we are talking about stadiums Nebraska plays in regularly, I am partial to Michigan State. Interestingly, my “top 3” schools were Nebraska, Michigan State and Wisconsin so I enjoy going back to East Lansing. The Rose Bowl is the best place overall though. I do not believe in time travel, sorry. I would lean towards Hoiberg’s culture being easier to install because there are less people involved. 

JP: Time travel is fun on TV, but that’s about as far as it goes. Basketball culture is definitely easier to turn around because of the size of the rosters, and in terms of on-court results (certainly a part of the culture) it’s easier for one or two players to make a big difference than it is in football. Considering Hoiberg brought in basically a whole new team, he more or less gets to start from scratch with the culture. As for Thor Thorbjarnarson and Dachon Burke, it’s certainly looking that way. I don’t know that I’d call Thor a certainty until next season rolls around, but Burke announced shortly after Hoiberg took the job that he’s on board and he’s certainly good enough for Hoiberg to want to keep him. He also didn’t have many other options considering he just burned his redshirt after transferring to Nebraska last year. 

MB: I don’t travel anymore, but my favorite collegiate stadium away from Lincoln remains (not Folsom Field in Boulder), Owen Field (it has a new name I think) in Norman, Oklahoma. I grew up with the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry and would still get chills going there. The Rose Bowl is cool, as was the old Orange Bowl, where I saw the Huskers play a half-dozen times, very cool place even in its old age. Big Ten, Michigan. As for time travel, no. But I do believe time, which is relative, speeds up as I age. 

ES: In the Big Ten, I’d probably take Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. I like the stadiums. I like the atmosphere around the stadiums. They’re just good spots. And did you know Memorial Stadium was modeled after Ohio Stadium? Fun fact, you’re welcome. Outside of the Big Ten, not much tops Oregon’s stadium and its open-air press box. That was incredible and I’ll never forget it. 

BV: In order: Wisconsin (Big Ten), Wyoming (not Big Ten). Time travel. Time travel is theoretically possible, but practically impossible for humans. Hoiberg’s. Yes, because of smaller roster size. Yes. 

DP: Oregon is my pick for favorite stadium, and I’ve only been there once, if that says anything about how impressive it was. Time travel doesn’t even work on TV, so no I don’t believe in it. I’m with everyone else in saying the culture is easier to build or reset with a basketball roster; that’s just the nature of having a roster a tenth the size of a football team. 

The football projections are hanging steady around eight wins, but what happens when we don't get eight? At what point would you all view this season as a failure/disappointment? How about incredible or unbelievably good? (@InDaWilderness) 

GS: It’s a failure if they only win six. Start plans on a Frost statue if they win more than nine or 10. Eight wins feels right but there is upside to go higher if a lot of things break right.  

MB: Seven wins, competitive play and a bowl would be fine. Ten wins would be unbelievably good and probably would put the Huskers in the Big Ten title game. I think it’s premature to expect that. Just as a 4-8 season didn’t define this staff, a Big Ten title game in year two wouldn’t necessarily define it. Fans want sustained success, where eight wins could be a starting point for projections. 

DP: A failure? I would only classify a Year 2 with a new system and a sophomore quarterback as a failure if the team won fewer than six games. I don’t see that happening, but that’s where I’d put it at. Incredible would be winning the Big Ten. 

What do you see as the Nebraska basketball starting five, or best five? (@gbrdylan) 

JP: I’m still trying to figure this out. I feel pretty confident than Cam Mack and Jervay Green will be starting at the one and the two. I’m high on Dachon Burke and I think he’ll start on the wing as well. After that, it gets pretty murky to me. I could see either Matej Kavas or Shamiel Stevenson (if he gets his waiver) starting at the four with one of Yvan Ouedraogo or Kevin Cross starting at the five. Or, if the freshman bigs aren’t ready to start, perhaps Hoiberg goes small with both Kavas and Stevenson as a small-ball frontcourt. It will be fascinating to see how Hoiberg shapes this roster into a rotation and I’m very much looking forward to the team’s trip to Italy to get a sneak peek at how that looks. 

DP: My answer from last week remains unchanged: Cam Mack, Jervay Green, Haanif Cheatham, Matej Kavas and Yvan Ouedraogo.  

Are we under-rating/estimating the TE group? With the lack of dependable wide receivers (it seems), could they emerge as a significant offensive threat to help Martinez? (@Sal_Vasta3) 

JP: I was high on the tight end group last season, and I’m even more so this year. Jack Stoll is as solid as they come, I’m a fan of Austin Allen and what he brings with his combination of blocking and height as a receiver and Katerian LeGrone continues to draw praise. It sounds like the tight ends have made a lot of the progress they needed to make in terms of developing their route-running and ability to get open; now it’s up to Adrian Martinez to be able to find them in his progressions, something that didn’t seem to happen very often last season. 

MB: If we’re under-rating the tight ends, we’re making a mistake. That’s a good group and will be important to what can be done with this offense. I’d include Kurt Rafdal in the discussion and down the line Chris Hickman. The coaches felt good enough about who’s there to move Cam Jurgens to center. 

DPI’m certainly not underestimating the group. I think you’re spot on with the assessment of Sean Beckton’s group being able to pick up the slack for a wide receiver room that might be a little slow to take. Jack Stoll, Austin Allen, Kurt Rafdal, Katerian LeGrone and Chris Hickman comprise a group that has just about everything — from a tools standpoint — that you want. 

Is it realistic to think that Nebraska can win the west as predicted by Athlon Sports or are they on the "kool-aid?" (@_LilBigRed12_) 

JP: Based on everything the other contenders in the league have lost, the division certainly looks wide open. Why can’t Nebraska be the team that rises from the pack? I don’t know that I feel strongly enough about it to actually pick them as the favorites in the West, but I think if enough things work out in Nebraska’s favor they could very easily grow into the best team. 

GS: Its not unreasonable to pick Nebraska to win the West. They have the best QB in the conference and soon enough I think we’ll view Frost as the best coach in the West. That combination wins you a lot of games. However, there are many questions that need to get ironed out. If the take a couple steps from the back half of last season, they are fully capable of winning the West. 

MB: The Huskers can win the West. Will they? That’s why this season will be exciting. 

DP: It’s completely realistic. Nebraska has the best quarterback in the Big Ten. That gives anyone a chance. 

Why has Scott Frost not asked Lil Red to enter the transfer portal? (@SaltCreekGBR) 

JP: Perhaps even he fears what might happen to his soul if he were to do so. 

BV: Lil’ Red is a product of the mid-1990s and all things from then must be preserved. It’s a state law. 

Why did you abbreviate "please" but spell out "thanks? (@JacobPadilla_) 

DP: Because the abbreviation of thanks would be what? “Thnks?” That’s just taking out one letter and it looks dumb. The “plz” abbreviation is a commonly accepted abbreviation of the word “please” and removes three letters. Thanks for coming to class, Jacob. 

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