Spring football is over and, while the recruiting returns are still rolling in, we enter football winter now. Sounds like the perfect time for something you can sink your teeth into and chew on for a while. Thanks to you, we have just that thing in the latest issue of Hail Varsity.
This is the third consecutive year we’ve done the State of Husker Nation poll and this year we had our best turnout yet. Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer the questions we think get to the heart of what Husker Nation is thinking about.
You’ll find the results of that poll, alongside analysis of the results in comparison to the previous two years, in the new issue out this week. Below is editor’s letter from the magazine which serves as a bit of introduction to the State of Husker Nation.
Thinking about subscribing? There’s no time like now because, while football winter is coming, we’re hard at work on our annual football yearbook, nearly 200 pages designed to get you through the coldest days of football’s long layoff.
Nearly a third of Husker fans predict Nebraska will win 10 games in 2017. At least that’s what our latest State of Husker Nation poll tells us. We don’t assume it speaks for all Husker fans of course, but, thanks to a best-yet turnout at the (online) polls, it’s not an insignificant sampling either.
The non-partisan preseason projections are sure to be less generous. How do you explain that difference?
The easy explanation is that Husker fans are in the bag for their team and thus hopeful rather than realistic. That’s true to some degree for any fan base. Cognitive biases don’t wear team colors. But I don’t think that explains it all.
I think there’s something to be said for knowing a roster up and down, something that is generally reserved for local fans. When the national outlets look at Nebraska going into 2017, they look at it as just one of 129 teams. They inevitably look at returning starters and factor in how much the Huskers have to replace this season. Husker fans, however, generally know who is doing the replacing. Knowledge like that matters.
This sort of conflict happens throughout the country. Everyone thinks everyone else is a little unreasonable. Nebraska fans, however, may get it more than others simply because of the Huskers’ past and how much the present differs from the glory years. Nebraska fans that lived through the Osborne era have seen the Huskers dominate the sport and are hungry for those days to return. You don’t have to look far to find someone who will say those days are over and Nebraska is never getting back to that level. There are too many (check all that apply) recruiting challenges, rules changes, advancements in the game, parity and whatnot in today’s game.
But it’s harder for those who have a passionate interest in seeing Nebraska remain one of the 10 winningest programs of all time. If you can say Nebraska isn’t that program any more are you ready to confront what it might mean for your personal happiness?
You can watch those scales of biases bounce back and forth for eternity, but part of the reason we keep doing State of Husker Nation year after year is to at least try to get closer to an answer.
So we asked Nebraska fans this year, “Do you believe Husker fans have unrealistic expectations for the football program?” It’s a tricky question. At best you’re asking people to self-assess, never an easy process. At worst you’re asking people to assess the annoying season-ticket holder two rows back or the message-board troll. That’s much easier but possibly less accurate.
You have to factor all of those things in, too, but what the poll said was 59.59 percent of Husker fans felt Husker fans were not unrealistic. If anything, I was surprised at the number (40.51 percent) saying expectations perhaps were out-of-hand.
You can find the rest of the numbers from our poll in this issue alongside full coverage of Nebraska’s spring game, including a blockbuster recruiting weekend for the Huskers.
This is an issue that requires some thinking. It’s a slow burn, but I think the timing is good for that. We’ve got nothing but time until football returns.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.