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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: Will Nebraska Be Ranked in the Preseason AP Poll?

July 16, 2019
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Will Nebraska be ranked in the preseason Associated Press poll?

We still have more than a month to go before we find out, but I'm thinking about it now because there's a streak on the line here. More accurately, it's a drought.

Nebraska hasn't appeared in any AP poll since Dec. 4, 2016. Since then the Huskers have missed 33 consecutive polls. That's the longest such streak since the arrival of Bob Devaney in 1962, though this century has provided some stiff competition for longest streak drought.

The two closest runs bookended the Bill Callahan era. After spending every week in the AP poll in 2003, Nebraska wasn't ranked again until the final poll of 2005, a run of 31 missed polls and the first half of Callahan's tenure in Lincoln. There was the one promising Cotton Bowl year in there (2006), which was enough for the Huskers to remain ranked through the first five weeks of 2007 before things were clearly off the rails. Nebraska wasn't ranked again until the preseason poll before Bo Pelini's second season (2009). That drought included 27 missed polls.

The Huskers’ current drought, not surprisingly, puts it in less-than-select company. There are 14 Power 5 teams with longer droughts right now, a group that includes Oregon State, Kansas and Wake Forest. (You don't want to make football lists that include those teams.) Half of the Big Ten hasn't been ranked in at least two consecutive seasons, including the two longest current droughts among Power 5 teams.

Believe it or not, those longest droughts don't belong to Rutgers (101 consecutive polls missed) and Illinois (122). They belong to the state of Indiana. Purdue hasn't been ranked since Sept. 30, 2007, a drought of 189 polls, and Indiana was last ranked in 1994, a run of 410 polls.

I'm guessing Nebraska's drought does end with this year's preseason poll, though it's not a given. Despite the fact that the Huskers are showing up in many of the preseason rankings––including No. 20 in a recently-released ranking at NCAA.com––the AP poll is sort of its own thing with a well-established poll logic at this point. Over the last decade, the preseason polls has had room for about five (5.2, to be exact) teams that were unranked in the final poll of the preceding season.

Do AP voters believe enough in the Scott Frost x Adrian Martinez combo to make the Huskers one of those five previously unranked teams in the new top 25 this August? There could be quite a bit of competition for those spots. In the preseason consensus at stassen.com, which is very preliminary at this point, there are 10 teams in the top 25 that were not part of the final AP poll of 2018, including Nebraska at No. 17. Four of those teams––Utah, Auburn, Oregon and Michigan State––are ranked higher than the Huskers. Of that group, I'd consider Utah, Auburn and Oregon locks to be in the preseason AP poll. 

Nebraska? I still think it slides in there at No. 24 or 25, but it will likely be a close call. 

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