Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New contract, new year, new post

Quick time for a little post, as I observe the Huskers from afar prior to attending the USC game next Saturday.

The opener was quite a surprise for me. It's been quite sometime since we've seen a Nebraska team "lean" on another and impose their will -- if you will -- against an opponent. The guess here is that Nebraska continues to work on their running game, such that they can keep high-powered offenses off the field this year.

Hey, that helps the Blackshirts, too. (A side note: I think the black polo from Kevin Cosgrove is a super touch this season.) That crew on Saturday was well aware of the challenges presented by a "different" offense and they defended "The Pistol" quite well. The linebackers are as good a group as Cosgrove has had, the secondary displayed their depth and the line was better than advertised.

Great to see Marlon Lucky in the backfield getting all of that work. What an impressive display he put on. One senses that Callahan may give his horse another game play this Saturday similar to the one we just saw in Lincoln. The Huskers will try to milk the clock in Winston-Salem and the thought here is that they won't go too far in their bag of tricks if they don't have to to get another victory. It's also nice to know that Sam Keller didn't have to do too much last weekend, as my guess is Callahan will call on him more than once during the season to win one by himself.

The contract extension was the right move for Pederson. I think most on the outside looking in can see the program moving the right direction. I know some won't call 23-15 the right direction, but Callahan deserves the new contract to continue the great recruiting and another year or two to coach them and compete for the national championship. If he can't coach them, we won't need to worry about January 31, 2012 -- he'll be gone long before that.

That said, let's take a look at the Big 12 and rank them 1-12.

1. Oklahoma (1-0). They've got the best coach in the league and arguably the most talent. I don't think you need to say much more than that. The game with Miami (FL) this weekend will be a good test.

2. Texas (1-0). Wowsers, what a scare in Austin. I think Mack has there attention as they prepare for the Horned Frogs.

3. Nebraska (1-0). Is this the West Coast Offense or the Pipeline. 70 rushes? Surely we are seeing things. A more experienced line than ever before in the Callahan era, gives the Huskers the second half edge against opponents that they haven't had since 2001.

4. Texas A&M (1-0). A pretty simple opener for the Aggies. Stephen McGee may be the best quarterback in this league come the end of the season. We'll see how much help he gets along the way.

5. Texas Tech (1-0). The Red Raiders were better than expected in their opener, dismantling an SMU team that supposedly had made big strides. I can nearly guarantee no one wants to defend Graham Harrell and this offense.

6. Missouri (1-0). Just barely over Oklahoma State. If we saw the Big 12 North champs on Saturday in St. Louis, they shouldn't have a championship game.

7. Oklahoma State (0-1). A disappointing opener in Athens, but the guess here is that Mike Gundy will get his troops to rebound quickly.

8. Kansas (1-0). I think it's pretty easy to overlook how good the Jayhawks were in there dismantling of Central Michigan last Saturday. The Chippewas will be in a bowl in December and we know the Jayhawks always beat Missouri in November -- this time in Kansas City.

9. Kansas State (0-1). It says here that Ron Prince can coach and that the 'Cats will get better. In fact, this guy doesn't think it's a long shot to put them second in the North by the end of the year and that November in Lincoln could mean more than we once thought.

10. Colorado (1-0). A very nice come from behind win at Mile High Stadium. They need to show me one or two more before they move up from this spot.

11. Baylor (0-1). Hey, it's Baylor. I don't know what else to say.

12. Iowa State (0-1). Poor Gene Chizek was going to lose a bunch of games in his first year, but no one thought one of them would be against Kent State.

Projected Big 12 Final: Oklahoma v. Nebraska

My National Top Ten
USC, LSU, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Louisville, Cal, Wisconsin, Georgia, Virginia Tech.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Tuesday, September 04, 2007 || 1 comments

Monday, December 04, 2006

NU, OU rehash


How should one define it? If it's done by going 9-4 (maybe, 9-5 after January 1st) then Callahan and Company did it in Lincoln this fall. When NU ended the season with four losses last year, I noted to myself that they could do the same thing in 2006 and it would be marked improvement.

Facts remains as this: the Huskers lost one they shouldn't have this year in Stillwater and stole one in College Station. That's about right. They took the defending national champions (now badly bruised, but not when they arrived in Lincoln) to the wire and should have won. They went to the Coliseum and played USC tough, though again that doesn't seem to be much consolation right now consider the UCLA Bruins and the Oregon State Beavers actually beat that team. And, they'll have also lost to a very tough, gritty (just like their coach) Oklahoma team.

It all means, basically, that Nebraska isn't a top-10 team yet. Top-20, sure. But not with the nation's elite. So, come January 1, if the Red loses to it's fourth top-10 team in as many tries this season, don't get discouraged, Husker fan. But, giving Bill Callahan a month to face the Auburn defense, the coach might find better matchups than you think.

Would 9-5 be progress? I think you can say so fairly safely -- given the quality opponents played. Would 10-4 be the another great measuring stick? Absolutely. But, it won't mean anything next fall when championships may need to be won; not played for.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Monday, December 04, 2006 || 6 comments

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The State of Nebraska Football

I don't update this like I should, but after watching the Nebraska, Oklahoma State game today I'm offically ready to go. Nebraska claims itself to be a proud football power, and, I think rightfully so. But, we should really analyze what this means.

Nebraska's true dominance started in 1970, playing in the Big 8. What did this mean? Well, simply, it meant if the Huskers got through the non-conference all they had to do was beat Oklahoma (really, it was the only team that could recruit the same caliber athletes as Nebraska) and all would be right in the world. So, nearly every season, Husker fans got either 9-2 or 10-1 and a bowl season.

They were only players on the national stage when they had "Sunday" players -- guys who went on to the NFL. It's true with the 1970-71 teams and it's valid for the "Scoring Explosion" teams and, finally, for the Osborne title teams. They all had Sunday talent.

Osborne's teams were much the same. 9-2, 10-1 take the bowl. Success. The fact remained that until Colorado emerged as another player, the Big 8 was brutal with a capital B save for the Huskers and either the Sooners or Colorado. It was nearly impossible not to win nine football games.

This Big 12 deal has changed everything. First, if you win the North, your about the fifth best team in the league. That's a fact for the last four years, at least. Texas, Oklahoma, Tech are all better than the North some years you could mix in A&M.

What does this all mean? Husker fans may need to realize that until some Sunday talent gets to Lincoln it's going to be tough sledding at Memorial Stadium. And, how does this relate to Oklahoma State today? Like it or not those were two evenly matched teams. The Cowboys are growing under Mike Gundy and will continue to do so. Les Miles didn't leave that cupboard empty and the Bowman kid will be a Sunday player.

Basically, the Huskers were evenly matched with what most believe to be the fifth best team in the South. Missouri has already lost to A&M and Oklahoma, and the Huskers have a little 0-2 South season going as well. Sure this goes in cycles (NU, K-State and Colorado were all very good at the same time), but Callahan was right to say today in his post-game comments that they still have the goals they set at the beginning of the year in front of them.

That's right, Bill you do. To win the North and be the sixth best team in the Big 12. Is this what Steve Pederson really had in mind?

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Saturday, October 28, 2006 || 4 comments

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick Pigskin Thoughts

Some quick thoughts prior to USC.....

1. NU has looked solid and improved through two games. SC will be some kind of measuring stick for Callahan and the program.

2. Callahan is doing this right, by not defining the season with this game and maintaining it will be more important when they go to Ames and Manhattan. Amen.

3. Cosgrove needs to do something very, very, very creative on defense. I'm envisioning a 3-4 tomorrow, dropping a DT and adding Octavien. Special blitzes for Booty a must. (Speaking of him, doesn't that name sound like he assassinated a President?)

4. Nebraska will play tough, but lose it in the last say 20 minutes of the game. I've said inside of 14 points should be a victory for Husker Nation.

USC 31, Nebraska 21 ..... but gaining more respect each week.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Friday, September 15, 2006 || 1 comments

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More on the coaching search

By now it's fact that Mark Fox of Nevada has withdrawn his name from consideration for the head job of Nebraska Basketball. While I'm disappointed, I'm not surprised. Fox is going to be worth a lot more next April, what with five starters back for a tournament team including All-America candidate Nick Fazekas.

The search, I think, still starts and ends with Karl Hobbs of George Washington. GW went undefeated in the A-10 last season and lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAAs. If it happens, this won't be a long term hire -- probably 3-5 years tops. He will be the leading candidate at UConn when Jim Calhoun retires, and was a former player for the Huskies.

John Pelphrey and Doc Sadler, it appears, remain top candidates. Sadler seems to be comfortable leaving UTEP, but the word yesterday was that Pelphrey was luke warm, but Pederson and Boehm have been granted permission to speak with him.

Another name popping up now is St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett. Bennett inherited a program that was 2-27 the year before he was hired and they earned an at-large bid from the Gonzaga dominated West Coast Conference in 2005. Last season, they finished 17-12 and played Gonzaga very tough in the league final in Spokane.

This seems to be moving along quite nicely for the head men in Lincoln. I would think an announcement before school starts is very likely. It appears that Pederson and Boehm and looking strictly at head coaches, but that if they had to go with an assistant that UCLA's Kerry Keating and former Husker assistant Scott Spinelli would be at the top of the list.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Saturday, August 05, 2006 || 3 comments

Friday, August 04, 2006

The August Vacancy

Lord knows I never would have thought that I'd be following Nebraska basketball in August, but Barry Collier's move back to his alma mater has Husker Athletic Director Steve Pederson and his sidekick -- Marc Boehm -- searching for a replacement.

(As an aside, who can blame Collier for wanting to go back to Butler Fieldhouse, where they shot the movie Hoosiers and where the Bulldogs have one of the neat home court advantages in NCAA Hoops. They normally schedule home games for mid-afternoon just when the afternoon sun shines brightly in their old barn -- you may be getting the drift -- and they curiously fix it so the opponents always have to deal with it in the second half. A great venue where all college hoop fans should attend at least one game.)

Back to this search thing. Whatever, I hear the football team is ranked.

If you have any care for NU Hoops you have to get goosebumps thinking about who Pederson and Boehm have hired in their time together. One of them coached in national title game last year (Ben Howland) and the other (Howland's replacement at Pitt) Jamie Dixon has kept the Panther program up with the nation's elite.

Let's take a brief look at possible candidates.

The way I see things, Pederson probably has anywhere from 3-5 guys he is absolutely gunning for and I'll list them in order of what I believe to be Steve's preference.

1. Karl Hobbs, George Washington. First, there are no black head coaches at Nebraska. Now, Pederson isn't going to hire a guy because he is black but there may be pressure from the BCA. Remember, in 2000, after going after Bill Self first, former AD Bill Byrne went for Leonard Hamilton (then at Miami) and Oliver Pernell (then at Dayton) before landing Collier.

Hobbs, is a wonderful candidate and the thought around the nation is that the former Connecticut assistant will take Jim Calhoun's post when he is through winning titles in Storrs. However, wouldn't Hobbs at least think about a stop to a BCS league to get some experience before going to UConn? Coaching in the Big 12 for 3-5 years wouldn't hurt his resume before heading to UConn.

2. Mark Fox, Nevada. The ties to the Midwest are a huge factor. Fox, 37, grew up in Garden City, KS and was an assistant at Kansas State (and has his Master's Degree from KU) under Tom Asbury. He took over in Reno after Trent Johnson bolted for Stanford two seasons ago. Fox is 52-13 at the helm in Reno and has been dancing twice.

Reno TV station KRNV is reporting that Fox had dinner with Pederson in Los Angeles on Thursday night, but no word from the AD on whether there has been permission even requested by Pederson to speak with Fox. Who knows if Fox would leave? He has five starters back from a season ago, including All-American Nick Fazekas.

3. Jim Christian, Kent State. Another young one, Christian is 40 and the connection here is that he was an assistant at Pittsburgh early in Pederson's tenure with Ralph Willard. Now, Pederson fired that guy so who knows what that connection is. Anyway, at Kent he has been superb. In four years as a head coach, they have won 20 games every year. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament this past year, but lost to (guess who?) Pittsburgh in the first round.

I'd be surprised, not shocked, if this were the hire. One thing he may have going for him is that he was a talent evaluator for a private sports firm for a couple of years and worked with Big 12 talents Chris Mihm (Texas) and Jacque Vaughn (Kansas), so he does know the league and what it takes. The early rumor was he would take it, no questions asked, if offered.

4. Doc Sadler, UTEP. Sadler is making a late push, but the UTEP coach bears plenty of watching. In his third year after taking over for current Texas A&M coach, Billy Gillespie, Sadler has been to the NCAA tournament twice and last year they lost to Michigan in the NIT.

Prior to coming to UTEP, he was a head coach at the junior college level in Arkansas. Sadler has also been in Los Angeles, according to the El Paso Times.

5. John Pelphrey, South Alabama. The word on the street is that Pelphrey has turned down an offer to speak to Pederson (apparently in Los Angeles if you aren't already catching the drift). While three of his four seasons at USA have been losing ones, last year was much better. They made it to the NCAA Tournament, but drew national champion Florida in the first round.

Pelphrey would bring a lunchbox to Lincoln. He was, for years, a Billy Donovan assistant and played for Rick Pitino and Eddie Sutton at Kentucky. (If you wonder, Pelphrey was a senior on Pitino's team that took Duke to the buzzer. Pitino was famous for saying during the tournament, "I wouldn't trade any player in America for John Pelphrey.") His first assistant job was for Sutton at Oklahoma State.

We may know a lot more by Monday. The guess here is that Pederson and Boehm were busy beavers on Thursday in Los Angeles. They probalby had a little morning meeting with Ben Howland on Friday and they could be really close to a decision already.

I will do my best to keep this blog updated if anything comes up.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Friday, August 04, 2006 || 0 comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Husker Hoops

I certainly hope Mr. Babcock will come on the blog and give us his thoughts on the state of the Nebraska basketball team. He knows the ins and outs of the program more than anyone and certainly the history of the team.

This bunch is very disappointing to me, but I have a hard time getting to down on them. I've actually been on record to say they will make the NCAA Tournament this year. But, after watching last night, it's seem pretty simple how you beat Barry's Bunch. Press, then press, then press some more.

NU had no answers for Iowa State. It's was frustrating to watch the NU guards try to dribble through the press of the Cyclones time and time again. 30 points off turnovers is going to lose every time. It was much the same as the Creighton game. Now, if you give me the Huskers in a half court game, I might say they could beat anybody. Hopefully no other Big 12 coaches watched the game last night.

Here's to betting that Bill Self will come out in a full court defense on Saturday and try to push the tempo on the Huskers. Some would say the Huskers played a poor defensive game last night, but when you look at 30 of the Cyclones 88 points basically coming off of fast break layup after a steal you should realize that the half court defense wasn't terrible.

I certainly hope NU can turn things around and that they weren't 2-0 going on 2-3. A spilt of the next two road games with Kansas and Colorado is much needed before coming home to face Missouri on the 28th.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Wednesday, January 18, 2006 || 0 comments

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