H U S K E R D A N
HUSKER DAN'S 2006 PRETTY PERKY, PRECARIOUS, PRESEASON PIGSKIN PIX
Before Husker Dan starts yammering about the 2006 Husker football season, catch the following video and see how many times you get shivers just watching this. It's okay-I'll wait...
Okay, now we return you to our regularly scheduled programming.
Are you ready for some football? Are you tired of having to put up with the World Cup tournament? Wimmbelton? (Why do the chick players have to grunt so much?)
Golf? (You gotta wonder about golf. The game makes no sense. At the most critical times in a tournament, the spectators have to remain SILENT-What was the inventor of golf thinking? Can you imagine, not being able to make a sound when the Huskers have it 4th and goal at the Sooner 2 yard line with 5 seconds to go in the Big 12 Championship game? One play that will determine if the Huskers win their first championship since '99, Callahan's first BCS bowl game, and the freakin' crowd is supposed to remain SILENT!!! How can anyone embrace a game that won't let you yell and scream and throw things?! It makes no sense! Auggggggghhhhh!!!) And then there's major league baseball, a game that you can at least yell and scream at, but they start in, what, like January and it takes until almost November to figure out who the hell the champion is? Puh-leeeese!
God made college football to save us from all that crap. Write it down. As Steve The "Forever Red" Clad Loon's Elmer Hicks would say, "I am right!".
SO LET'S GET STARTED, ALREADY!
Okay, are you excited for the 2006 Husker football season to begin? Have you been counting the days until the La Tech game? Do you like to watch movies about gladiators, Joey?
Okay, so skip that last part.
It's time to reveal Husker Dan's pix for '06 (hey, that rhymes!). Here's how Husker Dan sees things for the Huskers and the rest of the Big 12 this fall.
Not since '99 have the Huskers won, let alone, played in a Big 12 championship game. This once proud program that dominated the 90s under the direction of Tom Osborne, fell on "hard times"-hard, that is, with two, count 'em two non-winning seasons ('02 and '04) in the past 43 years.
Oh sure, the Huskers qualified to play in the national championship game in 2001 (after getting their butts kicked by the Buffs at Boulder that year) and went on to get clobbered in the Rose Bowl by an NFL team disguised as the Miami Hurricanes. Only the compassion of Miami head coach Larry Coker kept the score from nudging toward triple digits. (Wait a minute-a Miami head football coach with compassion? Woah! What in the name of Howard Schnellenberger is going on here? What's next, Steve Pederson at a fund raiser for Ohio U?)
As everyone in the college football world knows, there was a regime change at Lincoln (No!), the option was put on waivers, a new coaching staff and a new philosophy took over in '04. Those changes saw several players quit the team, coaches "retire", donors withhold donations and some Husker fans (and you know who you are) become the nastiest I've ever seen.
In 2004, the Huskers struggled to find themselves. The nadir was reached during a blowout loss at the hands of Red Raiders of Texas Tech. Even the most ardent Husker fan began to doubt if the West Coast Experiment would ever work at Nebraska.
And to add fuel to the doubters' fire, the experiment was further sidetracked by lop-sided losses last year at Kansas and Missouri and two other games in which the Huskers trailed by 20 + points. But in true Husker tradition, the football team found an identity late in the season. The Huskers quickly went from being MIA on milk cartons to being upstart poster boys. The Huskers started to find ways to win games, instead of lose them as they did earlier at home against T-Tech and Oklahoma.
To be sure, even some of the wins weren't pretty. In fact, they were knock down, butt-ugly victories with the ugliest of them all at home against Pittsburgh. And the Iowa State win was not centerfold material either. And don't forget, in the last home game against K-State, the Huskers tried their best to give the game away for most of 4 quarters, but somehow, some way, found a way to steal a win.
THE HUSKERS "A WAY" GAME
The character of last year's team, the never give up attitude, may be the spring board for this year's Husker team. The Michigan game was a great example of the Huskers beating a team that had much better talent. In the Alamo Bowl, Bill Busch's special teams saw 7, count 'em, 7 players go down with injuries, but the Huskers still managed to find a way to win.
Husker Dan feels good about this year's team-this will be a much improved team, but the schedule may keep Nebraska from improving dramatically on their won-loss record.
Husker fans may have to be content this season to still be in games with Texas and Southern Cal in the fourth quarter. (I know I'll get a tone of mail telling me I'm dumber than Zasu Pitts). Look, I know that observation seems strange, coming from such a "homer" as I am.
But let's be real, while those two teams lost some impact players, they're still loaded with great talent. If the Huskers can win even one of those games, Husker fans should be ecstatic-especially if the win is at home against the Longhorns. Why favor a win over the 'Horns than one over So. Cal? Easy-Texas would be a conference win. A win over the Trojans would be huge, but I'd rather take a conference win any day.
THE HUSKER SEASON
La Tech (@ home)
Should be a great day for Husker fans who want to see if this team can pick up where it left off last year. In this game, Matt Herian will score his first of many TDs he'll score this year.
Nicholls State (@ home)
Will Harrison Beck and Kenny Wilson get to play? Will Cody, Marlon and Leon wake up the Husker running game? Will every player who suits up that day for the Big Red get into the game?
Sure, it's easy to focus on what the Trojans won't have this fall, rather than the stockpile of great recruits they've been signing for the past bazillion years. If the Huskers can pull this puppy out on the road (!), it would be truly amazing. Bill Callahan's Huskers will have come of age. The swagger will be back. But more than likely, this will be in the "L" column for the Huskers.
Troy State (@ home)
The Huskers will either have an emotional letdown (with a "W" at So. Cal) or will be looking for somebody to take out their frustrations on after a loss to the Trojans.
Kansas (@ home)
Look for the Huskers to make a statement in this game. Let's just hope the statement is spelled "Payback".
Another big road test for the Huskers. Make no mistake about it, the Cyclones are waiting for this one. Jack Trice Stadium will be rocking. Head coach Dan-o, Barney Cotton and Mike Grant will be champing at the bit. Is it payback time for the double OT loss the 'Clones suffered last year in Lincoln? Methinks the Huthkers willeth triumph in thith one.
The big question will be, will Josh Freeman play in the game? (Yawn) The Wildcats have had too many changes-coaches, schemes. Does this all sound familiar to Husker fans?
Huskers get their 2nd conference road win.
Texas (@ home)
There hasn't been a game like this one in Lincoln since the Thooners, er, Sooners came to town in 2001 (Who can forget Thunder to Stuntz to Crouch?!). This will be a hard ticket to get, especially if the Huskers have a Trojan win under their belt. Like USC, the Longhorns will have a ton of talent. If the Huskers are in the game in the 4th quarter, Husker fans should be happy. Chalk up another "L".
Anyone who has been paying attention to the Cowboys of late know they can be pretty formidable at home. Husker Dan sees an ambush at either Stillwater or at College Station. Be happy with any kind of win in Oklahoma.
Missouri (@ home)
Everyone is talking about the experience the Tigers have this fall. This will be a win for the Huskers-why go against tradition that's held up since 1978?
This isn't your father's Aggie team, but playing in College Station can be dangerous for opponents. The Huskers will stumble either here or at Stillwater.
This contest is losing its luster really fast. This one will likely be meaningless for both teams. The Huskers will have already clinched the BTN and will be thinking about the Sooners and visions of a BCS bowl invitation.
BIG 12 NORTH
Boy, Husker Dan's really going out on a limb with this pick. In 2006, Nebraska will have an experienced QB, good receivers (TE Matt Herian is back!), an improved O-line, one of the best defensive front lines and linebacking corps in college ball. Throw in an average North Division and the Huskers should be the team to beat in the BTN. The Big IFs: the development of the O-Line, the running game, the health of #13 at QB, and finding a replacement (like that's even possible) for record-setting punter, Sam "You Send Me" Koch.
But for a field goal kicker who could come through in the clutch, the head coach Dan McCarney's 'Clones would have won the BTN the past two years. And what did ISU do to get such a killer schedule this season?
The Wildcats let the game in Lincoln slip away from them. They'll be waiting to derail the Huskers in Manhattan this fall.
The Jayhawks had their way at home with the Huskers last year, racking up 40 points. This year, the ambush will be in Lincoln.
The Tigers have lost Brad Smith, but this fall, they bring a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball. The question is, what would Coach Gary Pinkel prefer, talent or experience?
Look for the Buffs to take several years to climb out of the mess left by Gary Barnett.
BIG TWELVE SOUTH
This year, Rhett (Frankly, my dear) Bomar and Adrian Peterson and a great Sooner defense will restore the order in the South.
Sorry Mac, Vince is gone but Adrian ain't.
A new QB is nothing new for Mike Leach and the Wed Waiders, but enough experience returns to make the Waiders a dangerous foe. Weaw-wee!
Dennis Franchione is in the hot seat. What may save him is a big upset this year-let's hope it's not the Huskers.
A weak defense makes it tough to win in the Big 12. Just ask Bill Callahan.
The Bears have improved, but aren't ready to turn the corner just yet. The Bears and Cowboys will battle for last place.
And there you have it. If you'd like to give Husker Dan a piece of your mind, you may email him here. For past Husker Dan columns click here.