Preseason football magazines have hit the stands and yes, I myself am far from invulnerable from picking one or two (or five) up. I like to learn about the new names and faces that the spotlight will shine on in the upcoming year, read about the bowl predictions that may as well have been pulled out of a hat and just how accurate Phil Steele is. I know he is. His cover tells me so every year. While expectations in Lincoln have been bubbling ever since Bo Pelini was hired, his crew assembled and in some cases even before that when Tom Osborne was placed at the head of it all as Athletic Director another camp seems to be pitching tent: Those who see 2008 as a field of land mines as the team as a bull with the mental faculties of an outhouse rat.
For every “Bo Knows ”, I hear grave concern over not just a defensive line plagued by lack of depth and uncertainty but of an entire defense with no identity at all. You show me a person who touts Defensive Backs Coach Marvin Sanders’ ability to whip his charges into shape and I’ll show you someone lamenting the current wide receiver corps including Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. Interestingly enough for every cautiously optimistic nine or ten-win season prediction, I hear just about as many seven or eights and in some cases that’s, “if we’re lucky.”
This is incredibly perplexing to me as the same fans referred to as some of the most gracious in college football are also those with some of the highest expectations and have been for about four decades now. Logic would dictate that predicting seven or eight wins would be said with a scowl and have caused a head to turn or even an eyebrow to raise, but instead I see shrugs and looks of “Whatta ya gonna do?” Have some Nebraska football fans already handed Bo Pelini a free pass and written off 2008? It’s June!
Admittedly, I understand where a lot of them are coming from. 2007 was very difficult on the psyches of everyone associated with the program from a number of aspects and recovery is still underway. The idea of expecting the worst and hoping for the best may be a better choice for the aforementioned. Honestly it made me feel sorta sad that a portion of the fan base had turned 30 and decided to settle for some middle of the road record that treats them okay and maybe occasionally takes them out once in a while to a nice bowl game but really they remember the one that got away. You know, the adorable one from just over a decade ago with a goose egg on the end.
So here we sit doused in rain prepping for the College World Series (Go LSU). It's right before the patch of the year when it’s like trekking through the Sahara with one bottle of water if you have anything to do with sports (of course that’s why the NCAA football video game franchise was invented). Nebraska fans are either giddy as a teenager on prom night or sulking like one who didn’t get lucky after all. It’s really a fitting metaphor because in the end, I think that’s how the season’s going to play out. Either Nebraska is a program proud of the over achievement or bummed due to growing pains.
If it makes you feel any better though, Steele has Nebraska as his #12 “Most Improved” team for 2008. He’s accurate, ya know. At least that’s what he tells me.