Last night I spent some time looking back on where we were at this same time last year. It's a mostly fruitless exercise - if you're one of those people who put a lot of faith in people being able to predict the future, you wouldn't focus on college football wonks as a study group.
Last year at this time, Nebraska had just come off a 33-0 pounding of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. Expectations for Bo Pelini's team were soaring - most way-too-early polls had Nebraska ranked in the top ten - and the AP poll had the Huskers at #9 entering the 2010 season.
Alabama had just beaten Texas in the BCS National Title game and Alabama trolls were pounding BON's site so bad they put up a notice warning them about the banhammer. Texas entered the season ranked at #6, and we all know how that turned out. Not only did they turn into a giant ball of suck, but they lost a lot of their coaching staff in the process.
Funny thing (er, only half funny), Nebraska and Texas ended the season being amongst the most overrated teams of the 2010 season, the highest honor, thankfully, going to Florida who was ranked #4 going into 2010 and not only finished the season unranked, but had their near-legendary coach Urban Meyer retire.
The interesting thing - regardless of how bad you feel right now about Nebraska's 2011 season, it doesn't seem to have lowered expectations all that much. SI's Andy Staples recently released his 2011 way-too-early look at the Top 25, ranking Nebraska #12, not all that far off from where we entered last season.
Steve Sipple released a similar ranking, placing Nebraska at #15, while ESPN's Mark Schlabach placed the Huskers at #19, lower than the other two. All three have Ohio State ranked as the highest rated Big Ten team - obviously they expect the Buckeyes to win next year's Big Ten Conference title. That's not a bad choice - Ohio State just keeps churning.
Here's how the three ranked Big Ten teams:
|Ohio State||Ohio State||Ohio State|
|Michigan State||Wisconsin||Michigan State|
The pretty obvious implication is that these guys expect Nebraska to compete with Michigan State to win the Big Ten western division. While we have the rest of the offseason to contemplate the possibilities (and Michigan State has ample idle time in which half their football team could engage in another dorm brawl), the fact that paid wonks think so highly of the Huskers should have you feeling pretty good about our chances next season.
Note that right now Nebraska has the highest odds of any Big Ten team, ahead of Ohio State and Penn State, although, admittedly, not by much. The Huskers are ranked above every Big 12 team with the exception of Oklahoma, who's going to be picked at the top spot in most pre-season polls come next fall, and who will not have to play in a conference game (and you thought Texas would benefit the most from Nebraska leaving? Give it time, give it time.)