Southern Mississippi is coming to town this weekend, coming for a whole $2,100,000 dollar pay day. If you want to feel bad about Saturday or fear it more than you do, think of the difference between "Southern Miss Upsets Nebraska" and "Southern Miss Upsets Nebraska While Getting $2.1M".
Oh lordy that would hurt.
Factions of the fanbase already brought out the "True Fan" mantra after last weekend. It goes like this:
"I've been watching Husker football/had season tickets/gave birth to Tom Osborne/ since I was in the womb. I've always supported the team and the coaches and the players. I'm a TRUE FAN."
The implication here is not only is the accused not a TRUE (Husker) FAN but a witch/Nazi/baby killer/Colombian drug lord/terrorist who hates Amurica/.
The accused responds with something like "My great grandfather founded Nebraska and played football for the team in 1884. Our family has been Huskers when they were Man Killing Mastodons. WE'RE ALL TRUE FANS."
And so it goes. Oh, the one-upsmanship.
Both walk away from each other convinced that the other is a Colombian Nazi who's financing his terrorist operations selling drugs while killing babies with sorcery (Icy Spear would be my weapon of choice).
Imagine what will happen if we lose. Imagine what will happen if the game is close.
We've been hearing all week about how much teams improve from week one to week two and that's where you should put your faith. That and in the Nebraska coaches. You still have faith in the Nebraska coaches, don't you? I do. I'm a true fan.
So what will we be watching to see if improvement occurs. The scoreboard but that would make for a boring article and little discussion, so here's your talking points about what we're watching:
Stop the SOP
Normally, y'all businessmen would say that S.O.P. stands for standard operating procedure, but in this case the SOP stands for Same Old Poop. SOP is relative to Nebraska's offense in two specific areas; turnovers and penalties.
Can Nebraska break their streak of two turnover games before it reaches 15 this weekend? That's an awful streak.
Nebraska had 10 penalties last week putting them at 107th nationally in penalty yards per game. Last season, Nebraska finished 2012 95th in the same statistic. Granted, most of the penalties last weekend were by the defense, but there's those two drive killing false starts. Those are mental errors. They're fixable, so fix them.
Keep The Foot on the Gas
If game one proved anything it's that with this young defense, no lead is safe, so rather than blame the defense, let's hope that the offense can keep scoring throughout the entire game not just the first half, or the first, say, 53 minutes. Kenny Bell said before the season started that the offense could score 50 points a game. I plan on holding him to that. The offense needs to score 63 points this week to make up for last.
Note that "Foot on the Gas" doesn't mean chucking the ball downfield. Tim Beck was smart in going conservative last week because it gave the defense time to figure itself out. Nebraska's offense would have scored again were it not for a turnover - it seems so cyclical, please make it stop.
"Foot on the Gas" is more about not letting up, physically or mentally. Score 63 points against Southern Miss, and don't stop until you do. Hell, score 70. Get ahead of the average.
Now we know - Nebraska's defense is very very young and will be prone to making mistakes, mistakes that you hope are eliminated (or at least lessened) as the season goes on. This will take some time to straighten out, but the first area that needs to be eliminated was pointed out by John Papuchis earlier this week.
11 Wyoming plays totaled 327 yards. 63 went for 275 yards. In order to move from the "horrendously bad" side of defensive statistics to the "mostly average" (which it what we want right now), the defense must eliminate explosive plays.
Part of that is the learning process. There's frequent talk about Pelini's defense being complex. It is. There are a lot of adjustments that must be made on the fly, for example, if the offense goes in motion, it requires adjustments by the entire back seven, not just the guy who's moving with the player in motion.
A couple of our guys are involved in the Football Study Hall charting project, which means they are charting out the Nebraska games. Here's an observation made by one of them about some of Wyoming's offensive plays:
When Wyoming went Split Backs Offset, they would ALWAYS motion the weak side back towards the strong side (with 2 WRs), essentially creating a "trips" formation.
This (obviously) drew one of our LBs with him, then they just simply 'Zone Read-ed' us to death, with Brett Smith reading the WDE (Weak DE). In the first half, this play has resulted in positive yardage damn near every time. We simply couldn't stop it.
Pelini has mentioned that he's simplified the defense, but without much explanation. Media hasn't asked him more about it, at least that I recall. I wish they would.
Could Pelini change his scheme? Yes, he could. He could run a 4-3 base and Cover 3 all the time, but that wouldn't be "Pelini's defense", and at some point who isn't to say that could cost a game at another time (at which point we'd all be complaining about the Cover 3).
Most fans will say they want to see more pressure on the quarterback, particularly when it comes to the front four. I don't necessarily disagree with that - against a mobile quarterback it will get you killed. Better yet that the front four can control the interior of the line, keeping everything in front of them, and you hope that includes going outside. If the front four can't control the interior, you'll see more of what you saw against Wyoming, the center of the field being left open for big gains as linebackers and safeties are motioned out of the middle of the field.
It was pretty easy, relatively speaking, playing man-to-man coverage when you had guys like Alfonzo Dennard and Prince Amukamara in the secondary. Does Nebraska have a shutdown corner this season? Ciante Evans could be one of those guys and the play of Stanley Jean-Baptiste last week was encouraging. Southern Miss will be throwing the ball around a lot and last wee threw six interceptions. It could a chance for the secondary to shine.
Nebraska has a chance to be a great team.