I trust that everyone survived their holiday get togethers, although I’m sure there are some of you that aren’t finished quite yet. I hope everyone’s families survived intact, physically or psychologically. There’s still time to tell us how miserable or great it was - everyone loves gossip, don’t they?
It is game week. The Nebraska football team left yesterday for Nashville and will spend part of the week practicing at Vanderbilt, then play the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday at 2:30 pm central.
Nebraska goes into this game without their best receiver Jordan Westerkamp, their best defender in Nate Gerry, and their 18-year starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong (I know this isn’t 100%, but stay with me). That’s a lot of experience gone. Senior quarterback Ryker Fyfe will start in Armstrong’s place, and given his inability to run relative to Armstrong, it looks like the offense will be severely hampered. This against a Tennessee team that’s been awful on offense, but at times blistering at scoring points.
Nebraska comes in at 9-3, Tennessee at 8-4. Both teams should want a win in this game, both looking to eliminate the stink of what was once a promising year. Both were ranked in the Top Ten at one point this season. Nebraska suffered a close overtime loss at Wisconsin, then a 62-3 debacle at Ohio State and another spanking at the hands of Iowa, 40-10.
Tennessee was running along fine at 5-0 until losing three straight to Texas A&M, Alabama, and South Carolina. They reeled off three straight wins after that, then suffered a season-ending loss to Vanderbilt. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is in his fourth year. This was supposed to be the Vols season.
Both teams could use a win here. A win should allow either one to finish the season ranked in the Top 25 and end the season on a positive note rather than having to listen to the rehash of another “could have been” season. Both teams will talk a lot about how much they want to win, but we’ll see what happens when they walk on the field Friday.
There’s a lot in Nebraska that depends on a winning football team. First and foremost, there’s the state’s collective ego. Nebraska isn’t known for a lot outside its football team, and while we can argue all offseason about whether that’s good or bad, that’s just the way it is.
There’s a fair amount of economy depending upon people feeling good about the football team as well. There are paraphernalia vendors, and there are media outlets, who need you to listen to their broadcasts, subscribe to their newspapers, and read their web sites. Just as importantly, they (we) need to be able to sell you on next year’s team - to give you a reason to pay attention to the offseason - because that’s how fragile media is these days. The money needs to come in year ‘round, not just during the season, otherwise the rest of the newspapers might fold.
And then there’s the whole mental health aspect. Losing is a drag. It’s a drag on every Husker fan, regardless of how little they pretend it isn’t. It wears one down after a while, and sometimes it’s damned near enough a drag to tell everyone to go to hell and stop watching college football all together - except you can’t because it’s so damned ingrained in what and who you are.
I don’t know exactly how Nebraska is going to score points against Tennessee. I would hope they run the ball efficiently, to run the clock and keep the Vol offense off the field. We have been joking in the CN Slack room that Nebraska should switch to a single wing offense for this game - we have the running backs for it, let’s use them.
Throw in a spinner, and we’re in for a treat.
Consider that Zack Darlington’s dad, Rick, runs this offense at Apopka High School, in Florida, and you have a surprise. Forget the Wildcat. Think Single Wing.
The chances of Nebraska doing this are pretty slim to none, unfortunately.
It’s game week. The last one of the season, and the last for a very very very long time. For all our sakes, I hope it’s a good one.
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