Let me get right to the point.
Do you, Husker fan, have a lot of confidence in a Nebraska win in this bowl game?
I’m guessing probably not. That 40-10 drubbing at the hands of those stinky Iowegians took a lot of life out of this season - I’m also guessing many of you are ready to get 2016 over with and move on to the offseason.
NOT SO FAST, you lying bastards!
You know as well as I that if Nebraska loses this game you’ll be bitching about it all through the offseason, so stop pretending you don’t care. We want this season ending on a positive note.
Unfortunately, it’s going to be tough. Here’s why.
No Tommy Armstrong
I sent out this tweet around the end of the Nebraska - Iowa game this season. It got a fair amount of likes and a lot of retweets. Obviously a lot of other people feel the same way.
I have enjoyed watching Tommy Armstrong play, but I am ready to see another quarterback lead Nebraska— CornNation (@CornNation) November 25, 2016
If Tommy doesn’t play in this game (and it looks like he won’t), he will finish his career at Nebraska as the #1 all-time passer with 8,871 yards, #1 in completions with 625, #1 in total offense with 10,690 yards, #1 in total touchdowns with 91, and #1 in career starts with 44.
That’s quite the Nebraska career.
You know what’s worse than having Armstrong at quarterback?
Not having Armstrong at quarterback when your only other real option is a walk-on quarterback who’s played little and broke his wrist in November. Not having Armstrong will limit Nebraska’s run game because the opposing defense will have no fear of Ryker Fyfe’s running ability as a quarterback.
You might be ready to be done with Tommy, but you have to admit that over his career he’s shown incredible grit and determination. Will this team play that way without him? Will they play that way with Fyfe leading the way behind center? Will Fyfe make plays while protecting the ball?
Will you bet money on it?
No Nate Gerry
Nate Gerry is another guy who has driven me crazy. An excellent defender, but Gerry will begin this season just as he started it - not playing. That’s not very captain-like, is it?
Gerry could make some great plays, but at the same time, be the dumbest guy on the defense. Remember the running into the kicker penalty against Iowa? Pretty dumb. Despite the downside, Gerry is the leading solo tackler (47) and second overall (74). He’s second in pass breakups (8), and second in interceptions (4).
Gerry will be missed.
No Jordan Westerkamp
As uneven as Armstrong and Gerry have been, Jordan Westerkamp has been the exact opposite. Westerkamp finishes his career one reception short (36) of Johnny Rodger’s record of consecutive games with a reception (37). He’s second (167) behind Kenny Bell (181) in all-time receptions. He’s fourth in career receiving yardage (2,474), and only six yards from the #2 spot. Six friggin’ yards and he’d pass Nate Swift (,2476) and Johnny Rodgers (2,479)*.
Nebraska won’t miss Westerkamp because of his records. They’ll miss him because he always caught the ball. If you needed a first down, throw it to Westerkamp. If the game is desperate, throw it to Westerkamp. If you want an ESPN highlight, throw it to Westerkamp and watch him make the catch between his legs while flipping in midair.
Tennessee’s Offense - The Run Game
I am confident that Nebraska’s secondary can cover Volunteer receivers. I believe I’m safe in saying that Mark Banker will be confident that Nebraska’s secondary can cover as well. That’s why the Husker defense will stack and try to force Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to throw.
Nebraska must be successful in stopping the run early for this to be successful. If there’s a weakness in this approach, it’s in Tennessee runs to the outside - that the Vols are faster in that regard, and once they get past the initial set of defenders they will be off to the races.
Nebraska’s Special Teams - Forgotten?
Nebraska’s special teams were so bad this season that Bruce Read was fired before getting a chance to coach in the bowl game. Since then... what’s going on with special teams? Will someone teach protection recognition when the Huskers are punting so that Caleb Lightbourn doesn’t get a fourth punt blocked this season?
Will someone block for Demornay Pierson-El on a punt return, or will he look up to see eight guys running at him full speed like he has most of the season?
Did anyone coach up special teams between the end of the season and the bowl game, or did they just forget?
Home State Advantage?
Football, more than any other sport, can be summed up with this statement:
Whoever Plays The Hardest The Longest Wins
This applies to bowl games much more than the regular season; when it comes to bowl games hopes and desires may be dashed leaving many players to conclude there’s nothing left to play for.
Most bowl games are about desire. So who’s really going to have more desire to win, Nebraska, or a team playing in their own home state?