Despite the lead-up to each weekend’s games, a college football season is always an F/A 18F Super Hornet - a high-speed, well-armed joyride whose speed, weaponry and maneuverability mask thousands of moving parts beneath its sleek surface.
Yes, I saw Top Gun: Maverick. Several times.
The need for ratings and sales and clicks dictates many games on each weekend will be tagged as must-wins; a loss there and all hopes and dreams will be dashed. In the days before the ever-expanding CFP, that could be true at times; for teams with a national title on their radar, one loss was often the death knell for those hopes. And if that loss came late in the season rather than early, then forget it.
Except not always. Or are there Husker fans who forget how the wild weekend following their 26-point loss to the Colorado Buffaloes played out? Yes, the booby prize was the honor of being clobbered by NFL-draft-pick-stacked 2001 Miami, but the lesson stands. Nothing in this sport is ever etched in stone and if one game can flip a season script, so can two or three a week later.
Anyway, the original Husker plan in many eyes was roll to 3-0, play Oklahoma well but a 3-1 start is okay, then we’ll cruise to bowl. The loss to Northwestern had some shock value after a 56-7 win the previous season. But we may have ignored a couple of things like - 1) Northwestern looked more like one of their gritty teams who win every other year instead of the ones who take odd years off, and 2) as I mentioned last week, we may have had bigger issues than originally thought.
But despite a disappointing opening loss and a shoddy first half against the Hawks, much still needs to play out and the second half did allow a few glimmers of hope. Granted it WAS North Dakota, but it was nice to see the offensive line showing a push, Casey Thompson pick some running spots and Anthony Grant turn it up a notch. Everything’s fine now? Not even close, but? Like most seasons, this one will be a wild ride - joyous for some, nut-crushing awful for others and just enough for everyone else. Just need to see where this one leads us - and I really should buy a new cup and a couple bags of ice just to be safe.
All of which brings us to the Oklahoma game in two weeks. Many (like last year, I might add) have already pencilled in a huge loss against the Sooners, but despite a quick start and 41-13 win over UTEP (was defeated 31-13 the previous week by North Texas), they appear to be dealing with the issues of a somewhat retooled roster themselves. This still doesn’t look like a CFP contending level Okie squad.
So while the Oklahoma game has suddenly become much more important, where do all these moving parts put us after it ends?:
1) Second half awakening against North Dakota aside, the end of the Frost tenure is still very much in play following the loss to the Wildcats. Trev Alberts has far more patience than the fans and eight games will remain, but if the Sooners do storm into Lincoln and blow the Huskers out, it will go from high alert to life support.
2) Judging by the current ticket prices online (currently starting at $221 per ESPN), fans haven’t completely given up. A Husker win over the Sooners sends us to conference play with 3-1 record stronger than one anchored by a Northwestern victory. And a new attitude - at least for a couple weeks.
3) History suggests Oklahoma wins by less than one score. Yet another close loss against a quality ranked team isn’t devastating but it probably is enough to quell talk of a cash-saving October 1 firing. (Also, we play Indiana on October 1. Pre or post-game firing is unlikely)
At that point, we move on to a make-or-break 4-game set vs. Indiana/Rutgers/Purdue/Illinois which we must come out of 3-1 and then hope for at least one bowl sealing win against Minnesota/Michigan/Wisconsin/Iowa or else-
But those are hysterical columns for another day.
For now, let’s hope for a smoother victory over Georgia Southern - day by day, get better and better? - and then play it safe and just make no evening plans on September 17th. Trust me.