Evaluated With Polite Indifference

View of the near , USA.

You can see success from here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nebraska is behind three other B1G teams in the AP preseason poll: Michigan at No. 8 (with a first-place vote, amazingly enough), Wisconsin at No. 12 and Michigan State at No. 13. Looking at last year’s results, it’s hard to complain about those rankings.

via Breaking Down Nebraska’s Ranking in the AP’s College Football Preseason Poll | Bleacher Report.

Nebraska is 17th in the preseason Associated Press poll, which is to say Nebraska was politely, if belatedly, added to the list by lazy sportswriters. Resting on your laurels, is what that is.

Things do not bode well.

A casual observer can see that the enthusiasm is palpable at the top of the poll — 43 points separate the top three, Southern California, Alabama and Louisiana State. But by the time the finger slides past Georgia at No. 6 or Florida State at No. 7, life bleeds mockingly from the point totals like a flatulent, deflating balloon.

The Bleacher Report’s Patrick Runge, however, was able to sustain enough energy to make a few not-moronic observations. Notably, that Nebraska ranks lower than the best teams in the Big Ten, Michigan (No. 8), Wisconsin (No. 12) and Michigan State (No. 13), and the corollary that none of those teams have a cat’s chance in hell with gasoline drawers on of winning the national championship.

Mr. Runge also notes that the A.P.’s poll jibes broadly with its peers — Nebraska is 14th in Athlon, SI.com and CBSSports.com; 17th in Yahoo; and 21st in The National Football Post and ESPN’s so-called power rankings. He, I think, sees this as corroboration. It is, of course, but only that Nebraska is being widely ignored. No one believes a preseason poll voter is carefully slotting teams after the first few.

“Who cares about what the polls say?” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini, himself a voter in the USA Today poll, recently told reporters.

Indeed, no one, sir, save a few hardy souls, like Mr. Runge, who gnaw at the marrow of meager news.

Heeled and Hided to a Barn Door

The “big talk” of a No. 17 ranking seems like “doodly squat,” as the Missouri grandmother in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” would say, for the Huskers, a middling team that did not even look that good last November in defeats to Northwestern and Michigan, and that struggled to beat a zombified Penn State team by 3 points.

Looking at the first four weeks of this year’s schedule, Nebraska opens at home Sept. 1 against Southern Mississippi (always pesky), travels to U.C.L.A. (no longer coached by Rick Neuheisel) and then hosts Arkansas State (finally trying hard) and Idaho State (won only twice last season). The depressing thing is, after all that thoroughly boring football, the Huskers will have a better-than-average chance to be 4-0 and much-discussed heading into homecoming, Sept. 29, against Wisconsin. That will be a virtual repeat of last season, when hubris-addled Nebraska went to microbrew-sopped Madison for its Big Ten debut — a 48-17 depantsing.

Then, Nebraska bounced back with consecutive victories, against humbled Ohio State and never-wasn’t-humble Minnesota, before notching the signature victory of its season, an inexplicable, if desultory, 24-3 dismantling of conference runner-up Michigan State. Thence to already-described November and relief that there also was basketball and hockey to watch.

This season, the gantlet comes earlier. October brings Ohio State, Michigan and (on Nov. 3) Michigan State. By Election Day, Nebraska could very well be 5-4 and fighting for its postseason life. The schedule’s comparatively soft landing of Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa will probably do nothing to ameliorate the resentment and bitterness yielded by a likely 7-5 record.

The only thing left is to forecast the number of games in which Pelini penalized for losing his temper in a purple-hued eruption of pointed fingers and spittle.

Postscript

A peculiar rumination in Hail Varsity by Brandon Vogel does not improve matters. Mr. Vogel’s analysis of Nebraska’s 2011 season using the stubbornly simplistic Pythagorean Win Theorem confirms the reasonable conclusion that last season’s 9-4 record will not be improved upon in 2012. The idea is that teams that exceed the number of wins predicted by the theorem in one season will win fewer games in the next; and Nebraska topped its Pythagorean prediction last season by 0.84 games.

Never mind that Nebraska has not conformed to the stated pattern for more than a decade.

 

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