We talked to David McGee, Ty Peteranetz, Ranchbabe and Cobby at Corn Nation today for a Q&A about what to expect from Nebraska. Make sure to check out the site (it's got some excellent analytical and opinion pieces), and be sure to follow them on Twitter at @CornNation.
1. Tommy Armstrong is probably the best quarterback in the Big Ten West. Has his development surprised you?
David: Not really. We knew he was a strong runner, maybe not with the blazing speed Martinez had, but he could hurt you. We've seen that develop, which was expected. I was hoping to see more development from him out of the passing game. He's really struggled there at times, especially in the short and intermediate passes.
Ty: Best in the West? Is he really better... Holy crap, that might be a correct statement. I guess surprised is the right word. I don't think it's pleasantly, though. Like Mr. McGee (heh), I'd like to see him develop his passing skills, especially in the 10-20 yard range. I did see him checkdown once against MSU, so that's reason for hope, but there's still growth I'd like to see.
Ranchbabe: Hmmm, being the best QB in the West is sort of like having the highest grade in the summer remedial math class isn't it? If I am surprised by anything, it is the lack of development in the passing game. Tommy is a tough runner and everyone raves about his leadership and composure, but he is still making some very basic mistakes (not progressing through reads, pre-determining his throw, accuracy issues). He is still young, so I have a lot of hope that he will improve in those areas. He does have a penchant for getting his wideouts onto SportsCenter (here, here and here), so there's that.
Cobby: Nothing would surprise you anymore if you've seen what I've seen. When we were first developing this thing that we later called "alcohol" we had to do a lot of experimenting. We threw in just about anything we could find in our clay jars in order to get this thing we called "fermentation" going. I even donated some of my kernels to the recipe to see if it would help. Hey giving up your children is the greatest sacrifice, right? We had a lot of setBacks for about a Quarter century and then we found this new thing while out West. It was this Big beehive. Well, there were Ten of them actually and inside was this awesome nectar that I called honey. I named it for this girl I wanted. I always called her honey but she never understood why. It was because she was so sweet and now I had something to back it up with. Anyway, we had to get Tommy to go get the beehives down. He had the strongest arms of our group. We popped that honey in our brew and wa-la, we partied. That my friends is the story of how mead was invented.
2. Northwestern has had some success stopping running backs up the middle, though they've given up some big plays on the edge (see: Gordon, Melvin). Given that this is probably the second-best defense Ameer Abdullah will have faced, do the Wildcats have a realistic chance of stopping him?
David: Probably not to the same measure that Michigan St. did, but sure, I'd imagine they could keep him from putting up 300 on you.
Ty: Slowing him down? Yes. Stopping him completely? No. He'll find a way, and I think the line will block better for him. That being said, Wiscy is not Nebraska, and I think we'll do okay against them.
Ranchbabe: This should be a good challenge for our offensive coordinator. Ameer is dangerous all over the field, but he is especially so when he is out in space. If Beck can dial up enough in the passing game to get our inconsistent QB into a groove, things should open for Abdullah and he will go full beast-mode. Of course, it will help if our offensive line falls forward instead of backward this week.
Cobby: The edge is always where you can find the big plays. It's usually where the lonely/awkward girls hang out because they don't know how to interact properly. You know, like those girls at that private school in Chicago. I'm not sure that the northwestern corner of the room would be any different than other corners, though, unless there was something to attract said girls there, like a math book or something. Anyway, if you want success but want to avoid the nerdy types, don't go after the wildcats. You have to find the cougars of the group. But stay away from the BYU ones, or you'll be disappointed.
3. What's the confidence level in Lincoln that Nebraska will win the Big Ten West? Obviously, they're in a good position, but they've yet to play Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and three of those are on the road.
David: I think it's turned into the expectation. I think most people have been somewhat underwhelmed with what they've seen from the presumed main contenders in the West and think every game on the schedule is winnable, including in Indianapolis. I think there's still a "believe it when I see it" mentality with this team, but the expectation has turned and is now that the Huskers should win the division.
Ty: In my informal survey of all of Lincoln, I've determined that the college kids think we're national champs already, the 18-55 demos think we've got a shot at the B1G and the 55+ are still longing for the glory years, wondering why all coaches can't be Dr. Tom. Seriously though, there is a cautious optimism. Our usually reliable volleyball program (SHAMELESS PLUG TO READ MY PIECES, ESPECIALLY MY EXCELLENT ANALYSIS AFTER THE MICHIGAN TRIP) is struggling this year, so that probably means it's the football team's year. Save Armstrong, I think most parts are performing at a higher level than most fans thought we would this year.
Ranchbabe: This team has the talent to do it, but recent history has caused enough mental scars (see, conference championship game, 2012) that I simply cannot force myself to expect anything. Overall, I think the fan base is cautiously optimistic. The past three games against the Wildcats have been nailbiters and I want to see us get past Fitz and crew before getting too excited.
Cobby: It's easy to have confidence if you're in a good position. See, when she's on top and going to town on you, you might lose a little of that confidence. One wrong bounce and your cob gets smashed pretty hard and that's no fun. So stay away from that and do something that you know you can handle. I wouldn't consider Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa chicks in that category, though. There might be a bit too much there for me to hang onto.
4. What part of the Nebraska defense should Northwestern attack?
David: The middle. The line has the ability to dominate and the secondary is rapidly improving. The most inconsistent part of the defense is at the linebacker spot. Trevor Roach had a nice game vs. MSU and Zaire Anderson and David Santos have had some nice games, too, though Santos is fighting off injuries. That's where I'd attack if I was developing a game plan vs. the Huskers.
Ty: Linebackers. If they can ever ALL have a great game at the same time, it'll be GREAT, but in the meantime, that's the most inconsistent part of the D.
Ranchbabe: Linebackers. Next question.
Cobby: I love these questions. First of all, Nebraska should stay away from the Northwestern flank. That's a no-duh if your enemy is called Northwestern. I would send your phalanx from the Southwest, your calvary on the Northeast and your tanks from behind. You should have no trouble if your predator drones can avoid the civilians.
5. Please write, in order, the first letter of each of these words to form the proper respective acronyms: "University of Nebraska-Lincoln" and "Northwestern University"
David: NU and NW, Northwestern is just a directional school, after all.
Ty: NU and NWU as we all know that any time you're using a cardinal direction, it has to be clearly stated. There is no Northern U, so it has to be NWU, not to be confused with Neb-Weslyan.
Ranchbabe: I work for the university, and on the academic side, we actually use UNL all the time. However, in football it is NU forever. I simply cannot write anything but NW for Northwestern. Sorry guys, I tried. Really.
Cobby: Uni-on Nebraska-Lincoln. What is it with unions anyway. Aren't they just an excuse to get paid to do nothing? I mean we have this union hall next to where I work and when they "train", it's always one guy doing the work and everyone else supervising. Are they training to do no work? Do you people at NW know anything about unions and unionizing anyway? I doubt it since you guys are all going to be our white-collar bosses someday anyway.
6. What's your prediction for this one?
David: Crazy stuff happens in this game. I expect Nebraska will dominate much of the statistical categories yet find themselves in a dogfight to the finish. I think they've got the best player on the field on both sides of the ball and in the end, that will be the difference. Gregory and the defense will make a couple of plays late and Abdullah returns to form. I see the ‘Skers pulling this one out late, 27-21.
Ty: I beg to differ. I think this game will look B1G-ger than many games this year, actually, and it'll be a low scoring affair, but even the score will look Husker-dominant. NU 24, NW 10
Ranchbabe: I want to say the crazy close games involving Nebraska 4th quarter rallies will end, but I just don't know if I trust this team enough to say they will win decisively over the Wildcats. McNeese and Sparty put enough on tape for a smart coach like Fitz to study on stopping Abdullah and if our QB has a rough passing day, it will be tight again. We are fielding the best defense since we joined the B1G and I think they will be the difference compared to the past 3 years. Huskers 34 Wildcats 24
Cobby: What are we predicting again? Well, I suppose my prediction is that I'll drink too much mead and end up joining a union that sends me to some crazy war down southeast where the only chicks available are cougars from Iowa. Wait. I've already been-there-done-that.