Between two podcasts, one postgame column, several stories and 17 credits of class, I don’t always have the time or space to speak my mind on topics I find interesting. It’s time for that to change with the first weekly installment of my new column series — Five for Thought.
1. Week three of the college football season was awesome and justifies scheduling premier non-conference matchups after opening week.
Throughout the offseason, there were plenty of complaints online about what was perceived to be an uninspiring slate of football games throughout the opening weekend. There was truth to that statement, with just one game between ranked opponents on the schedule. What those complaints failed to mention was the plethora of enticing matchups scheduled for the later weeks of September.
Seeing just one matchup of ranked opponents during opening weekend was a shock, especially being just three years removed from an opening weekend with four games of that variety as well as 12 matchups between Power Five conferences. While schedules are set years in advance, it has been wise of programs to push back their big games away from the opening weekend.
By playing a weaker opponent to start the season, top-25 programs are able to have a low-pressure setting to get back into the grind of the season. This scheduling tactic makes for an improved product by the time ranked showdowns arrive later in the month. Thanks to this philosophy change, fans were entertained with far more exciting games over the past two weeks such as LSU-Texas and Iowa-Iowa State, plus Georgia-Notre Dame this coming weekend.
2. An oddity for the Blackshirts...
Nebraska’s defense has received some well-deserved attention over the first three weeks of the season. Through non-conference play, no opponent has topped 100 rushing yards as a team against the Huskers. Only two teams, Northwestern and Colorado, failed to top 100 against them last season.
Granted, Nebraska has played three opponents that have struggled to run the ball this year, but the Huskers had not held three consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards since Ndamukong Suh’s dominant 2009 senior season. The last time they held four or more straight opponents under 100? A stretch of five games between the end of the 2003 season and the beginning of the 2004 season that featured three different head coaches.
The streak seems unlikely to continue past Illinois and Reggie Corbin or Ohio State and J.K. Dobbins, but it is worth noting that in three matchups against Nebraska, Corbin’s best performance was 72 yards in 2016.
What does this random streak mean? Record-wise, not much. If anything, it’s a mere coincidence. Colorado and South Alabama abandoned the run game once they fell behind. Northern Illinois could never get its run game going in the first place. Still, for a unit that has struggled to maintain confidence throughout its recent history, this start can go a long way.
3. Taking a trip down memory lane…
Nebraska’s last trip to Champaign, Illinois, was in September 2017. In a bizarre Friday night game, Mike Riley’s Huskers defeated the Fighting Illini 28-6 to move to 2-0 in conference play and 3-2 on the season. After the game, then-defensive coordinator Bob Diaco beamed with pride and confidence about holding Illinois to 199 total yards while wearing a very fancy and expensive coat in 60-degree weather.
Nebraska would go on to allow 1,099 yards and 98 points over the following two weeks in home games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
My, how times have changed.
4. Scott Frost is a noted Chicago Cubs fan…
And he likes to occasionally give reporters some friendly trash talk if they wear apparel from other baseball teams. Interestingly enough, his offense has had eerily similar weekends to the Cubs. As the Nebraska offense scored just 14 points and was shut out in the second half against South Alabama, the Cubs scored seven total runs and were shut out in their final two games of a series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The following week, as Nebraska collapsed and blew a late lead at Colorado, Chicago blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning Saturday night as well as a two-run lead on Sunday in a pair of losses at Milwaukee.
This past weekend, Nebraska’s offense started to click in a 44-point outburst against Northern Illinois. Not to be outdone, the Cubs scored 46 total runs in a three-game sweep over the dreadful Pittsburgh Pirates.
If you’re curious about any omens for the upcoming two weeks, the Cubs face the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals the next two weekends.
5. College volleyball is awesome, and Wednesday will be the latest of many special nights in Lincoln…
Volleyball is a severely underrated sport to watch. It has the same breakneck excitement of basketball with the added violence of people getting hit by balls traveling very fast. No. 1 Nebraska will face No. 2 Stanford in Lincoln Wednesday night in what will be another electric atmosphere at the Devaney Center.
As volleyball takes center stage for a night, college basketball and football should certainly benchmark ideas from the sport. Stanford decided to defend its title by facing five teams ranked in the top 10, as well as No. 12 BYU this Saturday. Nebraska did something similar last season, starting the year off with a rematch of the 2017 NCAA Championship Game against Florida.
It’s hard for football to replicate this scheduling strategy, but it could certainly be done for basketball. The only non-rivalry marquee matchups guaranteed every year in the sport take place in the Champions Classic between Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State. Occasionally, fun home-and-home series are scheduled between teams such as Kansas and Villanova or North Carolina and Kentucky, but it doesn’t happen nearly enough. If more basketball programs scheduled like the top volleyball programs did, early season television ratings would be much higher than their current state.