Thursday, September 10, 2009

Arky State a potential landmine but Huskers should prevail labeled last week’s Florida Atlantic game as a “lamdmine” contest. That term is often used in association with games where your team is likely favored but if not careful could wind up on the short end.

If anything, Nebraska’s 49-3 won over the Owls was fat from a trap game. Last season should show us that Saturday’s home game against Arkansas State has a much greater landmine potential than Florida Atlantic ever had, even though yours truly and many other prognosticators (mainstream message and message board posters alike) felt the game would be close for about a half.

Here’s the parallel I draw. Nebraska’s 49-3 season-opening win over the Owls versus the 2008 opener, a 47-23 win over Western Michigan. Most teams are going to be jacked up for night games – especially season-openers against a team you are expected to beat. Plus, the Huskers became a punching bag for the media, and rightfully so, after a 2007 season that saw the team go 5-7.

Nationally, the 2008 team was looking to unload on someone, Western Michigan just happened to be in the way. The 2009 team entered the season-opener simply looking to build on the momentum it generated from going 9-4 in head coach Bo Pelini’s season.

Nebraska’s Week Two opponent in 2008 (San Jose State) and 2009 (Arkansas State) are somewhat similar with a twist. The biggest difference is that the Arkansas State game precedes a crucial road game at No. 14 Virginia Tech, which edged the Huskers 35-30 in Lincoln last season.

Rewind to last year’s home game against San Jose State, where Nebraska entered as a heavy favorite and won 35-12. The Huskers held a slender 14-12 lead early in the fourth quarter before pulling away.

The other common denominator, San Jose State and Arkansas State are also day games followed by night games with a lot of emotion that is hard to top.

Part of that presents reason for concern but if there is one point of emphasis that is different is this: Pelini knows how to “coach in the moment.” Last season, he had to go out of his way to build up the team’s confidence that had been shattered. This year, it’s about keeping the team grounded.

Pelini is just the type of coach to say, “You’re not as good as you think you are,” or “You’re not good enough to take anyone lightly – ad that includes Arkansas State.”

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