Saturday, October 10, 2009

So how good are the Huskers?

It felt strange for the second Saturday in a row to be a Nebraska football fan.

On Saturday Oct. 3, the Huskers were enjoying a bye entering a game on the ensuing Thursday night on ESPN at Missouri. Two days after rallying for a 27-12 come-from-behind victory over the hated Tigers, the Huskers enjoyed a Saturday free of games seven days before yet another of which figures to be a “swing game” in Lincoln against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who hammered Kansas State 66-14 with starting quarterback Taylor Potts sitting out with a concussion.

The Red Raiders have won the last three head-to-head meetings against Nebraska. There was the 70-10 debacle in Lubbock in 2004 and two heartbreaking losses (34-31 in 2005 and 37-31 in overtime in 2008).

The Huskers are 4-1 at the present time and entered Thursday’s game rated No. 21 in the AP poll. How much will the Huskers climb in the polls this week? No. 17 Auburn lost 44-23 to unranked Arkansas on the road. No. 3 Alabama pounded No. 20 Mississippi 22-3. Losing to the Crimson Tide is no disgrace but that is two losses for the Rebels to Nebraska’s one. Perhaps Nebraska gains a spot or two anyhow.

My question about Nebraska now is how good is this team, which has fashioned a 14-5 record under second-year head coach Bo Pelini? That’s something I’m still trying to read, however, I can already sense Pelini's MO will be that his teams will grow and get better as the season goes along -- and that will be a trend.

And if this team gets better (and it should) I now wonder -- what exactly is the ceiling this season?

Keep in mind, the Huskers outplayed No. 5 Virginia Tech in its building only to lose 16-15. Nebraska is much better than Missouri but despite the crucial road win Thursday the Big 12 North title path is not totally clear. No. 16 Kansas, where the Huskers visit on Nov. 14, might have something to say about who wins the division title.

No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Oklahoma would probably be favored to beat Nebraska if the two teams met. Well, the Huskers host OU on Nov. 7. The Sooners defeated Baylor on Saturday 33-7 in a game in which Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford returned from a collar bone injury. However, even with Bradford’s return, OU has flaws that it did not have last season.

As things stand now, I think Nebraska is no lower than the third best team in the Big 12 and Top 15 nationally. Well, with a few breaks perhaps Top 10. That said, the Huskers are flawed enough to lose a game or two.

Nebraska has a legit chance at running the table and playing Texas for the Big 12 title with OU and TTech coming to Lincoln. That’s not to say it will happen but it definitely can.

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