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November 21, 2011

Husker Buzz: Stability equals progress

A big debate amongst Husker fans over the last few weeks is can you label this 2011 season a success without a trip to the Big Ten Championship game or a BCS bowl berth?

For the third year in a row Nebraska has been close to turning the corner as a program, but they just can't take that next step.

The positive as you look at things going forward is head coach Bo Pelini has brought stability to the program. Pelini has won 37 games in four seasons and has the chance to finish with 39 wins before it's all said and done this year.

Compare that to Bill Callahan who won just 27 games in four years, that's an average of 2.5 to 3 wins more per season.

Another interesting stat when you talk about the stability and progress with this program under Pelini is heading into this season Nebraska was just one of 10 schools to win nine or more games from 2008 to 2010. The Huskers joined TCU, Oregon, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Utah and West Virginia in that exclusive club heading into 2011.

Noticeably absent from that list were Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Florida, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State.

With another win this season they could be just one of seven teams to win nine or more games over the last four seasons as Ohio State is already out of that mix and both Utah and West Virginia currently sit at seven wins.

By no means am I trying to say it's ok to get blown out at Michigan or Wisconsin or drop a home game as a big favorite against Northwestern.

What I am trying to say step back in look at the big picture. Have some perspective. Things are not as bad as people make them out to be. Husker fans tend to only look at the now, but the numbers and facts speak for themselves.

Tom Osborne built Nebraska's program by consistently winning nine games every year and when he finally got a run of special players he took things to another level during his championship run in the 90's.

Pelini will be the first person to tell you he's not happy with an 8-3 record right now, but he's still been able to consistently keep Nebraska as a team that will compete and win nine or more games every year regardless of the injuries and other obstacles they may have to overcome.

Nebraska shafted by Groza voters again

Nebraska kicker Brett Maher was not named a finalist for the Groza award, but when you break down his numbers compared to the other finalists he's clearly the best candidate at this point.

Of the top nine semifinalists, nobody has missed a kick less than 29 yards. Maher is just one of two semifinalists who have not missed from under 40 yards and he's the only candidate that has not missed from under 50 yards.

All three of Maher's misses have been from over 50 yards, but he's also only one of three finalists that have made multiple kicks from 50 yards or longer.

Then you add up his kickoff average of 67.4 yards, and he's only one of three finalists with an average of over 67 yards. Maher also leads the Big Ten with 17 punts of 50 yards or longer, he's placed 20 punts inside the 20 yard line and he's had just two touchbacks on the season.

It's really a shame that neither Maher or Alex Henery were never finalists for the Groza award, despite the seasons they had in 2010 and 2011.

Plenty of ties to Nebraska on the Iowa roster

As you watch Friday's Iowa vs. Nebraska game there are quite a few familiar faces to Husker fans on the Hawkeye roster.

***Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg attended Nebraska's elite quarterback camp and was actually a late Husker offer in January of 2008 when Blaine Gabbert de-committed from Nebraska. Vandenberg probably would've ended up at NU, but Iowa followed up Nebraska's offer and he eventually committed to the Hawkeyes.

***Hawkeye starting tackle Riley Reiff was identified early in the process back in 2007 by Iowa, but Nebraska followed with an offer and Reiff actually gave his commit to former coach Bill Callahan. Reiff would then de-commit from Nebraska and switch to Iowa, and then he switched back to Nebraska before eventually deciding to sign with Iowa. Reiff is considered one of the top tackles in the country and could declare early for the NFL draft after this season.

***Starting Iowa cornerback Shaun Prater is an Omaha Central product that was never offered by Callahan's staff, but immediately offered by Pelini and Marvin Sanders in January of 2008. Prater stayed loyal to his commitment to Iowa though, as the Hawkeyes fell in love with him after a strong showing at their summer camp in June of 2007.

***Cole Fisher, the brother of Nebraska linebacker Sean Fisher is currently a true freshman that's redshirting at Iowa as a linebacker. The younger Fisher was never offered by NU or heavily recruited by the Huskers.

***Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt was offered and recruited by Nebraska in 2007 as a quarterback/athlete, but more than likely would've moved to wide receiver if he picked NU.

For the stat geeks

***The race for Big Ten offensive player of the year could be a toss-up between Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. Ball has 1,466 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns to lead the Big Ten, while Wilson has 2,506 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Wilson has an incredible quarterback rating 199.3, which is 50 points higher than the next closest quarterback in the Big Ten.

***If the Hawkeyes were still in the race for the division, you could make a case for McNutt as Big Ten offensive player of the year. McNutt leads the league in receiving yards with 1,240 and he's second in receptions with 74. He also leads the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns with 12.

***Both Wisconsin linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland lead the Big Ten in tackles and rank ahead of NU's Lavonte David. My guess is this trio will make up the first-team All-Big Ten linebackers.

Around the state

***Crete quarterback Derek McGinnis picked up another offer this past week from South Dakota State. McGinnis now has offers from both SDSU and North Dakota State.

***Grand Island quarterback Ryker Fyfe has only received one offer thus far from Division II Nebraska-Kearney.

***I'm hearing grumblings that Kansas State would like to place Omaha North wide receiver Terry Grigsby in a junior college like they did with former Viking safety Travis Green last year.

***Millard West has a 2014 prospect to keep your eyes on for the future. Wide receiver Skyler Monaghan had a huge season for the Wildcats. Against Class A No. 1 Omaha Burke he had 13 receptions for 271 yards and four touchdowns.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskeronline.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.


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