Each week until the season, we'll be going through the opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: Nebraska.
GAME 6: NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
Last year's record:6-7
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 36
Head Coach: Mike Riley
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When: October 15, 3:30 pm
1. The 90s are back, but Nebraska isn't
We're going through a bit of a 1990s nostalgia revival right now in this country. The two major presidential candidates were - for better or worse - still prominent names in this country 20 years ago. A critically acclaimed documentary on OJ Simpson came out last month. There's a Space Jam sequel in the works. Hell, even Pokemon is back in style with an addicting app that was just released last week.
However, something that hasn't joined this 90s nostalgia wave is a dominant Nebraska football team. Since Tom Osborne retired after his third title in four years in 1997, the Huskers have been inconsistent at best. As a result, Nebraska has not captured the glory of those 90s teams, other than a controversial title game appearance in 2001. The "Blackshirt" defense no longer has the same mystique, Tommie Frazier and Lawrence Phillips aren't walking through the door, and the only thing that remains from those glory years is Lil Red. Two seasons ago, Bo Pelini was fired after seven seasons of registering exactly four losses, which may have been fine for fans if tapes of him criticizing the Husker faithful hadn't been leaked.
So instead, Nebraska brought in a guy known as one of the nicest men in college football, which so far has led to mixed results.
2. Can Mike Riley win consistently in Lincoln?
Nebraska lost to Purdue last year.
Let me repeat that for emphasis.
NEBRASKA LOST TO PURDUE.
This wasn't a fluke loss either - the Boilers dominated the game and led 42-16 at one point. The Purdue loss was a symbol for a strange, inconsistent season for the Huskers, who finished the year 6-7. Despite a string of bad-luck losses that kept Nebraska from their usual four losses a year mark, Nebraska caught two lucky breaks that likely allowed Mike Riley to keep his job. First, the Huskers scored two late touchdowns against Michigan State to hand a future CFP team their only regular season loss, thanks to a controversial missed out of bounds call late in the game. Then, Nebraska received a bowl invite due to the lack of available teams with winning records, and they pounced on the opportunity, beating a disinterested UCLA team in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Regardless, Riley enters his second season in Lincoln with some warranted uncertainty. Nebraska was the West division's Indiana last year, with a #CHAOSTEAM mentality and several games with crazy endings that the Huskers came down on the wrong side of. This type of chaos may be fun and acceptable in Bloomington - where the football team needs to be competitive in order to draw fan interest - but for Nebraska, as mentioned earlier, this won't fly. Fans may like that Riley is an affable guy who won consistently at Oregon State despite the big Nike money down the road at Oregon. But if he can only field a product that's competitive and not a consistent top-two team in the B1G West, then his time in Lincoln won't be long, regardless of how much of a Nice Guy he is.
3. Indiana has a 9-7-3 all-time record against the Huskers. But this is their first game as conference opponents.
Nebraska joined the B1G in 2011, leaving the Big 12 after being wooed by the television riches that Jim Delany offered. Since then, Indiana has played the Huskers exactly zero times. First, Indiana was a Leader while Nebraska was a Legend, then the geographic split put them in different divisions, and during those five years, the Hoosiers and Huskers were never assigned crossover games.
Thus the Huskers haven't played the Hoosiers since 1978, when a four-game home-and-home series ended and Indiana lost 69-17. Not very nice. Funny enough though, Indiana actually holds the all-time series lead against Nebraska, edging the Huskers 9-7-3 after 19 total games played. This record is due mostly to Indiana dominating throughout the 1940s, which admittedly was long before Nebraska football became a powerhouse.
4. Can Indiana steal one on Homecoming?
Homecoming weekend games have been a series of disappointments under Kevin Wilson. 2012 was the blown lead to Michigan State. 2013 was the Minnesota comeback that fell 10 yards short on a blown lateral call. In 2014, MSU crushed the Hoosiers. And last year was that stupid Rutger game that should never be spoken of again.
That being said, IU has a legitimate opportunity to defeat Nebraska, providing the Huskers are as inconsistent as they were last season. Tommy Armstrong returns as the Nebraska QB, but the defense, which ranked 57th in S&P last season, could allow Indiana to turn this game into a typical Indiana game filled with explosive offense and crazy lead changes. Looking at the Hoosiers' frontloaded conference schedule, a victory over Nebraska seems like a less daunting task than MSU or OSU, but banking an early B1G win could come in handy to get to that magical six-win mark in case the Hoosiers slip up against Rutger or Maryland later in the season (they won't slip up against Purdue). Unfortunately, the Huskers come into this game after a bye week, so they'll be well-rested by the time they arrive in Bloomington.
5. Let's hear from our readers
We asked you guys what you thought of Nebraska, as well as your favorite things about the 1990s, which is a time that some Nebraska fans are still stuck in!
@crimsonquarry their biggest city is basically iowa— Golden Tater (@golden_tater) July 8, 2016
I think this is a burn? Can someone from Iowa or Nebraska instruct me on whether this is a burn?
@crimsonquarry lost to purdue last year and that is bad— Brock Sellers (@Brock_Sellers) July 7, 2016
Losing to Purdue is bad. Unlike the kick. Which was good.
@crimsonquarry Is cornhusking and detassling the same thing? Maybe we're long lost brothers. Will Tim Miles and Tom Crean pad up at half?— Ty Kees (@SweetMambyJamby) July 7, 2016
Haha remember when IU fans wanted Tim Miles to replace Tom Crean? So much for that idea...
@crimsonquarry the Spice Girls and Ron Paulus— Mark S. Cross (@ndfanwabashman) July 7, 2016
Haha remember when Ron Paulus was going to win two Heismans at Notre Dame?
The CQ Summer Preview Series will run every week, focusing on a different 2016 Indiana Football opponent each time. Next up: CHICAGO'S BIG TEN TEAM.