We all reach points in life when we have to take a good, long look in the mirror and ask ourselves who we are deep down. I had one such moment Saturday afternoon when I felt a knot in my stomach that could only be attributed to a deep, incurable sickness of the mind and soul.

Allow me to confess.

I — I think I had fun watching Nebraska versus Northwestern. Seriously. College football has undoubtedly poisoned my brain beyond saving, but I genuinely think a well-adjusted, productive member of society would have also enjoyed the Cornhusker-Wildcat season opener.

Yes, you had all the usual Big Ten trappings: absolute hosses across the offensive lines, running backs barrelling downhill, and true masterwork at the punter position. Yet by some sweet miracle, there were also nearly 1,000 yards of combined offense.

This game was everything I could have hoped for in Week 0, and certainly more than I ever expected from two teams that combined for a 6-18 record last season. But Week 0 isn’t just for simple pleasure. It’s for wild speculation and near-sighted conjecture. Let’s dive into some key takeaways from the weekend that will definitely be relevant for days, perhaps even hours to come.

Casey Thompson is a really good quarterback

For roughly two and a half quarters, at least. Thompson started white hot, connecting on 18 of 27 passes for 298 yards. Then he went 7/15 for just 57 yards with two interceptions. It’s painfully fitting that Nebraska’s quarterback would look impressive until crunchtime, but the optimist in me says Thompson will improve.

Or Nebraska goes 1-11 this season while somehow holding a +30 point differential. Let’s not rule anything out here.

Hey, maybe Northwestern will be decent this year!

Maybe, I said. I’d love to believe we just witnessed iron sharpening iron. It’s equally possible we were actually watching talc dull talc. Still, it sure seemed like the Wildcats at least somewhat had their act together, right? Eleven guys on both sides, everyone more or less performing actions custom to his position, what more could you ask for?

Sure, the offense was largely predicated on gingerly floating passes into the flat and praying Nebraska was woefully out of position. Who cares? Ryan Hilinski is a breath of fresh air for the Wildcat offense, even if most of his passes could legally drive through a school zone.

Scott Frost may not be long for Lincoln

BREAKING: Losing football game likely detrimental to job security of coach who has already lost many football games, per sources. Subscribe at verballers.com to support more hard-hitting journalism.

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Florida State and Illinois actually did what good teams are supposed to do

These programs may have drastically different ceilings, but right now the only realistic goal for either is playing a pretty solid Sun Belt school in December. Both Florida State and Illinois handled their opening matchups — Duquesne and Wyoming, respectively — like bona fide bowl teams.

The Illini should have one of the better rushing attacks in the Big Ten, which will be crucial if quarterback Tommy DeVito continues averaging 5.2 yards per throw. If the defense can hold its own against teams that didn’t have to solicit transfer quarterbacks via online ads, there’s no reason Illinois can’t grind out a few wins in a division with squads like Northwestern and Nebraska constantly trying to hand out free victories.

As for Florida State, there’s really not much you can conclude from demolishing Duquesne. Nevertheless, it’s a huge milestone for head coach Mike Norvell, who can once again claim a winning record against FCS schools in his Tallahassee tenure.

Other Notes

  • Hope doesn’t spring quite eternally enough for me to predict big things for UConn, but the Huskies managed to go four quarters against a legitimate football team without completely embarrassing themselves. Quarterback play was admittedly a little rough (3.6 yards per attempt and a 39% completion rate), but running back Nathan Carter was a revelation with 190 yards on 20 carries. UConn really seems to have found itself a gem in Carter. I cannot wait for him to transfer to the fifth-best team in the ACC Coastal.
  • Let’s all exhibit a little restraint with regards to Vanderbilt. It’s easy to watch a 63-10 drubbing of Hawai’i and start spouting old man columnist talk like, “Man, Clark Lea’s got this team believing. It’s a new era in Nashville.” Let’s be real — the Commodores have a long way to go before any team in the contiguous United States perceives them as a threat.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that Vanderbilt scored its highest total since 1969 and perhaps more than it will score in totality throughout the rest of 2022. The next six days might as well be pure celebration.


Saturday, January 7th
The Troubadour
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