This browser does not support the video element.
I’ve made the annual jaunt (with daughter and friends) to Scary Acres. No, not Camp Randall Stadium.
I’ve avoided having someone sneak pumpkin spice into my diet.
The wife raked leaves. I lost a golf ball in some.
Halloween decorations are out. So is my jacket.
I’ve been to high school football games on Fridays, watched college football on Saturdays and seen the Chargers play just well enough to lose several games on Sundays.
But finally on Saturday it’s going to feel like autumn.
It’s Nebraska football time.
Nebraska has opened its season with the eventual national champion only a few times. Will Ohio State be added to that list?
The Huskers kick off at Ohio Stadium at 11 a.m. Saturday. Everything will be as it should. Life will make sense again.
Yes, Nebraska and Ohio State will play in front of an empty stadium. Yes, the season opener comes Oct. 24.
But this is as normal as it gets in Nebraska in 2020, the COVID year of our lives.
Count your blessings, along with the Buckeye points.
Too many times I wondered if this day would arrive at all.
Like last March, when we lost our spring and summer sports calendars all at once.
In August when, a week after releasing a schedule, the Big Ten presidents pulled the rug out from under the football season.
On that first Saturday in September as I walked around a vacated downtown Lincoln and Memorial Stadium on the day of the original opener.
Through the remote school days in the spring, the family being quarantined, all the daily updates from scientists and politicians, the masks, the arguing, the national scribes predicting football would never be played, the fear, the losses of businesses and jobs and lives, the whole unbelievable thing.
Would Nebraska play football? That question was always in the back of our minds.
Now it’s here, finally, like a long lost friend.
We Nebraskans have this horrible habit of assuming the Huskers are better than they actually are. And when reality hits home, we’re shocked! But a golden opportunity awaits, says Dirk Chatelain.
Our sports are entertainment. We love them because of how they make us feel, how they take us away from the real stuff, the hard stuff.
Sports are the toy department, and there’s no shame in that. There are more important things than college football, Nebraska football. But football is important.
It returns Saturday, though not quite like we last saw it.
Nebraska fans may gather at their favorite bar to watch, but they’ll do so wearing masks.
They may gather at the neighbor’s house or garage, with the big screen and fridge full of cold ones, but will be reminded to do so 6 feet apart.
They’ll check the betting line. And look for any players out with COVID.
But for three to four hours Saturday, Nebraskans will step back into a place that will feel comfortable and familiar.
They’ll wonder, “Can they keep it within 26½ points?”
They’ll watch every move from Adrian Martinez, wonder if his touch is back, take note if he’s the same aggressive runner.
If Martinez stumbles, they’ll debate when Luke McCaffrey should play.
They’ll chart the progress of the offensive line, special teams, linebackers — all against a team with national championship aspirations.
And we’ll talk about it Saturday night and Sunday and into next week. Instead of talking about the other stuff.
Each week, the Two-Minute Drill provides an in-depth breakdown on all the key matchups that will decide a winner in the Husker game. Today we look at challenge Ohio State poses.
Nobody knows what this will look like, but that anticipation and curiosity is part of the rush. So good to have it back.
There’s also pride in the program, for fighting when others said fall in line.
And while nobody expects Nebraska to win, guess what?
It feels like they already did.
» I’m anxious to see how playing a game in an empty stadium impacts the two teams. If anything, it should help the visitors, right?
I think it will be minimal. Ohio State and Nebraska both practice in their stadiums with no fans. Once the game starts, I expect both teams to settle in.
The Big Ten, in its never-ending quest for monotony, has set a limit on the decibels for the canned crowd noise. I suppose this makes sense. You don’t suppose anyone would crank it up when the other guy is on offense?
I do know this: The massive Ohio State student section is a huge factor. Not having them in that end zone can only help NU.
Nebraska needs any advantage it can get.
Whether one prefers to fact check recruiting rankings, NFL draftees or the product on the field, the Buckeyes have the Big Ten’s best Jimmies and Joes, and they make the Xs and Os look awfully good.
» One thing I’ll be watching from Martinez: Can he become a more dangerous runner?
When the quarterback tucks and scoots, or on designed run calls, he’s a natural runner. Martinez’s running is a major problem for defenses.
The junior’s first two seasons have had similar rushing numbers: 140 carries for 629 yards, eight touchdowns and 57.2 yards per game in 2018; 144 for 626, seven TDs and 62.6 in 2019.
Now that he’s healthy, and NU has an A-list player at backup, I wonder if the Martinez running game will be a bigger factor. There are more targets, but Martinez going downhill is too good not to dial up.
Last year Martinez looked like he was trying too hard to hit the home run at times. Sometimes a double is better. He can hit them with his legs, too.
» Two names I expect to be typing with frequency are Connor Culp and William Przystup. The kicker and punter.
Culp (LSU) and Przystup (Michigan State) have both played on the big stages. Culp last kicked in 2017 (11 of 16 field goals) and Przystup last punted in 2018 (40.6). Those are solid numbers.
Having game-changing kickers would be ideal, but right now solid will work for NU.
If these two can look like they belong on Saturday, Husker fans will feel much better.
» Ohio State is allowing 40 media credentials Saturday, which means plenty of room in its two-tiered press box. The World-Herald received two spots, and the illustrious Sam McKewon and Evan Bland will be representing. I’ll catch the Jack Nicklaus museum and Skyline Chili next time.
You heard it here last: Look for several Buckeye touchdowns and the kickoff to Justin Fields’ Heisman run. But also a Nebraska offense that looks different. I’ll take Nebraska plus-26½. Ohio State 45, NU 28.
Sam McKewon and Evan Bland are joined by Dirk Chatelain and Tom Shatel to preview everything Nebraska-Ohio State and give their predictions.