Mailbag: Huskers' win total & more targeting talk

The season is about a month away. That’s music to my ears. And from the volume of my mail, I can tell you all are getting excited, too. Let me reach into my mailbag and answer some of your questions. Keep the cards and letters coming. I love hearing from you all.

I like your best-case record scenario for Nebraska, except the Michigan loss. I believe your worst-case scenario should be a little worse than stated. I would have the Huskers also losing to Michigan State and Penn State in my worst-case scenario. This would make them 7-5. Not very appetizing for a Husker fan. I pray for the BEST but brace myself for the worst this year. I am not falling into the hype trap anymore. I am tired of the disappointment and on-going harassment by my co-workers (Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana alumni). Go Big Red! – LouKYHusker

Well, I am buying into the hype this season. In fact, I think Nebraska will win the Legends Division and return to the Big Ten title game for a second season in a row. Ohio State likely will be waiting for the Cornhuskers in Indianapolis, but don’t worry about that yet! I think coordinator Tim Beck’s offense will be the best in the Big Ten. And the defense will improve over last season’s effort, which at times was abysmal. I like the youngsters along the line and at linebacker.

No offense, but these don’t seem to be close to the best- or worse-case scenarios for Nebraska. Best case, they run the table with a weak schedule to play in the Big Ten title game. Worst case? Well, 2007 comes to mind. – Josh

The 2007 team went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big 12 in Bill Callahan’s fourth season on the job. I don’t see Nebraska being that bad this season; not even if the defense continues to struggle from time to time. Have some faith, brother!

What do you think about Ohio State’s chances for a national championship this year? – Steve Clay

Like most of America, I think they are very good. The offense will be among the best in the Big Ten, with quarterback Braxton Miller leading the way. Is there a more dangerous signal-caller in the nation? The line will be one of the best in the conference, and there are plenty of options at receiver and running back. The front seven on defense is being retooled, but it may be better than last year’s. It’s true, even with four new starters along the line. I love the front, led by Adolphus Washington. And Ryan Shazier may be the top linebacker in the Big Ten. The secondary? It may be the best in the nation with safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, along with corner Bradley Roby.

I am all for player safety, which is what this new penalty for targeting is about. But this rule will vary from one referee to another. Also, you know there will be a big game and some kid will be kicked out for a bogus targeting call. – Jack Grady

Good points. Being ejected for targeting is a huge change that will have a big impact on the game. I will be fascinated to see how the first few weeks of the seasons play out. And, yes, you know there will be a big game when a star defensive player will be kicked out for targeting—and it will cost a team a game. It will be interesting to watch the ensuing firestorm. It’s hoped any bad targeting calls made on the field will be overturned by the replay booth.

What do you think about the downfield hit in the B1G championship game when Nebraska’s Kenny Bell leveled Wisconsin’s Devin Smith? I have seen that a dozen times and it looks like football; albeit tough football. What will happen there? Is that kind of hit that will result in an ejection just because a player gets blocked hard and unexpectedly? – Ken Peacock

That play was shown during a clinic for Big Ten officials that I attended in July. And, yes, that would have been flagged for targeting a defenseless player. In that instance, Smith was deemed “defenseless,” by definition. So, Bell’s hit would have been illegal—and he would have been booted.

Watch Bell’s block here:

In light of the new ‘targeting’ rule, if college administrators are thinking about the safety in the game, why will the format of the new college playoffs have only one week between games? Why not have two weeks, similar to the Super Bowl, so perhaps minor injuries can heal and players will be fresher? – Jonathan

I just think if you have off weeks, the playoff process would last too long—extending the season deep into January. And, college administrators already think the season is long enough.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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2 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (2 Comments)
bob jones on 7/31/2013 @ 4:07pm EDT Said:

The Kenny Bell penalty was pure nonsense. You can’t hit anyone too high, or too low, you can’t cut block anymore, you can’t hit a QB a tenth of a second after he throws the ball, you can’t block anyone unless you warn them first, you can’t have even the slightest hint of a celebration after a score, if your helmet accidentally falls off, you have to come off the field. It’s getting to the point where the offense will be required to do what Zach Weigert said he did 100 times a year in your BTN Elite series on the 1994 Huskers, that is to tell the opponents what the next play is ahead of time. The rules committee needs to be reminded that it is football and it is a physical game. They not only are in the process of ruining the game, but they make the new rules very subjective and difficult to enforce consistently or fairly. If that Kenny Bell block was a penalty, you might as well quit playing the game, or to paraphrase an NFL icon, put a dress on the players that you can’t hit.

ryan jennings on 8/1/2013 @ 12:23pm EDT Said:

i still don’t see how the kenny bell block could’ve been executed any better. the wisky kid had an angle on turner and would’ve made the tackle. what is bell to do other than do exactly what you’ve been coached for 10 years and lay a block on him. riciculous. welcome to intramural flag-football.