Shatel: Committees not bowled over by Huskers any more - Omaha.com
Published Monday, December 9, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:18 am
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES
Shatel: Committees not bowled over by Huskers any more

For a college football program, nobody presents clarity like the men in those wild and crazy blazers.

Some folks like to say what they think Nebraska football is or isn't, but the bowls just laid it out in black and white.

Nebraska football has become the movie “Groundhog Day.” Same bowls, same opponents. In six years, Bo Pelini has coached in three bowls.

How did Georgia-Nebraska II happen?

Here's my educated theory:

The folks at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl were looking hard at Nebraska, which hadn't been to Tempe, Ariz., since the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Everyone knows the history of Husker fans/snow birds/Cali Huskers traveling to the desert.

Somewhere in the last month, when it appeared Michigan might fall to Buffalo Wild Wings status, the bowl people had an idea. Grab the Michigan brand, with helmets, fight song and boffo TV ratings included. Go Blue hadn't been to the area since 1985.

One problem: Buffalo Wild Wings people expected Texas to be the opponent. The Longhorns aren't known as a great traveling team. Michigan isn't either. So while that would be a terrific TV match, the cameras might have to avoid rows of empty seats.

That's what kept Nebraska in the game. The Huskers would fill the stadium, especially for Texas.

Then Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois, opening up a second BCS spot for the Big 12. Then Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State, sending the Sooners to the Sugar Bowl.

And moving Texas up to OU's spot in the Alamo Bowl.

And sending K-State to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

The bowl projection experts this weekend put K-State vs. Nebraska in the spot. And this sounded great, especially if you lived in Beatrice, Neb., Marysville, Kan., or owned a sports bar in Omaha or Overland Park, Kan.

But to the outside world? That's not a game anyone on the East Coast stays up until the 10 p.m. kickoff to watch.

It's hard to blame the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, which is run by the same people who run the Fiesta Bowl. Stuck with a Baylor-Central Florida matchup in the Fiesta, they got the best of both worlds with K-State vs. Michigan. The Wildcats would bring their legions to the game. Michigan would provide the celebrity.

Now, doesn't Nebraska travel? Doesn't Nebraska provide its own cache?

Well, the Huskers certainly still travel. But the Huskers' swag apparently no longer matches that of Michigan, which lost to NU at home this year and finished a game behind in the standings.

We can debate whether Nebraska would travel more than K-State. But it was a moot point once KSU popped up. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl had its ticket-eating machine in K-State.

Just as the Outback Bowl, which has never had Nebraska, has the Hawkeyes. If Michigan can lose to NU and hop over the Huskers, why couldn't NU lose to Iowa and grab the Outback? Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta made a huge pitch to the Outback that Iowa had beaten both NU and Michigan and had a national reputation for great, economy-boosting fans.

Once upon a time, being Nebraska was enough to make the bowls drool and change plans at the drop of a hat. But the Huskers' only hook now is that they travel well. Just like Iowa. And Kansas State.

How times have changed, huh?

» Nebraska wasn't the only school watching itself slip down the board. According to the Macon, Ga., Telegraph, Georgia was set to meet Miami (Fla.) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, until the ACC stumped for the bowl to take its runner-up, Duke. The Chick-fil-A then took Texas A&M from the SEC. The Outback, which wanted A&M, then grabbed LSU.

Georgia, which has had a rough year and lost its senior quarterback for the season, fell to the Gator. Which wasn't bad: the second-largest club of Georgia fans in the country is located in Jacksonville. But the Gator wanted Georgia-Michigan. Not a Georgia-Nebraska rematch.

You'd think the brain trust in the Big Ten and SEC offices could figure out a way to avoid these wet-rag rematches. Not that anyone is complaining.

If you get passed up by the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, you don't want to gripe about it.

The Gator Bowl gives NU another chance to beat an SEC foe — and get to work on changing that image.

» Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman had a whirlwind 24-hour trip to Omaha on Sunday, arriving in time for the Creighton-Nebraska game. She asked to sit among the fans, not on press row. She spent most of Monday meeting with Creighton coaches of every sport. Then she flew out Monday afternoon.

“It was her first trip to Omaha,” Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said. “I know she was very impressed with the atmosphere, the presentation and the facility. She said this is every bit as good as an NBA presentation.”

» No wonder Doug McDermott was taking those NBA-distance 3-pointers against Nebraska. Or it could have been all the NBA scouts in the house.

» When Creighton plays with that kind of purpose, and No. 3 plays with that kind of energy, this is a team that can go deep in the NCAA tournament. Very deep. What we saw Sunday was a group of seniors who wanted to make sure their last Nebraska game was memorable. Mission accomplished.

» If CU had maturity and purpose, Nebraska had the opposite. The Huskers' start on Sunday was just plain weird. They looked shell-shocked. It was a good lesson for Tim Miles' young program, and things like playing with urgency and pride have to be instilled over time. Good for them that they clawed back. Or maybe that was just Grant Gibbs and Terran Petteway.

» Loved the gray jerseys. Don't know if it was intentional, but it was a nice nod to Georgetown and the Big East. Wear those again, please. Also, thumbs up to the new Big East banners. The new mascot has attitude. It also looks like the Miami Marlin.

» Sure, you may have to hold your nose, but the Big Ten needs Urban Meyer and Ohio State — or somebody — to get in that national championship game and win it.

» I'm not allowed to say who I voted for, or the Heisman Trust will send a SWAT team to my house. Let's just say I voted for Tommie Frazier this year. I'm still trying to make it work.

» Iowa State vs. Iowa on Friday night feels like a Sweet 16 game. Or maybe something out of 1985.

» So if you're hungry today, stop by the Omaha Press Club at noon for my “Sports With Shatel” series. You can get a great lunch and I'll be full of baloney. I'm bringing a surprise guest today. No, it's not Urban Meyer.

» One more and I'm outta here: Anyone remember the old Trackside Lounge, on 60th Street near the Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack? The place where you could mull your winnings over a chicken basket closed, but Anne Konen is looking to revive the bar.

Konen sent me an email recently saying that she is planning on re-opening the place, with the new name “Tracks,” complete with chicken and Ak-Sar-Ben racing memories. She wanted to know if I had any suggestions on where to find old Ak-Sar-Ben horse racing photos, to hang up around the place. I told her I would ask around. So that's what I'm doing right now.

If you have any photos, or ideas, for Anne, send her an email at konenae@gmail.com.

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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