The season is coming! The season is coming! Somebody hit Paul Revere with two lantern flashes and start spreading the word. We’re 11 days away from the best time of year; from Christmas wrapped in Mardi Gras, stirred in with beers and larynx-rupturing screaming and shaken into a sublime Molotov Cocktail of reckless fanhood that finally gets to come bubbling to the surface like Old Faithful on A-Rod levels of HGH.
Yeah, we’re 11 days away from that.
From Husker football.
We’re 11 days away from finally being able to wipe the drudgery of Mid-July WNBA “highlights” off our brow like a summer sheen of Midwest sweat. For the past 2-3 months we have been waiting for our football chaser to wash the taste of baseball highlights on loop-mode out of our mouths.
Hang in there just. . .a. . .little. . .longer.
I’m so excited by the mere prospect of football that I could wax poetic about it for 134 words. (*Author’s note: see: above.)
Every year about this time, as I sit down to nerdily pore over the schedule, the statistics and to angrily shake my Twitter fist at pre-season polls, I begin to have an internal battle between the two halves of my fanhood.
There’s Dr. Hatchyll: the calm, collected, rationalizing fan who realizes that college football is an imperfect game played by 19-25 year olds and that you can’t win them all, all the time. Dr. Hatchyll understands that the Huskers are off the grid right now. You never truly know what to expect and he can come to grips with that fact in a semi-sane manner.
Then there’s Mr. Fan. He’s a die-hard watching Die Hard. He’s a wild, recklessly impassioned human version of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil. He’s the guy who just got done watching 17-straight YouTube videos of the Huskers’ Tunnel Walk and once tried to sneak a photo of Bo Pelini outside a theater after a showing of Wicked. (*Author’s note: true story. My wife nearly pushed me out into traffic when she realized what I was doing.)
It’s these two warring personas that always meet in one body this time of year. It’s two diametrically opposed forces attempting to inhabit the same heart and the same mind from now until early January. Think Siamese twins trying to go in different directions. Think The Nutty Professor except that both personalities are fat.
For the past two seasons, I’ve brought this internal debate to you, the reader. I’ve attempted to un-internalize the monologue between these two vastly different dudes. Here’s from 2011. Here’s from 2012. And here’s what Dr. Hatchyll and Mr. Fan have been thinking about this offseason.
Does Taylor Martinez take another leap forward as a quarterback?
Dr. Hatchyll: It seems like a logical thing to conclude that, after last season’s big step in the right direction as a passer, Martinez continues to move forward this year to address his biggest issue: turnovers. But things with Martinez are rarely logical. He’ll make a dazzling pass, scramble for a massive gain, and then he’ll try to squeeze a pass into the most miniscule of windows when he could just throw the ball out of bounds. He’ll nearly commit foot-arson as he torches across the field but then, instead of running out of bounds, he’ll fumble the ball trying to go for two extra yards. Make no mistake, Martinez is at the helm. Will he continue to progress, fine-tuning himself into an elite dual-threat QB? Martinez tries to take lemons and, instead of just making lemonade, he attempts to make a frozen lemon meringue custard with a Crème brûlée topping. Just drink the lemonade this year, Taylor. That’s all we want.
Mr. Fan: Of course he will. All he’s heard this entire offseason is one thing: protect the f-ing ball. He knows that this is his year. He’s a 4th year starter, seems far and away more comfortable with his role on the team than he’s ever been before, and has a bevy of talented tools around him to work with. Last year was a gigantic jump forward and there’s no reason we shouldn’t find out that that was only the second phase of his triple-jump-to-glory career. This is his legacy on the line. We saw last year that Martinez is getting more clutch late in games than we expected and with Tim Beck’s guiding influence he’ll continue to mature. Martinez will deliver.
How will the young, untested defense look this year?
Dr. Hatchyll: Young. And untested. While cleaning house off of last year’s at-times putrid defense doesn’t seem like a bad idea, we’re not exactly re-loading. We’ve got youngsters all over, and in the front seven especially, and I’m worried that our “fountain of youth” will turn out to be more like a “creek-water-fed well just outside Mexico City.” It’s going to be trial by fire and, even though I’m excited to see the speed and athleticism that has been highly anticipated from this group, we’re going to have to hope that leaders and playmakers emerge early to get us through the tougher portion of the schedule.
Mr. Fan: Speed. Athleticism. You said it yourself, Debbie Downer. So we lost a few veterans off last year’s squad. Have you heard some of the buzz about Randy Gregory? Have you watched some of the tape of our young, athletic, dynamic linebackers? Speed and talent can erase mental mistakes. I think we’ve got both. They’ll have two games to get ready for the first test and lurking somewhere in those crappy stats is BO PELINI, DEFENSIVE GENIUS. He’s there. We’ve seen how it works when he gets the right guys. Maybe we’ve finally got the right guys again.
What’s the schedule look like this year?
Dr. Hatchyll: Early on the only test is UCLA. But they’ll be a significant test. They very nearly won the entire Pac-12 last year and if Brett Hundley can take another step in his maturation as a QB, they could pose some problems. Fortunately, since it’s a home game and we’re playing at what would be 9 A.M. their time, I think that tilts the game in our favor. From there we have tough home games against what could be the best Northwestern team in a long time and a Michigan State team with a defense that’s stouter than a hipster’s microbrew.
The two toughest challenges seem to be Penn State and Michigan on the road. Penn State seems like a team that could be all over the map. They could be tougher than we expect, or they could come back down to earth after a shockingly good year last year. If Michigan’s Devin Gardner plays like he did last year? That game instantly becomes more difficult. If he turns out to be more of a flash-in-the-pan? It’s still tough. Even though this year will be Nebraska’s easiest since joining the Big Ten, it’s no cakewalk. Especially with our propensity to drop home games or watch as road games spiral out of control after a few costly turnovers.
Mr. Fan: Here are the teams we’re playing this year, in chronological order. Dirt, Dirt, Decent, Crap, Crap, Crap, Dirt. Followed up with decent, overrated, okay, decent, and dirt. In short: We’re going undefeated and shocking the world by meeting up with Ohio State in the Big Ten Title game with exactly zero losses, baby! The schedule is shaping up in our favor!
What’s your take on the black jerseys the Huskers are going to wear when they play UCLA?
Dr. Hatchyll: I’m all for them. While I understand that there’s always going to be a portion of Nebraska fans who want to make sure we don’t lose the traditions that have made our school what it is, I think that a one-game alternate uniform is a fun way of adding a little extra excitement to an already fully-crunk fanbase.
Mr. Hatch: Did you say, black jerseys????????????? Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Think of the tunnel walk! Just THINK OF THE F-ING TUNNEL WALLLLLLLLLLKKKKKKKKKKK! (*Author’s note: at this point Mr. Fan’s head explodes like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.)