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Nebraska's Bowl Trip: Where the Record Means Nothing


I’ve heard it all about Nebraska accepting a bowl. The team doesn’t deserve it at 5-7, it’s embarrassing, and the Nebraska football program should have more pride than to ship a team off with a record like that. 

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Let me pitch you something. You’re the first-year head coach of a football team. You just got done with perhaps one of the most frustrating seasons you’ve ever been a part of. You have a massive amount of young talent on your roster and I have the ability to grant you an entire spring’s worth of practice time penalty-free.

But wait, there's more! I’m going to give you gifts and money for taking me up on my offer. All I’m asking in return is that you play some more football. Think of it as a scrimmage.

Would you take me up on that?

I’m likely paraphrasing Nebraska head coach Mike Riley when I suggest he’s going to say, “Gosh darn right we’ll take it!"

Why does this happen?

Riley and his staff need more than one year to instill their knowledge and culture. The more than 50 scholarship players and any walk-ons returning for 2016 need every opportunity to experience the Riley era. 

If Tommy Armstrong is going to be Nebraska’s starting quarterback in 2016, he obviously needs as much time with offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf as he can get.

Related: Meet Nebraska’s Two Tommy Armstrongs

Running back Imani Cross is leaving and Adam Taylor’s been off the radar. This means Terrell Newby, Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon must put in more work. The wide receiver unit returns largely intact, but ultimately, the picture is bigger than this. 

Now every redshirt becomes meaningless on the practice field. You’d best believe this is open tryouts and if a player doesn’t buy in, other arrangements can (and will) be made.

Not only will these practices help determine who deserves a scholarship at Dear Ol’ Nebraska U, but also who needs to see more playing time. For example, cornerback Eric Lee’s looked the part of a college-level athlete since he arrived.

However, since this season’s defensive backfield had enough secondary members to stuff Noah’s Ark, a snug redshirt was placed on Lee. Now he can be let loose and Nebraska’s coaches can see just how far apart he is from Chris Jones, Joshua Kalu and Trai Mosley. We may very well be discussing one of next year’s starters-to-be.

Expect guys like Lee to get plenty of reps in the current system for about a week or so. Preparation for the actual game likely won’t start until about seven days out. 

For the folks concerned about a loss, does it really matter? If you’re disgusted with a 5-7 record and Nebraska loses its bowl game, are you really going to squeeze a little extra hate out of your AngstOrange®? 

If you’re in this state of mind, Riley can’t win so you really shouldn’t care about the outcome, correct?

Nebraska can’t go back and score 32 points to be where Iowa is. All that the program should do – all it can do – is focus on the future and that continues in full pads this December.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and like his Facebook page.