Athlon Sports has gotten both love and hatred from Huskers football fans this offseason.
Running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Randy Gregory were named to the publication’s second-team All-American list.
They were joined by offensive guard Jake Cotton on the first-team All-Big Ten list.
When Athlon’s bowl predictions were unveiled to the world, the crystal ball showed Nebraska playing North Carolina in the Pinstripe Bowl which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in what the Huskers can do this season.
The bowl pits the ACC No. 3-6 vs. Big Ten No. 5-7 picks. How could this possibly happen, or at least be predicted?
A member of the Facebook page “Husker Army” put it bluntly saying, “Projections are based on perception. Perception of Nebraska isn’t great.”
While this is true, there are also other factors to take into account.
Let’s say Nebraska has another four loss season for the sake of argument. The Big Ten East has the power up top right now with Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State.
The West’s counterparts are Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. Not exactly programs at their zenith now.
James Franklin’s crew can’t do postseason work if it wanted to, so we can toss the Nittany Lions out of the equation and replace them with the next likely fit in Michigan.
Looking at the Big Ten when we strip away divisions, we most likely get these top six:
1a. Ohio State
1b. Michigan State
If you’re sitting on the Chick-fil-A Peach, Fiesta, Orange or Cotton bowl committees and you’ve got the first pick of an at-large Big Ten team even if, say, Ohio State or Michigan State make the College Football Playoff, you’d be a fool not to pick one of them.
Now we have four teams left with the absence of a playoff-bound Big Ten team, three from the West division and one from the East. The major question for the Capital One and Outback bowl is: Can we make money pulling Nebraska fans back yet again?
That depends if the Huskers’ four losses are close and fan optimism is high. The Big Red’s final three regular season games likely dictate that (as does if they head to Indianapolis).
If the Floridian bowls feel they could pull more Badger and Wolverine moolah in, the Music City Bowl in Nashville that picks ACC/Big Ten teams vs. an SEC No. 3-8 pick is up next.
If I was on the that committee, I’d try to get the closest team and biggest name to go against the SEC representative. Iowa fans do travel, but if it’s a hop, skip and a jump for a rabid ACC team’s fan base, I know who I’m picking.
Personally, if Nebraska goes 9-4 and both Florida bowls view the Big Red as toxic, I could easily see the Huskers in the San Francisco Bowl as they select a Big Ten No. 5-7 vs. Pac-12 No. 4 matchup.
Arizona State vs. Nebraska sound fun?
The Husker alumni base is thick around that area of the country and fans would be far more likely to travel to California than Florida for the umpteenth time, it’s a win-win.
The only way I see the Huskers tumbling to the Pinstripe Bowl is if the Big Red bottoms out, is No. 4 in the Big Ten West at 7-6 and Bo Pelini’s job is legitimately in danger.
Maybe Athlon feels that with all the fantastic razor-thin finishes Pelini’s had over the past several years that the cat now associated with him represents nine lives and he’s on his last legs.
That or Ohio State/Michigan State doesn’t make the College Football Playoff which bumps everyone back.
I see Pelini’s squad in either the Outback, San Francisco or Holiday heading into 2014 if it offers another four-loss season.
If not, and the Huskers finally break through under their seventh-year head coach, the Big Red could go as high as one of the four biggies up top.
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