Remember, Big Red Nation: You’re 7-0. You’re there on merit. The Cornhuskers are the only team in the Big Ten West that’s yet to taste defeat.
You’re the rabbit. Still. Wisconsin and Iowa and Northwestern and Minnesota are the greyhounds, panting as they chase.
You’ve got a Top 10 team on the climb.
No one can take it away.
Remember that. Because it’s going to feel as if they want to.
Brace yourselves. For the next six days, you’re going to hear a lot of very famous people who make a lot of money say Nebraska is the worst seven-and-oh they’ve ever seen.
We’re not saying they’re right. We’re not saying they’re wrong. We’re just telling ya: It’s coming.
They’re going to declare that a reckoning is coming next weekend in Madison, Wis. That the Huskers are due for a pounding, and if that bill isn’t collected by No. 10 Wisconsin on Oct. 29, it’ll be snatched by No. 2 Ohio State the weekend after that.
It’s going to feel personal. You’re going to read a lot of not-quite-as-famous bloggers who make a lot less than the television guys telling you that the Huskers are a fraud, a Jenga tower of luck that can’t possibly stand this tall for this long. That 7-0 is a fluke. A mirage. A castle made of sand, and here comes the tide.
They’re going to point to the Oregon game and shrug. They’ll point at the Illinois game and snicker about the Illini giving the Big Red a fight.
They’re going to point to Nebraska 27, Purdue 14, too.
They’re going to point to Boilermakers QB David Blough and his 309 passing yards. And ignore the fact that only 78 of them came in the second half.
They’re going to point to Purdue’s 13 first downs. And conveniently overlook the fact that only five happened after halftime.
They’re going to point to Tommy Armstrong’s 14 misfires against Purdue. And gloss over the 17 completions on a wonky ankle and a second-half line that included eight completions on 13 attempts and 158 passing yards.
They’re going to point to the 35-minute stretch, early in the game, in which a bad Purdue defense recorded five straight third-down stops. And forget that Nebraska converted seven of them for the day, on 15 attempts.
Of course the announcers love that play call by this young head coach. You’ve only been rooting for Purdue the whole game ABC #Huskers
— Noelle Ptomey (@NoellePtomey) October 22, 2016
— rebecca (@Becklawson) October 22, 2016
For Coach Mike Riley, who’s coached far more underdogs than alpha dogs, the mantra is the same. Us Against the World.
Us keeps winning.
The World keeps shrugging.
“I really like this team a lot,” Riley told ABC after the game. “But we’re not very pretty often enough.”
Pollsters want pretty. When discussion inevitably turn to the Huskers, they’re probably going to hold their noses.
And push the Huskers up the rankings anyway.
— Matt Cunningham (@mdcunningham7) October 22, 2016
They’re going to focus on the ugly. The style points, or lack thereof. And not the zero points Purdue put up after intermission.
Or the fact the Big Red came in to the weekend tied for No. 5 nationally in fewest second-half points allowed (7.5 per game), trailing only Alabama (6.9), Ball State (6.8), Michigan (5.7) and Ohio State.
#Huskers are a paper tiger. Like what Riley is building, but will lose 3 games this year
— Russ Mitchell (@RussMitchellCFB) October 23, 2016
Get ready for more backhanded compliments. More qualifiers. More doubts. With this team, this season, nothing seems to come easy. Why would getting respect be any different?