Gerry DiNardo thinks Nebraska is overrated, but let him explain why.
Unlike the conference media — which chose the Huskers as co-favorites to win the Big Ten West along with Iowa — DiNardo wouldn’t pick NU to win its division. The Big Ten analyst believes coach Scott Frost is still a year or two away from reaching that level.
“I just think Nebraska is overrated,” DiNardo said Friday during an appearance on “The Bottom Line.” “I wouldn’t make them the favorites this year. But I think it’s a great sign that the media picked them, because I think everybody that follows Big Ten football thinks it’s just a matter of time.”
And that time could come soon, DiNardo said, just maybe not this year. It all starts with getting the talent level back up in Lincoln.
“I don’t think Nebraska has ever had the best talent in the country, but they’ve had very good talent,” DiNardo said. “Top-20 talent, maybe not top-10 talent. So let Scott get top-20 talent. And then let’s look at the Nebraska team.”
DiNardo broke down many of the Big Ten’s top teams during his appearance on “The Bottom Line.” You can watch the video of him discussing Nebraska at the top of the page, and the rest of his conversation below. You can also read a transcript of select excerpts as well.
On the depth of the Big Ten:
“I think the West will be the best it’s been since we’ve been divided East and West. I don’t know that there’s a great team in the West. I think the West is the most balanced division in college football. I don’t think it’s the best. I think the East, with Urban (Meyer) out of Columbus, I don’t see someone that’s going to make the playoff unless one of these teams really come on. I think Ohio State’s going to take a little bit of a step back. Of course, when you’re that high, you don’t have much higher to go. Michigan’s an unknown. Michigan State is struggling a little bit offensively, so they’re retooling their offense. I think Penn State’s intriguing. Young and fast is how James (Franklin) describes them. I think young and fast teams can be good. And they’re the most fun teams to coach.”
On whether Ohio State is underrated after Meyer’s departure:
“I don’t think so, because I don’t know that I would have picked them if Urban was back. I would pick Ohio State to win the East but not by as big a margin as they have won it in recent years. So I think it’s a toss-up. I think there’s four teams in the East that could possibly do it, where in the past you go to Ohio State and you watch Ohio State practice and it just doesn’t look like the other 13. They’re just so much more talented. And obviously quarterback will be a question. But that’s worked out in the past, but I’m not sure they’re going be as strong as they’ve been.”
On whether Jim Harbaugh will allow the Michigan offense to evolve:
“I believe he will. ... If you’re really studying the game, you look at Michigan State, the best defense in the country, they were 7-6. If you’re not spread and explosive nowadays, I just don’t think you can keep pace with some of these offenses. If I’m playing a team that’s a spread team, and I’m a pro formation team, and I have better talent than they do, and they’re a hot quarterback-centered offense ... I can’t keep pace with them scoring. So I think there’s been some internalization in Ann Arbor, some introspection. Is what worked for the 49ers, is what worked at Stanford, is that still applicable in modern-day football? And now did you see Michigan’s defense against Ohio State and Florida? They couldn’t hold up against the spread. So if I’m coaching offense at Michigan, I’m looking at this great Don Brown defense getting run out of town two weeks in a row. I think it all makes sense. And I think maybe Jim has taken all these kinds of thoughts and said, ‘I better make a change, and I’ll give Josh (Gattis) the reins.’ ”
On how Nebraska matches up with Iowa and Wisconsin:
“I think they’re evolving into some spread elements. This will be Brian Ferentz’s third year as offensive coordinator. They’ve got Nate Stanley, who everyone’s rated as a top pro prospect as a thrower. ... Nebraska still has to defend a downhill attack. But Iowa’s got to keep pace with Scott’s offense. Then you look at Wisconsin. Honestly, I don’t think they can survive what they’re doing and play the game at a high level. I think the defenses have even caught up to Wisconsin, and I know that Wisconsin fans probably won’t let me in practice if they hear me say that. But I don’t think they’re explosive enough. I just don’t.”
On the difference of Year 2 in a program:
“You go from not knowing all the players’ names at the first team meeting, the players not knowing their position coach, the head coach, the system — to giving the head coach a Gatorade bath for winning a game. I mean, as Scott said, that was an undeserved Gatorade bath, but that’s how much they like him, that’s how much they respect him. The only problem I found the second year of a coaching stint was this — first year everybody buys in, because every single guy on the roster, the ones that aren’t playing, said, ‘That last coach was screwed up; this coach is going to recognize my talent.’ And then when they don’t get to play the second year because they’re not good enough, then you have a small percentage of your team Year 2 that have not bought in. And they can be a little bit troublesome. You’ve got to manage them. If there’s guys on a team that didn’t play for Mike Riley, and now it’s clear they’re not playing for Scott Frost, you have to manage that if they’re pains in the butts. Whereas in the first year everybody bought in. But then after two spring practices and one fall, if I’m not playing with this guy, and I didn’t play with the last guy, I’m probably not all that interested in playing.”
“I’m not sure they’re going to be as good on defense, although I think (defensive coordinator) Phil Parker does a great job. I go back to our offensive conversation. I think they have to be explosive. They were never more explosive than when they beat Ohio State. That was crazy. It was totally crazy. I’m not talking about that. That was an aberration. But explosive on the flank, big runs, especially big passes, especially vertically down the field.”
"You go to practice and it's crazy. P.J. (Fleck has) got the loudspeaker, practice is fired up, everybody's running around. And they're good, they're well-coached. I remember when they played Wisconsin in the bowl game when he was at Western Michigan, they were undefeated, and it was the 'Row the Boat' stuff and all that. And you turn the tape on and they were really well-coached. You just kind of maneuver through all the other crazy stuff. ... I wouldn't count P.J. out. He's crazy enough to do it."
On balancing the Big Ten divisions:
“If I was in charge, the league would be balanced tomorrow. There’s no doubt it’d be balanced. And I would find a way to keep your traditional crossovers. It would mitigate the problem with the nine conference games as opposed to the SEC that plays eight. ... The SEC, the priority is the national championship. The Big Ten, the priority is ‘We need money for all these sports, because we have more sports than anybody else in the country. And we’re giving more people, both men and women, opportunities, and so on and so forth.’ And I think we’ll go to 10 games before we’ll back up to eight. ... The SEC’s priority is the national championship. And if they can win more national championships with eight games and make less money, that’s what they’re going to do. And I think that there might be some truth to that. My compromise is let’s go back to balanced divisions and stick with nine games, because this East division is ultimately going to be counterproductive, as we’ve seen in the last two years. The fact that Ohio State was right behind Georgia, who lost in the championship game, tells us the committee doesn’t really respect what’s going on here.”