SOC - Nebraska
Third consecutive SOC I've written from a hotel room. Two weeks ago tonight I'm in Hartford getting ready for the UConn game. Last week I was back in Hartford after a week spent driving around New England, preparing to fly back to St. Louis and the drive to the EMU game (I made it to my seat at 11:09). This week... I'm nowhere near Champaign. This will be my first missed home game since 2014.
I can tell you why tomorrow. For now, I can't. There's a surprise involved, and I'm not going to talk about it until after the surprise happens. The way tomorrow will play out, it's doubtful I'll even be able to watch any of the game. So this will be an interesting experience. First missed home game since 2014. Last time I couldn't watch a game on TV was... Purdue 2015 (I was at a funeral so I didn't even follow the score - just checked after the game).
Which means I've been completely disconnected this week. It was a "back from vacation" week at work, so I was very busy. I was preparing for yet another trip. In fact, I only got 4.5 hours of sleep last night and I'm three paragraphs in and can feel my eyes getting very heavy. When's the last time I even had time to write? Tuesday? Man, these past few weeks are a blur.
So let's recap:
- I'm not prepared to talk about the game - I've barely had time to even think about Nebraska this week.
- I won't be able to write anything after the game because I don't think I'll even be able to watch.
- Basically, the Nebraska game doesn't exist in my world.
- I'm really tired and already nodding off.
How do I then write a "stream of consciousness" if I'm barely conscious? How do I give you my thoughts on Nebraska if I'm spent less time on "game prep" than any game in the last five years? How am I supposed to give a prediction at the end if I don't have a feel for anything right now?
Well, I guess I have a feel for this team. And it's not great. All those completed passes last week still bother me. After years of an Illini rush defense that left me saying "I have no idea what we can do to stop anyone on the ground", we've kind of fixed that only to see quarterbacks throw for yard after yard.
And those were the Akron, UConn, and Eastern Michigan quarterbacks. Now that the Big Ten portion of the schedule is here, what are we supposed to do to stop a quarterback like Adiran Martinez? Interceptions are really the only way to turn a game where the opposing QB is going to throw for 400 yards, and I waited all week for an interception which never came last week, so I certainly don't trust it to happen this week.
That's really where I am with this defense. Everything is going right except the pass defense. And the pass defense is so bad that our TFL statistics (2nd nationally) are completely negated by the 2nd and 14 after a TFL being followed by a 23-yard completion. We're forcing the downs and distances we want to force... and then giving up a nice, easy 17 yard completion.
The thing that's supposed to happen when all of those passes are connecting between the 20's: interceptions and forced fumbles. Keep the ball in front of you, punch it out/snatch it out of the air, and win. But the turnovers aren't happening. And so were losing to MAC teams.
If the turnovers show up, we might have a shot tomorrow. There are still several question marks about Nebraska's defense. The offense should be able to hang, and if the offense is hanging, the defense could flip the game with a few key turnovers.
But I begged and begged and begged for the turnovers to show up last week and they just didn't. I thought our corners could get their hands on some of those EMU passes, but they just didn't. I see what the defense is supposed to be - stop the run, force passes, and when the opponents are passing, take it away - but we just haven't seen that defense show up.
Which is why I think Nebraska wins tomorrow. I just don't have the confidence that we can force those turnovers we're supposed to be forcing all the time now. And I don't have the confidence that we can limit the turnovers on our end. When I check the score on my phone from my Thing tomorrow, I'm expecting to see:
Nebraska 40, Illinois 28