We rate the top 25 estimates by national security. Today: The team with the simple, red rising sun logo of college football, the big red N of Nebraska.
Companion Country: Japan, 1980s. Oh, when it was good it was spectacular: a machine bent on crushing, decisive victory unified by a complete unselfishness, an indestructible organism with a simple but indefensible system for domination squatting on a brave island, staying afloat and apart from the rest of the world on a sea of sweat equity.
For a time, 90s Nebraska looked to have discovered the Philosopher's Stone of college football. A "walk-on" system served as secondary pump of prime talent into the program; a high school football culture fed option-ready players directly into the conduits of Lincoln; the country's most advanced weight training program swelled linemen into unblockable wraiths capable of wrecking entire blocking schemes singlehandedly. They went undefeated for over two seasons, terrorized the national football landscape, and appeared to be headed for complete national takeover forever and ever amen, with Frank Solich taking over the program that would be eating sushi off of your naked daughters with polite but smug looks on their faces.
Thanks to the film Rising Sun for hardwiring a kink resulting in the accidental application of wasabi to tender parts in our trying adolescence. That was fun, humbling, and educational in no way at all. Love, 16 year old Orson trying to talk pants back off girlfriend.
Like Japan, they suddenly lost a decade: first to calcified, overly traditional management caught by surging and adjusting competition, then to the wrong kind of innovation, and now finally returning to something like a happy blend between the two in the form of Bo Pelini, the former Nebraska defensive coordinator with enough old guard cred to speak Nebraskan, but enough flexibility to keep the relatively successful pro-style offense installed by Bill "Captain Charm" Callahan.
Internal Stability: Good to great: after the Callahan crisis, a referendum unanimously electing the sentimental and strategic favorite, Pelini, passed the Husker Parliament in a breeze and thus reunited the people under a banner of a coach who a.) wanted to be there, and b.) convincingly looks like a complete asskicker. Stability increases when factors like a returning dominance on the line like Ndamukong Suh is counted in the tally of "things offenses will break their teeth on, especially when you parallel what the LSU defense of Pelini's was able to do with a bellcow DT in the middle with Glenn Dorsey at LSU. (Superior technology is an export on both sides of the ball, and schematically the Huskers can compete with anyone for coaching acumen of top-flight nature.)
Run-fiendish Nebraska fans should get satisfaction this year: returning backs Roy Helu and Quentin Castille averaged nearly six yards a carry, and coaches tend to notice and gameplan around those kind of things, especially when they get you long chains of first downs, and take pressure off first-year starter Zac Lee. Fundamentals, kohai. The journey of a averaging 200 yards rushing a game begins 3.34 yards per carry at a time. ("Hai, sensei. Hai.")
Surprising thing you did not know about this team: That they have a wide receiver named Menelik, and that if Nebraska fans had a geeked-up sense of humor they'd chant "IM-HO-TEP" when he caught touchdown passes; hey, the punting game's looking good, and you've got that going for you; the obscure but intriguing fact cited by Phil Steele that 63 of 65 teams have beaten a (ARBITRARY STAT COMING) top 19 team since Nov. '01, and that the two who haven't are Duke and Nebraska; hey, they're taking cooking classes.
The IMF says: Proceed cautiously. Though escaping the recession mindset of the Callahan/Solich era, numerous structural problems remain: two redshirt freshman linebackers (talented, yes, but still redshirt freshman,) a new qb getting his legs, the complete lack of need to replace a solid kick returner in the reinstated departed Niles Paul. Bully for the bushido attitude Pelini has instilled in a program begging for samurai discipline, and approve up to 14, especially with a semi-respectable showing in the Big 12 Championship game. Look for the polite, clean, and disciplined salarymen of the Huskers nation wandering around a sunny bowl game of respectable quality near you. They'll be there.
*Correction via reader NotoriousDEK; Paul suspended for DUI, but reinstated. Apologies, and we blame only incompetence for the error.