This ain't the usual Q&A. For the inside scoop on everything corn, we went with the no-brainer and reached out to Corn Nation. In response, the kind folks who write about the football team with the "nicest" fans in college football sent over not one, not two, not three, but four editors to give us answers. Expect this to be a preview of the hospitality in Lincoln if you're visiting. Oh, and regarding Cobby's answers, here's this from editor Brian Towle:
With Cobby... think a cob of corn with a mix of Gilbert Gottfried's and Will Ferrell's voices.
If you're looking for a good time, go ahead and tweet @CobbyNation. And if you'd like to see their questions for OtB, click here. On to the Q&A!
Q: Bo Pelini must have retained a great PR representative, because he was on a roll in the preseason. Faux Pelini's cat, the uniform modeling, and a more subdued demeanor have given him a more likable image in the media. What does Husker Nation think of him in year seven?
Cobby: BACK WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, THE PRESEASON WAS KNOWN AS RUSH WEEK. WE HAD TO MODEL THESE UNIFORMS THAT CONSISTED OF A G-STRING AND NOTHING ELSE WHILE HOLDING A TOMCAT (FULLY CLAWED) FACING EACH OTHER. THE UPPERCLASSMEN THEN PUT A CLOTHESPIN ON THEIR TAILS AND THEY WOULD GO AFTER EACH OTHER. I WOULD NOT CONSIDER THEIR BEHAVIOR SUBDUED DEMEANOR AND WE HAD A LESS LIKABLE IMAGE WITH ALL THE SCRATCH MARKS ON OUR SKIN. NOT TO WORRY, THOUGH. I GOT INTO THE FRAT AND HAD A GREAT COLLEGE EXPERIENCE, EVEN WITH THAT SEVEN YEAR ITCH I ENDED UP WITH.
Aaron Musfeldt: Ah Cobby. You'll have to excuse him. He tries to make us laugh over at cornnation. To be fair, Bo is singled out in the media. You can watch any college football game and you'll see coaches screaming and yelling on both sidelines. We know what to expect from Bo. He consistently puts a good (though never great) team on the field. Hopefully he will continue to learn and get better and be able to start putting great-to-elite teams on the field soon enough.
Ranchbabe: I am just guessing, but I think Pelini truly expected to be fired after the meltdown during/after the Iowa game last year. I do not know what conversation occurred between him and the AD, but he seems to have walked away with a much greater sense of security. This led to offseason fun which seems to have helped soften his relationship with media types. Husker nation is divided between Bo-lievers (of which I am one) and Bo-leavers. I don't think either group has changed their minds with Bo-leavers simply being more quiet and waiting to see if "old Bo" returns. He has bought himself some time, but ultimately will need some conference championship (or better) hardware to convert that group.
Q: It's well known that Pelini has a penchant for getting four losses each year, but the flip side is that he's also won at least nine games each year as well, which I think is actually more impressive than disappointing. Nebraska is off to a good start for 2014 with only one loss, and only the Minnesota game looks tough. Do you think he breaks the streak this season?
Ranchbabe: Hmmm, I do think this is the closest thing we've seen to a "complete" team under Pelini. In the past we either had an offense OR a defense--never both. Early last year, we had an experienced offense but young defense that made awful mistakes. By the end of the year, the defense was salty but the injury bug cut a swath through the offense a mile wide. The silver lining? A young QB and young O-line got some valuable experience and now have a defense that keeps them in games in 2014. Oh, and WE CAN HAZ PUNT RETURNS! I've seen small, but encouraging signs of growth in the players and coaching staff that cause me to hold out hope that the HUH WHAT?!? losses of past years will not happen. Ask me again in January.
Cobby: FOUR LOSSES YOU SAY? THAT REMINDS ME OF THIS TRIP I MADE OUT OF COUNTRY, ONCE. MY FRIEND TONY AND I WENT TO THIS PLACE CALLED JOISEY. IT WAS OCTOBER 16TH, AND IN NEBRASKA WE CELEBRATE THAT DAY AS BOSS'S DAY. IN THIS FOREIGN LAND, THEY WORSHIPED THIS GUY WITH A GUITAR THEY CALLED ‘THE BOSS' INSTEAD OF COOKING DINNER FOR THEIR BOSS AT HOME. I THOUGHT HE'D USE HIS ‘WAWA' PEDAL TO MAKE SOME ACTUAL GOOD MUSIC, BUT WHATEVER. MY SECOND LOSS WAS BEING STUCK ON 9 FOR HOURS ON END. I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO EXIT THESE THINGS CALL JUGHANDLES, BUT MY BUDDY TONY GOT US OUT OF THAT TROUBLE. MUST HAVE BEEN IN HIS BLOOD OR SOMETHING. I WAS ACTUALLY MORE IMPRESSED THAN DISAPPOINTED WITH GOING DOWN TO THE SHORE. PROBABLY BECAUSE I HOOKED UP WITH THIS FOREIGN EXCHANGE STUDENT THERE. SHE WAS FROM MINNESOTA. THAT MADE SOME SENSE TO ME. I WOULDN'T CONSIDER THAT A LOSS, SO PERHAPS I DID BREAK THE STREAK AFTER ALL.
Q: Ameer Abdullah has lived up to every bit of hype he received in the preseason, as he's the third-leading rusher in the nation despite being the focal point of the offense. Is there a secret to his success, or is he simply a transcendent player?
Ranchbabe: I'm not sure how many people outside of Nebraska know this, but Abdullah's recruiting class included 2 other scholarship running backs. He was clearly #3 in terms of regard or hype. The other two have since transferred and are running the ball at other Power 5 schools. Ameer is a devout Muslim whose position coach is an outspoken Christian (who has taken heat for his views in a conservative state like Nebraska). They get along famously. Ameer is the youngest of 9 children in a family that did not have excess resources. His 8 siblings have college degrees, and several have advanced degrees. I have not mentioned his speed, balance, power, etc. and yet I hope I've conveyed how much the person makes the player in this case. In a world of Johnny Manziels and Jameis Winstons....more people should notice the Ameer Abdullahs.
Jon Johnston: He's transcendent, man. He's learned the secret weapon of focus and hard work, coming together like a beautiful evening fall sunset. Abdullah has hit another level. His vision is better than ever, and he has learned how to use his hands well to keep people off his body. He has become an excellent back, fun to watch, and willing to carry his team at times.
Cobby: BACK WHEN I INVENTED THE TERM ‘MARKETING', I WAS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SELL STUFF TO THE AMISH COMMUNITY. I TRIED EVERYTHING I COULD THINK OF, AND I DID FINALLY CRACK THAT NUT. WHAT WAS THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS? I GOT AFTER THEIR FOCAL POINT, RELIGION. SEE I WAS IN PENNSYLVANIA, AND YOU KNOW HOW CRAZY THEY CAN BE. I BROUGHT IN THIS MOUNTAIN LION AND CALLED IT A ‘NITTANY' LION. IT WAS JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER MOUNTAIN LION, BUT I CONVINCED THEM THAT IT WAS SOME TRANSCENDENT BEING, AND THEY BOUGHT IT. I EVEN HEARD THAT THEY WERE CRAZY ENOUGH THAT ONE OF THE UNIVERSITIES NAMED IT'S MASCOT AFTER IT LIKE IT WAS SOME REAL THING OR SOMETHING. GOOF BALLS.
Q: Tommy Armstrong Jr. is having a pretty good year at quarterback, throwing for 1,546 yards, 10 TDs and 5 INTs, and adding 482 yards on the ground. Is he living up to preseason expectations so far?
Ranchbabe: Hahahaha! Live up to expectations?!? Oh my, are you guys new to the conference? Oh wait. Crash course on Nebraska...we actually have "through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football" posted over entrances to the stadium. We are not joking. We applaud other teams as they leave our field (usually in defeat) and are sooooo nice to opposing fans that they never pay for a beer their entire visit. However, we have a dark side. We are horrible to our own. No one EVER lives up to expectations within the program. You know the greatest football coach EVER? (Tom Osborne to you newbies). He came within a game of being fired (It's true). What was the question again?
Jon: Last year's offense couldn't get out of its own way most of the time, even when it was lead by a healthy Taylor Martinez. This season the offense has a huge upside, has a ton of weapons, and is generally pretty explosive. Tommy Armstrong is the reason for that change. He's accurate on long throws, not so much on short ones, and runs option/read plays pretty well.
As far as expectations, Babe is right. No one can ever live up to our expectations. No one.
Cobby: WE'RE BACK TO THE PRESEASON QUESTIONS AGAIN? WELL, OK. I'LL GIVE YOU ANOTHER STORY ABOUT RUSHING THAT YEAR. SEE, WE HAD THIS GAME WHERE WE HAD TO TEST HOW STRONG OUR ARMS WERE. WE HAD TO CARRY ONE OF THE PLEDGES AS FAR AS POSSIBLE AND THE WINNER DIDN'T HAVE TO DRINK OUT OF THE BOTTLE OF PISS. I DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU GOT THE NUMBER 482 FROM, BUT NONE OF US COULD GO MORE THAT ABOUT 30 YARDS PER CARRY. AT LEAST OUR FUTURE BROTHERS WERE NICE ENOUGH TO LET US CHASE THE PEE BOTTLE DOWN WITH SOME TEQUILA. NO TOMATOES FOR ME THAT NIGHT. THAT SHIT FROM MEXICO NEVER TASTED SO GOOD IN MY LIFE.
Q: The Huskers have been very good on D, ranking 18th in scoring defense on the year. Where can Rutgers struggle offensively, and where can they succeed offensively?
Ranchbabe: Are you good at scoring on your first possession of the game? The Husker defense excels at giving up a touchdown on the opponents' first drive and THEN developing the game plan. Also, the Husker defense seems to lose track of a key person at a frustrating level of frequency. Do you have the receivers/RBs and quarterback to take advantage of that? (I honestly don't know--please comment). Our defense has a tendency to get a little lost in space...but if they can anticipate the play and have people waiting in the gaps, Rutgers will struggle. If you have the coaching and athletes to cause defenders to bite on fakes or follow misdirection? You will succeed.
Jon: The defense has some young components, and given the right situation, those players can be out of position. Rutgers has to find those moments and use them to hit big plays. WIthout those, you'll find it difficult to run.
Cobby: I PREFER WORKING ON MY SCORING OFFENSE STATS. YOU DON'T GET LAID WITH SCORING DEFENSE. NOW YOU TEND TO BRING HOME FEWER...PROBLEMS DOWN BELOW WHEN YOUR SCORING DEFENSE IS HIGH, BUT YOU HAVE TO TEMPT FATE SOMETIME, RIGHT?
Q: Randy Gregory has been a beast for Big Red with 4.5 sacks this year. What other names on defense should Rutgers fans know for Saturday's game?
Ranchbabe: Big Vince Valentine is a guy who eats up space in the middle and makes the offense take the long way around. The rest of the D-line (and a couple of emerging reserves) are proving to be a the ferocious front Pelini needs to make his defense work. Look for Greg McMullen and Maliek Collins in addition to Gregory and Valentine. Nate Gerry is our center fielder and has speed to burn. He is young and sometimes gets out of position, but when he's on...he is fun to watch.
Jon: We can't seem to find a middle linebacker who'll play consistently, but in the back seven Josh Mitchell is a pretty decent cornerback and Corey Cooper a dependable safety. Collins is still young but is going to be pretty special.
Q: The Scarlet Knights have played seven games so far in the inaugural B1G season, and many have been surprised by Rutgers' 5-2 start. What's the sentiment on Rutgers now, and has it changed since before the season started?
Ranchbabe: Given the B1G's ignominious start to nonconference play, Rutgers was, at least, not a sore spot. (You will come to appreciate that designation in the future.) Some injuries have hurt the Scarlet Knight's prospects, but this looks like a better team than most expected.
Jon: I'll be honest, I knew next to nothing about Rutgers coming into the Big Ten other than y'all were supposed to be at the bottom of the league. I've watched Rutgers a couple times. Seem very inconsistent, but they're certainly not as bad as Illinois and the Scarlet Knights appear to have a core to build around, although it's going to be tough to compete against Ohio State and Michigan State every season.
Ranchbabe: Memorial Stadium is a difficult place to play and the Huskers are one of the more talented teams in the conference. I am hedging my bets because Pelini-Nebraska always seems to overlook someone. Are they looking past Rutgers to the menace of Purdue? Oh crap, bad timing for the Scarlet Knights. Huskers 35 Rutgers 20
Jon: Bo Pelini teams lose a game every season to a team they shouldn't lose to. This year's team overcomes mistakes (holding, false start calls) that would have killed previous seasons' offense. Given it's in Lincoln, and Rutgers has to come all that way the week after getting beat up by Ohio State, I don't give the Scarlet Knights much of a chance. Nebraska 38, Rutgers 17
Super huge cornstalk-sized thank you to team at Corn Nation for collaborating on this great Q&A. I sincerely hope we see more of Cobby in the future.
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As a sidenote, Corn Nation is surveying the bloggerati about what fans are looking for when it comes to a nation champion. This is a very interesting initiative with the inaugural CFP committee rankings set to come out next week. Whether it's conference championships, strength of schedule, or a bit of a mix, be sure to voice your opinion here.