Behind Enemy Lines: A Q&A With Corn Nation

Eric Francis

The SB Nation Blog for Nebraska joins us to answer our questions.

This week the writers from Corn Nation join us to answer our questions. We got multiple writers to answer our questions this week y'all. Aren't we special?

1. Do you think Taylor Martinez will play, and if not how well do you expect Tommy Armstrong Jr. to play after a solid outing last week?

Andy K: The effectiveness of the Armstrong/Kellogg (Armlog?) against SDSU has me leaning towards no. Turf toe injuries don't heal up in a week or 3, they tend to linger. Remember Ahman Green? So, if this was the last couple of years, I think they'd send Martinez out to limp through it, but now? I'm leaning toward the two-headed monster getting its second start.

As for how well they'll play, that's completely up in the air. SDSU has one of the crappier defenses in 1-AA let alone D1, so I took the offensive explosion with a grain of salt. The Illini defense isn't exactly Desert Swarm, but it's still a huge upgrade from that beer fart they faced two weeks ago. I really have no idea what to expect if they get the start.

Jon: It's looking like Martinez will not be playing. He was not dressed for Wednesday's practice, so he's probably out. If that's the case, TA2 (as we've come to call him) will be making his second start. You'll probably see fifth-year senior walk-on Ron Kellogg III (RK3) play as well. Both have looked smooth in the time they've had, TA2 being a little bit better as a pure option quarterback while RK3 seems to have a slight edge in throwing accuracy.

How will they play? At least the game is at home, so they'll have a nice crowd on their side.

2. Does Bo Pelini make it out alive? And why is he such an asshole?

David: He's from Youngstown, OH and is a football coach. He didn't stand a chance, really.

Jon J: My feeling is that Pelini might make it out alive, but that feeling seems to be decreasing over time. At the least I believe he's going to have to replace some assistants - obviously I don't have high expectations for the season.

Pelini was behind the Jack Hoffman run that inspired people to contribute to cancer research, his speech after the Penn State game after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke was inspiring, and he has rarely had athletes in trouble and the graduation rates are good.

These things are easily forgotten because he hasn't won enough, plain and simple. What we see is "angry Bo Pelini" (although he's calmed down quite a bit this year). Nick Saban explodes on the sideline and no one cares, even though Saban might be known for being a robot and a tyrant, we all wish he was our coach. In other words, Saban is defined by his success. Pelini is defined by his lack of success. Pelini will be defined by some as an asshole until he wins a championship in something and that's it.

Andy: It's all mad speculation and it almost never plays out how I guess. Case in point: Barney Cotton is still employed. And that leads to my guess that he will survive this season, but there will be a...shall we say, insistence?..on the part of his superiors that he shore up the staff a bit. The Barney Cotton, Asst Head Coach, Co-Offensive Line Coach Who Doesn't Go To O-Line Meetings, TE Coach, Coach in Charge of Big Picture nonsense has to end & be replaced by a functioning position coach such as QB. A defensive coordinator with the experience to actually make in-game adjustments should be a necessity as well. Loyalty is nice, but, like it or not, this is big business & some tough cuts will probably have to be made against his wishes.

BTW, he's just an asshole to the media basically. And even they seem to understand him. The week the shitstorm hit after UCLA, two of the three local guys most on the receiving end of his blow-ups actually came out with articles defending him. His relationship with the media has showed signs of softening. He seemed to really open up in the weekly presser after UCLA. Does that mean there's not some terse answers to media after a shitty day in his future? Of course not. But at least there won't be any, "I'm a man! I'm 40!" manufactured drama either.

Aaron: Pelini has worked hard in reshaping his image. Unfortunately a two-year-old tape came out and some of that goodwill was lost. I think most fans realize this and if Pelini can do what a head coach is suppose to do (by making tough decisions on his staff), the fans will continue to support him.

3. How does a school like Nebraska get so bad at defense?

Andy K: Many theories abound from "The scheme takes too long to learn" and "We didn't have the right athletes before" to "They're too young now." Personally, I think Pelini might have finally hit the nail on the head by admitting that he and the staff's pursuit of perfection has them playing not to make mistakes and they need to have more fun. I believe that's the secret - athletes who play without of fear of failure will improve much more rapidly than those trying not to screw up too badly, it's that simple.

Will the new attitude turn things around in a week? Nope. Illinois will put some points on the board.

Brian: It's a combo of the things Andy talked about up top. Whiff in recruiting for a year or two, combined with having a scheme that takes a couple of years to learn, and you have a recipe for disaster somedays. The D Line, especially inside, is full of guys that are young but haven't been battle tested before this year, with one guy (Thad Randle) at DT that had played a meaningful down for the Big Red before this year. Unfortunately, Thad has a knee that is being held together by silly string, so there's having to trust guys like Vincent Valentine, Kevin Maurice and such. As a group, the whole DL has been a improvement over last year, when we were asking undersized D Ends to play DT (Cam Meredith).

You should see the benefits of the youth movement at the D Ends too. Randy Gregory, even though he's only had one sack recorded, has been a monster off the edge. So has Avery Moss, but his status could be up in the air after almost missing a court date on Wednesday for dumb stuff he did this past winter.

The Illini will be able to score on this D. How much, well, we will have to see what wrinkles Bo and staff put in during the bye week. I honestly don't believe there will be a big jump from 2 weeks ago, but there could be enough to help Saturday.

4. I have never been, and likely never will be comfortable with having Nebraska as a member of the Big Ten. How do you guys think you fit into the Big Ten?

David: I think they're starting to fit in pretty well. The transition has been more challenging than I think most anticipated, but the conference fit makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels, even if it is taking some time to get used to.

Andy: Pretty sure Penn St. caused the same sorts of feelings for many years (and probably again in the last year or two as they've redefined feeling "uncomfortable" about a fellow conference member) & I assumed that, given the Big 10's history, it would probably take a few years for NU to be truly "one of the boys". However, I feel that process might speed up a little when Maryland & Rutgers come aboard.

At least, Nebraska & Penn St. brought a long track record of tradition & success with them. These guys are bringing....desired cable TV markets? Cusack showed more warmth to the "I want my $2!!" paperboy than the conference is feeling for these guys. I think they're going to wait far longer before they see the proverbial welcome mat rolled out.

Husker Mike: I guess I have to ask the question "If not Nebraska, then who else?" If you prefer the Big Ten remain at 11 teams and bypass the conference title game, that's your prerogative. Much of why Nebraska joined the Big Ten is based on why Nebraska left the Big XII. We've watched the Big XII nearly implode multiple times following our announcement that we left, and every time it happens, we're extremely grateful that we're no longer there. There are numerous things to like about the Big Ten: the CIC, BTN and better deals with ABC/ESPN, and new rivalries. We miss the shorter drives to Big XII neighbors and our rivalry with Oklahoma, though that actually was severed in the mid 90's when the Big XII formed. And because of that, it is the right move.

5. I think Taylor Martinez has been unfairly criticized in his career. What are your thoughts on him?

Ty: I've honestly been a fan from day one. I was living in Colorado at the time, and didn't get to see much, but he seemed like a return to the glory days of run-first QBs at Nebraska. At this point, he's a fairly legitimate dual-threat QB... when he's healthy. His accuracy has gotten better (even if his throwing motion hasn't), and his decisions are better. That being said, he hasn't lead us to the promised land, but it certainly can be a scary offense to try and defend.

Husker Mike: I thought he was overhyped his first month as a freshman, and now he's over-criticized. He's improved dramatically as a passer the last couple of years, but some people simply cannot forgive him for how his freshman season ended. He's never going to be Peyton Manning as either a passer or as a public face of the program, and that's what his critics hang their hat on.

Andy: Great points by HM above. Also, Taylor's biggest problem has been one of perception as early on in his pressers, he often came off as this strange combo of cocky and uncaring. Turns out the truth is that he loved Lincoln from day 1 - and why wouldn't he? It was the 1st place he got to keep friends for more than a year since middle school.

In a preseason interview, he said that, at first, he was so scared of saying the wrong thing to reporters, that he tried to say as little as possible and that ended up making him look sullen. And what little he did say would then be twisted to make him seem arrogant, dismissive, etc. I think once he's done, many critics will see the mountain of records he's amassed and lighten up some. But unless he wins at least a conference title, there will always be those who will remain negative.

6. The Huskers have a great trio of running backs, and Martinez, how much success do you expect in the running game against a very poor run defense?

Jon: I would hope offensive coordinator Tim Beck runs the ball about 80 percent of the time and hits some big plays off play-action. He has a tendency to not want to do this, though. A the first sign that Illinois stacks the box, he'll probably start winging the ball all over the place rather than ask his offense to ground pound.

Success comes with ball control as well, especially when you have a crappy defense. Everyone wants to be up tempo, but if you cannot keep moving the chains all you do you is give your opponents more chances to score. Nebraska wins - three players get over 100 yards on the ground.

Husker Mike: Everything would seem to point towards Nebraska wanting to run the ball on Saturday. Backup quarterback? Check. Defense susceptible to the run? Check. Windy day. Check. Defense that could use a hand from the offense in taking the pressure off? Check.

That being said, if Illinois checks the weather and throws 10 men in the box, well, all bets are off. Tim Beck has gotten fooled before on this, and I would sure expect Illinois to try to bait Nebraska to throw. Hopefully he doesn't swallow it too far...

7. Prediction for the game?

Jon: I'd say we run the ball a lot, like I said above and take shots downfield with play-action. Now that I've said that, we'll throw the ball 72 times. Either way, we're going to win because I'm not ready for the entire fan base to melt down yet. Yes, I'm willing my team on to victory because that's as rational as any other fan whose ego is so completely dependent upon their team's success. Nebraska 42, Illinois 31

Andy: Well, this one's going to be a defensive match-up for the ages. A real Keith Jackson slobberknocker reminiscent of the 2009 10-3 Oklahoma game. Yards will be hard to come by and what few there are will be earned in trench warfare against just a few at a time. Both teams excellent schemes, rush and secondaries will keep the QB's harassed and aerial games locked down. This one could come down to a turnover or the kicking game and both teams will struggle to hit double digits.

In the opening 3 minutes maybe. All that is bullshit, of course. NU 47 Illinois 42

Thanks to the writers from Corn Nation for answering our questions. May your corn be properly husked, and your team lose.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Brandon Birkhead on Twitter at @BrandonBirkhead.

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